'Rape' T-shirt firm out of business

Last updated 13:01 01/07/2013
T-shirt

Outrage: Two of the "Keep Calm" T-Shirt designs that were allegedly caused by computer error.

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An online T-shirt company founded in Australia that blamed a "computer error" for shirts that glorified rape, murder and sex crimes has gone out of business.

Michael Fowler said his company Solid Gold Bomb had officially shut up shop.

Fowler's company went into a tailspin in March after Amazon shoppers noticed it was advertising T-shirts with offensive slogans such as "Keep Calm and Rape A Lot", "Keep Calm and Knife Her" and "Keep Calm and Kill Her".

Other designs included "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 suspended its account after an uproar that saw Amazon accused of making money from domestic violence.

Fowler, an American who married an Australian, made several apologies for the shirts but his company never recovered from the Amazon suspension. He was forced to sack half of his workers and forego a salary before finally closing the business.

Fowler blamed 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.

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.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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