Amazon Censors Domestic Violence Shirts: Computer Accidentally Encourages Crimes
Outrage understandably erupted on Amazon.com's UK website recently, over the offering of shirts with inappropriate slogans that directly promote the raping and physical abuse of women.
The offensive shirt slogans in question are variations on the British aphorism "Keep Calm and Carry On," reading: "Keep Calm and Hit Her," "Keep Calm and Rape a Lot" and "Keep Calm and Rape Them."
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The shirts went on sale at Amazon's UK site on Saturday, March 2 and retailed for £14.99-16.99 ($23-36). Amazon immediately received hundreds of angry responses, which led the Internet magnate to almost immediately take down the pages selling the shirts.
"Domestic violence and sex offenses are not something people should make money out of," says Harriet Harman, the shadow Culture Secretary who spoke with The Independent about the shirts on Sunday, March 3. "[Amazon's] supposed to be a public company. My suggestion is they give all profits they made from it to a women's refuge."
Feeling that a public apology and the taking down of the pages selling the shirts is not enough, said she Harman staunchly believes that Amazon should bestow a "substantial donation" upon such women's assistance groups as End Violence Against Women and Women's Aid.
"The End Violence Against Women Coalition is a unique coalition of organisations and individuals campaigning to end all forms of violence against women," says the eight-year-old organization's mission statement.
Women's Aid International, meanwhile, is a decade-old humanitarian aid and development agency whose "mission is to provide relief and assistance to women and children suffering distress caused by war, disasters or poverty, to empower women through education, training, provision of credit and to campaign against violations of women's human rights."
How did Amazon end up hosting the sale of such shirts? Clearly, no one was minding the store when it came to the products being sold independently by five-year-old Melbourne, Australia-based T-shirt company Solid Gold Bomb. Other shirts the company has sold in the past are emblazoned with the slogans, "Keep Calm and Knife Her," "Keep Calm and Choke Her" and "Keep Calm and Grope On."
The Web page for Solid Gold Bomb states that the company was able to sell "over a million T-shirts during the global financial crisis." But Solid Gold Bomb's shirts were no longer for sale on Amazon's UK site as of Saturday, March 2 at 11:30 a.m. (shortly after the shirts went up for sale), according to an Amazon spokesperson and as reported by The Independent.
Solid Gold Bomb took its own Facebook and Twitter pages offline on Saturday, as well, issuing a statement on its Web site as a response:
"The slogan had been automatically generated using a scripted computer process running against hundreds of thousands of dictionary words. Any offensive items that are remaining are certainly in the deletion queue and will be removed as soon as the processing is complete."
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(Edited by Lois Heyman)