Keep calm and don’t trust computers

By Chris Dawson March 4, 2013 - 10:40 am

Keep CalmThe story across all the media at the weekend was Solid Gold Bomb selling t-shirts on Amazon with deeply offensive slogans such as “Keep Calm and Rape Her” with variations including “knife her”, “slash her”, “snuff her” and “kill her”.

In truth this was only an Amazon story because the t-shirts were listed on the site by a third party, it’s nigh on impossible for a marketplace to vet every single item on their site. The most one might expect a marketplace to be able to do is put in filters for keywords and of course to take down offending items as soon as they become aware of them which it appears Amazon were swift to do.

Solid Gold Bomb claim on their website that it was a computer generated faux pas. As well as taking down their twitter and Facebook pages they’ve issued an apology explaining that computer based dictionaries and verb lists were scripted to automatically produce different slogans, many of which were inoffensive but sadly many weren’t. Amazingly the company were even listing a load of t-shirts with slogans which made no sense whatsoever so it does appear pure laziness and haste to list and just sell anything really is the truth behind the fiasco.

Someone should have glanced down the list of keywords or the 700 results selected to list on Amazon and realised there were a ton of absolutely unacceptable results included. You can’t simply call it a computer error.

The real culprits here are Solid Gold Bomb, who have fully accepted the blame and worked to delete the entire series of t-shirts over the weekend. It’s been a total PR disaster for the firm and one that sadly Amazon have been dragged into as well. Solid Gold Bomb have now deleted the entire “Keep Calm” series of t-shirts from Amazon and their own website.

This isn’t the first time trusting computers have landed a company in trouble, those with long memories will remember a shoe retailer whose computers listed some 15,000 products on eBay which they didn’t actually have in stock and so couldn’t fulfil the resultant orders. If you’re going to use computers you need to make sure that what you instruct them to do is what you actually want them to do.

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