A person wears a QAnon sweatshirt during a pro-Trump rally on Oct. 3, 2020, in the borough of Staten Island in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
A new report released Monday highlights how major e-commerce platforms continue to profit from selling T-shirts and other items with racist, antisemitic or otherwise offensive slogans — in many cases in direct violation of companies’ policies.
These items include T-shirts featuring antisemitic caricatures, tote bags adorned with swastikas and stickers promoting QAnon conspiracies.
The report, by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a London-based nonprofit that studies extremism and disinformation, examined five major e-commerce platforms — Redbubble, Etsy, Zazzle, Teepublic and Teespring — all of which generate millions of dollars each year by providing an online marketplace for independent artists and vendors.
The report’s findings, which were shared exclusively with Yahoo News ahead of publication, highlight the difficulty of enforcing content policies on platforms where hundreds of thousands of people create and upload their own designs, often with coded language and memes that might disguise offensive material.
But many of the items being sold are shockingly blatant, and some of the companies have also faced public scrutiny in the past for selling hateful merchandise. All of them have policies prohibiting the sale of harmful products, to varying degrees of specificity.
“This is, once again, a case of platforms setting guidelines and then just not enforcing them,” said Tim Squirrell, ISD’s head of communications and co-author of the report. “So much of the stuff that we found is just rooted in hate, rooted in discrimination, rooted in the vilification of various groups.”
While these websites do seem to be removing the most blatantly bigoted items — or at least making them slightly harder to find — ISD’s researchers found that “it is still extremely simple to find and purchase hateful products across the full range of these platforms.”
Search results for “WLM” on Redbubble. Screenshot via ISD.
Though ISD’s researchers found a wide range of concerning items across all five of the platforms they examined, they report that “egregious content was most readily accessible on Redbubble.”
Like most of the companies highlighted in the ISD report, Australia-based Redbubble is an online marketplace for print-on-demand products — meaning it provides an infrastructure for artists to upload and sell their own designs, which buyers can choose to print on a variety of products, such as T-shirts, stickers, mugs and tote bags.
Redbubble also has a history of controversy over offensive products that have been discovered on its site. In 2011, Jewish groups condemned Redbubble for selling products with images from a satirical webcomic called “Hipster Hitler.” A year later, the retailer came under fire yet again following the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 for selling a hoodie that featured a “Neighborhood Watch” sign with a warning that “We immediately murder all suspicious persons.” In 2019, Rebubble apologized for selling miniskirts and throw pillows depicting Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi death camp.
Redbubble has established a lengthy set guidelines prohibiting a wide …….