Late on Friday evening I was alerted to a company on Amazon selling t-shirts which appeared to be promoting rape. Astounded and shocked I immediately emailed the CEO of Amazon UK and wrote about it on my own blog to raise awareness. Over night, the sale page in question was removed from Amazon and an apology published. Solid Gold Bomb concluded with, “We’re sorry for the ill feeling this has caused! We’re doing our best here to fix the problem.” The story was picked up by Sky News and BBC News (amongst other news outlets). However, the bad taste ‘fashion wear’ continued to appear from the same company on Amazon UK with t-shirts available for purchase displaying slogans such as “Keep Calm and Hit Her” and “Keep Calm and Grope A Lot“. As outrage snowballed on social media channels, the sale pages of these t-shirts disappeared from Amazon UK.
The explanation given for this selling activity has been explained effectively by Pete Ashton who breaks down the process of the algorithm that generates the wording on (as yet unprinted) items of clothing for sale on the Amazon UK website. That’s all well and good but where is the algorithm that prevents this type of wording being created in the first place?
I have to remind people that computers are firstly programmed by humans and someone has to be responsible for output of their computer programme. Rachel Gully has a shop on Amazon UK and has this say:
I decided to start selling on Amazon due to its popularity and the fact it could increase my business. For a small business, I pay a fair bit to Amazon for this pleasure and to see that they are allowing items to be sold which are vile and degrading (to put it nicely) is disgusting.
Anyone can open a seller account with Amazon and items can be uploaded without Amazon verifying the content. I can appreciate that there are a lot of products being sold on Amazon, but with regards to slogan items, there needs to be a verification process that checks anything being sold is not derogatory or vile.
I am considering stopping selling on Amazon as I don’t want my brand being associate with a company that allows those types of products to be sold.
So what Amazon UK have to realise is that whilst it is very easy to remove an item from sale or a company from trading, but the initial activity has repercussions and its effect ripples out.
You may also ask why I am irate about something that never officially existed and that has been removed from sale. The answer is simple. I am a parent; I need to show my children, my grandchildren and my peers that everything has consequences. I have to show them the difference between humour and actions that could have serious repercussions. Campaigns such as “No Means No” have been created to raise awareness of rape incidents and to give victims a voice and organisations such as Rape Crisis are constantly under threat of folding through lack of funding. Where’s the humour in that?
And a final note to end on. There are no “Keep Calm and Rape/Hit/Grope Him” T-shirts available. Odd how the algorithm eradicated that combination, no?
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