Outrage: Three of the “Keep Calm” T-Shirt designs that were allegedly caused by computer error. One of the “Keep Calm” T-shirts on sale on Amazon.
An online T-shirt company founded in Australia is on its death bed after a purported “computer error” saw it advertise shirts on Amazon glorifying rape, murder and sex crimes.
The shirts, printed on-demand by T-shirt design firm Solid Gold Bomb, include dozens of offensive slogans such as “Keep Calm and Rape A Lot”, “Keep Calm and Knife Her” and “Keep Calm and Kill Her”.
Other designs include “Keep Calm and Grope On” and “Keep Calm and Choke Her”, among many other variations of the World War II propaganda slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On”.
Amazon was the firm’s main distribution channel and the online retailer has now suspended its account after an uproar that saw Amazon accused of making money from domestic violence.
Solid Gold Bomb was founded in Melbourne by Michael Fowler, who said he was having his morning coffee on Saturday when the company’s Facebook page began blowing up with threats and accusations of misogyny.
Fowler said he was receiving 300-1700 orders a day but since the scandal broke sales have dropped to 20 on Tuesday and as low as three on Monday.
He said he would struggle to make payroll this Friday and may have to shut down the company. The firm’s Facebook and Twitter pages have been deleted after a torrent of abuse.
“It’s devastating, the majority of our sales stopped,” said Fowler, 41. “The only real sales channel we currently have is our own website.”
But Fowler, who has plastered Solid Gold Bomb’s website with an apology message, blames a “computer error” for the debacle.
He explained he wanted to create a range of parody “Keep Calm” T-shirts and so wrote a “three line script” that would harness electronic dictionaries and verb lists to automatically generate phrases for the shirts. He ended up with thousands of different options on Amazon through what Fowler claims is a “100 per cent automated” process.
Fowler said he had no idea the offensive T-shirts were on sale until the scandal blew up and he had cancelled orders he had received for the shirts since Saturday. But he could not be sure whether any of the offensive T-shirts were sold and printed in the year since they had been uploaded to Amazon. “It is possible that something slipped through,” he said.
“As a father, husband, brother and son, I would never promote such product … this was never my intention and I am extremely sorry for the trouble this carelessness caused,” he wrote in his apology message.
Some haven’t bought the explanation, including British conservative MP Caroline Dinenage, who was quoted by The Daily Mail as saying it was “absurd” to say the “ridiculous, mindless products” had been made in error.
Solid Gold Bomb was launched in Melbourne by Fowler in 2008 but that same year moved its headquarters to London before finally settling in the US. The company has eight staff worldwide but Fowler and his art director remain in Australia, with manufacturing conducted in the US.
Fowler, who has just welcomed his third child, is now focusing his efforts on reviving the company although he described task ahead as “like suddenly having to climb Everest without an oxygen tank”.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.