I have been shocked – and hurt – by the T-shirt story: T-shirts with ‘Keep Calm and Rape Me’ emblazoned across the front were being sold by a tin pot bunch of T-shirt traders, Solid Gold Bomb, on Amazon.
I’ve seen some ridiculous assertions that the whole thing was created by an algorithm and aren’t we all digitally stupid if we think a real person had a hand in it anywhere? Oh, and it’s just fine for the T-shirt company to simply issue an apology.
Sorry, but no!
I’ve even seen articles suggesting that the slogan was created by a machine – which, incidentally, I doubt. Someone had to press the button to approve it.Someone had to upload it to the shop, and categorise it. These things don’t happen automated start to finish. There would be a whole load of computer generated linguistic impossibilities available for purchase if that were anything like true. So perhaps the apologists can now take a step down. And Solid Gold Bomb must come clean!
It’s far more likely that someone, somewhere, thought that a great way to earn some links back to their site was to create a controversy. And as a tactic it can work. (See: Fifty shades of negative)
This, however, scrapes the barrel. It’s the worst kind of cynical marketing you can think of. Google and Amazon and others are merrily rewarding them with visits and ‘linkjuice’. It’s the worst kind of gaming the system. Thanks to this little scandal the T-shirt shop will have found itself a better search ranking.
I do hope they think the price that others are paying was worth it. In my early 20’s I was very close to a girl who was raped at knifepoint. The police weren’t somewhere you’d go for help at the time, unless you wanted your own behaviour and sexual history put under the microscope. My friend changed. She started running. She could never settle and left a trail of broken and abusive relationships behind her. The man concerned almost certainly repeat offended. Rape ruined her life, and the life of the people who tried to love her.
And she’s just one, small, story that demonstrates that rape and beatings are never a joke. I really hope that whoever put that page there thinks that the rankings were worth it. I’ve seen links back from all kinds of media properties.
So here’s a challenge to Google. You took Interflora out of the rankings for buying advertorial. What Solid Gold Bomb has done is worse, far worse. Far worse. At very least they should be treated as hosting adult and offensive content. So reward these guys, who have used a scandal to earn links from Sky, the Sun and other hot media properties, by treating them as they’ve deserved. Maybe it would send a message to others about using cheap, shock tactics.
I sincerely hope that the SEO or PR company that thought messing with someone’s reputation also had the experience and wisdom to warn them in advance that when emotions run high, people do bad things. These directors are far from blame free, but they’ve received death threats and had to remove all of their details from the web. That was utterly predictable.
We can all do something about this. Take down the links and articles. Review them as the 1/10 that their behaviour deserves. And join a call to get Google to take action. If we don’t, this kind of shock tactic will continue to hurt people as collateral damage in the clamour for rankings.