Fact check: Image of Coca-Cola can urging customers to ‘Try to be less white’ is altered

The claim: Coke wrote ‘Try to be less white’ on its soda cans 

A widely shared image of a Coca-Cola can with the words “Try to be less white” printed on its side is drawing online criticism. Several posts encouraged followers to boycott Coca-Cola products.

“I’m not buying anymore Coke products,” claims a meme in a June 7 Facebook post. 

This claim is the most recent accusation of anti-white bias on the part of the company. But this is not a real Coke can.

 (Photo: Coca-Cola Consolidated)

USA TODAY reached out to several Facebook users that posted the image for comment.

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Coke confirms can is inauthentic

Ann Moore, communications director for the Coca-Cola Co., confirmed in an email to USA TODAY that the can was not real. 

“The mock Coca-Cola can appearing in some social media feeds was not created, distributed or authorized by The Coca-Cola Company,” she wrote. 

An uncapped Coke bottle with a red-and-white straw inside. (Photo: Coca-Cola)

Expert says the image is altered

A reverse image search for the picture in the posts does not yield any relevant results, but expert analysis suggests it was doctored.

Mark Scanlon, director of the Centre for Cybersecurity & Cybercrime Investigation at University College Dublin, told Reuters inconsistencies in the can’s lettering indicate it was likely digitally altered. 

Snopes debunked other images of Coke cans altered to read “Try to be less white” in February. 

This file photo taken in 2011 shows cans of Coca-Cola and Diet Coke in a cooler at Anne's Deli in Portland, Ore. (Photo: AP)

Coke is subject of misinformation after being accused of anti-white bias

This most recent altered image comes after months of criticism and misinformation directed at Coca-Cola. 

The controversy began in February when Newsweek reported Coca-Cola had told employees to “Try to be less white” in a company training course. Accusations of anti-white bias inspired an abundance of online misinformation. 

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Some viral memes falsely claimed Coke CEO James Quincey had insulted conservatives who boycotted the brand.

Over the last few months, USA TODAY has debunked several claims in this vein, including the false claim that Coca-Cola refused to hire white executives. 

Our rating: Altered

We rate the claim that an image shows Coca-Cola wrote “Try to be less white” on its soda cans ALTERED, based on our research. A spokesperson for the company confirmed it has not produced or authorized any cans with that phrase. An expert has suggested the image is likely altered. This image is the latest in a string of misinformation about Coke’s perceived anti-white bias.

Our fact-check sources:

  • Anne Moore, June 10, email correspondence with USA TODAY
  • Reuters, June 10, Fact Check-Coca-Cola can with ‘try to be less white’ slogan not produced by the company
  • Snopes, Feb. 24, Did Coca-Cola Add ‘Try To Be Less White’ to Cans?
  • Newsweek, Feb. 21, Coca-Cola, Facing Backlash, Says ‘Be Less White’ Learning Plan Was About Workplace Inclusion
  • Snopes, Feb. 22, Did Coca-Cola’s Diversity Training Tell Workers ‘Try To Be Less White’?
  • USA TODAY, March 2, Fact check: Coca-Cola CEO did not insult customers who were launching boycott
  • USA TODAY, April 15, Fact check: Neither McDonald’s nor Coca-Cola announced they would no longer hire white executives

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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