Twitter’s recent effort to get rid of parody accounts has suspended @BPDeezNutzz, an account that ruthlessly taunted oil and gas giant BP.
Amy Westervelt and Mary Annaïse Heglar created the account in April and had about 2,000 followers by the time Twitter axed the account around November 10. They’re climate writers and the duo behind the Hot Take podcast. When new Twitter owner Elon Musk announced that users could pay to get a blue checkmark, Westervelt and Helgar jumped on the opportunity. Their first tweet after verifying the account was: “Just because we killed the planet, doesn’t mean we can’t miss it.”
The tweet caused a stir—Helgar thinks it was liked over 35,000 times before the account was suspended hours later. Drummer and producer Questlove even posted a screenshot of it to his Instagram. The bio read, “NetZero Deez Nutzzzzzz!” in response to the real BP’s bio, which currently reads “Reimagining energy for people and our planet #bpNetZero.” The account’s avatar was the green BP logo dripping with oil, while its header image showed an ocean wave, scummy and brown after a spill.
The path to creating the account began after Helgar saw a sustainability poll from BP on Twitter back in October 2019. “The first step to reducing your emissions is to know where you stand. Find out your #carbonfootprint with our new calculator & share your pledge today!” the company’s tweet read. A pissed-off Helgar responded, “Bitch what’s yours???”
She had jabbed at big corporations on Twitter for a while but became especially aggressive after that poll in 2019. Every year, she and co-host Westervelt have an online “fuck BP day” in remembrance of a massive spill in 2010. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which was leased by fossil fuel giant BP, exploded on April 20, 2010 about 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana. It capsized and sank two days later. Eleven workers and tens of thousands of marine animals died as a result. Cleanup crews and Gulf Coast residents suffered short- and long-term health effects from the spill. A 2021 report about the spill’s effects found that workers and nearby residents struggled with skin issues like rashes, respiratory health issues, chronic headaches, and anxiety for years. The effects of the disaster are still measurable along the Gulf Coast, more than 10 years later.
For this year’s anniversary, the duo launched the @BPDeezNutzz Twitter account.
Helgar and Westervelt used @BPDeezNutzz to respond to tweets from the official BP account. Their goal was to highlight how gross it is that large oil companies are allowed to greenwash and gaslight, all while polluting the planet. “What they straight-up tweet from their own accounts seems like a parody,” Westervelt said.
Helgar and Westervelt don’t think that trolling oil and gas companies on social media is just for laughs—they feel it’s an effective public shaming strategy. They often see online comments in which people wax poetic about taking the high road. But neither Westervelt or Helgar believes they have to be impartial about the climate crisis. BP has committed a long list of environmental crimes, and the company has injected bias into energy research with their funding. BP has also been accused of lying and greenwashing in advertisements.
“We know who did climate change. They are out there and they deserve your anger,” Helgar said. “I think climate change is often portrayed not as a victimless crime, but a villain-less crime. Greentrolling reveals who the villain in the story is.”
The companies see their trolling. ExxonMobil has Helgar blocked on Twitter. In 2020, Westervelt received internal documents from BP confirming that the company was worried about its image online. “They were coming up with a strategy for their whole net-zero scrawling handwriting campaign,” she said. “They were very concerned about the fact that people are not taking them seriously and that young people don’t like them. And how to avoid being targeted online.”
Some Twitter users seem to believe that the account was run by comedian Jaboukie Young-White. In 2020, he changed his Twitter account to look like it belonged to the FBI. “Just because we killed MLK doesn’t mean we can’t miss him,” Young-White tweeted. Helgar and Westervelt confirmed that his MLK tweet inspired their BP killing-the-planet tweet.
When speaking to Earther, Helgar and Westervelt described the account as a “rage child” and as their “baby boy.” I asked if they were going to dispute the account’s suspension. “There’s a form that says we can contest, but we’re not gonna…. We know we did that shit,” Helgar explained. “Best to let him go out in a blaze of glory. He was too beautiful for this world,” Westervelt laughed.
Rest in peace, @BPDeezNutzz. You were here for a good time, not a long time.