This million dollar t-shirt making company failed to catch a customer’s racist design and now they are apologizing for the error. Susana Victoria Perez (@susana_vp) has more.
SAN FRANCISCO — Custom T-shirt design company Teespring is once again on the defensive after a media group found it was selling a T-shirt about lynching journalists on its site and as a third party seller on Walmart.com.
Walmart was alerted to the shirt’s presence on its site on Wednesday by the Radio Television Digital News Association and that same day removed it from sale. The T-shirt read “Rope. Tree. Journalist. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED”.
The discovery highlights the ongoing problems created by technology companies that largely lean on software to screen out harmful or abusive content. These automated systems are cost effective, underwriting healthy profit margins, but have made Internet companies — including Facebook and Google — vulnerable to individuals that figure out how to skirt the system for harm.
“Until there’s an economic cost for companies that are doing moderation poorly, there’s not really an incentive to do it well,” said Libby Hemphill, a professor of information studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Teespring is a San Francisco-based company that has raised millions of dollars from Silicon Valley sources such as start-up incubator Y Combinator and venture capital firms including Andreessen Horowitz and Khosla Ventures.
Its business model is to act as an intermediary: Customers upload designs for custom T-shirts and other logo items. They then sell the items either on the Teespring site or on their own sites. Teespring takes a cut of all sales from users.
Multiple examples of inappropriate material have dogged the company. Teespring was in the news in May after shirts saying “Black Women are Trash” were discovered for sale on the site.
In a statement to USA TODAY, Walmart said the item was sold by a third-party seller on its marketplace and clearly violates its policies. “We removed it as soon as it was brought to our attention, and are conducting a thorough review of the seller’s assortment,” the statement read.
In this instance, an individual created the T-shirt on the…