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CEO: ‘Automated process’ led to misogynistic rape shirts on Amazon

By Stephen C. Webster
Sunday, March 3, 2013 18:19 EDT
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An automatically generated t-shirt slogan referencing rape. Photo: Screenshot via Amazon UK.
 
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The founder and CEO of an online t-shirt company found himself profusely apologizing this weekend after Twitter erupted with anger on Saturday over a line of clothing offered on Amazon that carried slogans promoting rape.

The shirts all featured a combination of words made to parody the slogan, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” But instead of something silly or smarmy, t-shirt maker Solid Gold Bomb was offering shirts with slogans like, “Keep Calm and Rape Her,” “Keep Calm and Hit Her,” and “Keep Calm and Grope On.” One, in pink, offered the slogan: “Keep Calm and Rape A Lot.”

Michael Fowler, founder and CEO of Solid Gold Bomb, explained on the company’s website that it had no intention of producing such offensive shirts, revealing they were actually created by an “automated process” that “relied on both computer based dictionaries and online educational resources ie. verb lists” to generate a parody of “Keep Calm.”

“These were subsequently scripted to position themselves on t-shirts and the associated product data was derived simply from the product name and the 16 word combinations like ‘On’ and ‘Off’ and ‘Him’ or ‘Her’ and so forth,” Fowler wrote. “Near all of these combinations either work or don’t work and are certainly non-offensive such as ‘Dream On’ and ‘Dance Off’ and so forth.”

He added that none of the “rape” shirts were ever printed because none of them were sold. “As a father, husband, brother and son, I would never promote such product in our company and it was clear to see this when looking across the millions of t-shirts that we offer or can produce on demand,” he explained. “Had these items ever sold, we would have immediately pulled the series and are doing so on our own and Amazon channels worldwide.”

The company had several hundred thousand clothing products available through Amazon’s Marketplace as of Friday night, according to blogger Pete Ashton. A search for “Solid Gold Bomb” shirts on Amazon came back with zero matching results as of Sunday.

An Amazon spokesperson told CNN that the shirts were no longer for sale on Marketplace, the content of which is offered by independent retailers and not the online merchant itself.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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