Kanan or George? WeRateDogs Twitter account accused of changing a dog's Arabic name

The super popular Twitter account, which rates images of dogs, is accused of whitewashing.

Jackson Ryan Former Science Editor
Jackson Ryan was CNET's science editor, and a multiple award-winning one at that. Earlier, he'd been a scientist, but he realized he wasn't very happy sitting at a lab bench all day. Science writing, he realized, was the best job in the world -- it let him tell stories about space, the planet, climate change and the people working at the frontiers of human knowledge. He also owns a lot of ugly Christmas sweaters.
Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Jackson Ryan
Sean Hollister
3 min read
Enlarge Image
Screenshot by Jackson Ryan/CNET

This is Kanan. Or is he named George?

He is, without a doubt, a good boy -- but he's also at the center of an internet row bubbling over at one of Twitter's most beloved accounts, WeRateDogs

The account, now closing in on 7 million followers, is exactly what it sounds like. It routinely posts and rates pictures of dogs that have been submitted by Twitter users around the world, embedding funny captions above adorable photos.

Now the account is being accused of whitewashing.

On Monday, WeRateDogs posted an image of Kanan, but changed the good boy's name to "George." Shortly after, Twitter user Mary Wagner asked the account what George's real name was and why it was changed from the original, Arabic-origin name.

Wagner was subsequently blocked by WeRateDogs.

Shortly after, WeRateDogs apologised to Wagner for blocking her as it's a "go-to response from this account because of how much nonsense we receive."

Matt Nelson, creator of the WeRateDogs account, speaking to CNET, explained why the name change occurred.

"That post worked better with a simple name, more specifically something monosyllabic," Nelson said. "The 'This is ____' introduction had to be as blunt as possible for the remainder of the tweet to work. This is just something I've learned over the years running the account. George seemed like a good name, and I've learned that people really enjoy common 'old man' names that contrast a pic of an adorable puppy."

Nine of the last 10 posts by WeRateDogs used names with more than one syllable. Furthermore, the account has used the name George five times in the past, dating back to Nov. 20, 2015.

Sony Aibo Robot Dog

See all photos

According to Nelson, engagement with the account's posts is what drives him to change dog names. When he first began the account he "never used actual names."

"You're more likely to engage and interact with a post when a dog shares a name with your own or you've encountered a dog with that name. Sometimes I change the name because it's too common," Nelson said.

"I try to keep it as random as possible."

Nelson also said he checked with Kanan's owner, Danny Capone, who gave his consent to the change, which Capone confirmed to CNET. In a later exchange with Wagner, Nelson explained that he always checks with the owner before he designates the furry beasts with new honorifics.

According to a tweet by Capone, Kanan was named after Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's character in the TV drama Power

The reaction to changing Kanan's name has, in Nelson's words, been "not good" and he pointed to the earlier tweet by Mary Wagner as a summary of the response.

On Nelson's personal account, he posted the following, stating that name changes "will never happen again."

Apparently dismayed by the furore, Capone later tweeted in support of WeRateDogs, saying, "People just don't know how to enjoy anything anymore."

Watch this: This dog is trained to find computers and stop crimes

Update, 7:43 p.m PT: Clarifies Nelson checked with the owner to change the dog's name, adds the origin of Kanan's name and owner's comment about WeRateDogs Twitter account.

Update, June 26 at 8:27 a.m. PT: Adds confirmation from @CaponeKnows that he gave permission for Nelson to change the dog's name.