Fancy an LVF duvet or an IRA phone cover? Multinational retailer Redbubble has what you want
A giant multinational retailer is marketing hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of paramilitary-themed apparel, the News Letter has discovered.
Redbubble, a firm which trades on the Australian Stock Exchange and has offices in San Francisco and New York, did not respond for many days after being contacted about the items, and left them up for sale (although it has since issued a belated response – see bottom of the article).
The PSNI says it is investigating to see if the merchandise falls foul of the law.
Redbubble is basically like an online gallery of artistic designs which people have drawn up.
It works by asking you to select a design, and you can then have it printed onto items ranging from socks and duvets to mobile phone cases.
Many of the items for sale are political but stop short of explicitly espousing violence.
For example you can buy a T-shirt featuring Gerry Adams eating an ice cream, a “Disband the RUC” shower curtain, and a “Tiochfadh Ar La” coronavirus facemask.
But many items are outright paramilitary in nature.
The News Letter typed the word “Belfast” into Redbubble’s search page.
Out of the 108 designs which came back, at least 36 of them explicitly glorified paramilitary groups.
This included many t-shirts bearing balaclava-clad men with submachine-guns, alongside the logos and initials of the UDA, UFF, UVF, LVF, INLA, and IRA.
Typing in the phrase “Irish Republican Army” brought up no fewer than 451 different results.
Two particularly prolific creators whose designs are selling on the website are a David Green, who offers items with LVF, UVF, UFF and UDA themes.
Another is a Danny McLaughlin, whose profile says only that they hail from “Britol, UK” (sic).
He offers an enormous number of IRA designs, as well as ones for the Columbian FARC and the Brigate Rossa (the Red Brigade, an Italian communist paramilitary group).
SILENCE FROM REDBUBBLE:
Redbubble gave just a single email address for the press to contact the company.
The News Letter sent dozens of images to that address, and asked how long such material had been on the site, how many units had been sold, and what – if anything – Redbubble intends to do.
First contacted by the News Letter on Tuesday November 3, by time of publication on Saturday November 7, Redbubble had not even acknowledged the enquiry, and the material was still for sale.
The PSNI was also sent images of the merchandise, along with a link to the 2006 Terrorism Act.
Section 1.3(b) of that act says it is an offence to make a statement which “glorifies the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of such acts or offences”.
The PSNI responded: “We have been made aware of the sale of these t-shirts on this website and will review if they are in breach of any offences.”
Redbubble is a large enterprise, handling an annual revenue of over 416 million Australian dollars.
Its terms-and-conditions tell designers only to upload designs which are not “obscene, threatening, harmful, or inflammatory”.
But it also adds that “Redbubble does not manually screen content before it is displayed on the website, so occasionally members may inadvertently or deliberately submit and display content that breaches this agreement”.
However, the names of paramilitary groups do not just appear on the images themselves, but also in the written description of each item – apparently showing there is no automatic warning system for picking up on such designs.
‘IT IS EVIL TO SELL HATRED’:
Bridie McGoldrick, 77, is a Craigavon widow whose son Michael is believed to have been the first victim of Billy Wright’s LVF – the anti-ceasefire UVF splinter group which began to emerge in 1996.
Michael was a taxi driver who just graduated from uni, and whose wife was expecting a second child. He was shot dead in his cab, aged 31.
READ THE NEWS LETTER’S COVERAGE OF HER CASE, BY ADAM KULA, HERE: Mum speaks out over LVF murder of her only son 20 years after campaign declared over
Told that LVF clothes and duvets were being sold online she told the News Letter: “It’s so sad we’ve another generation being brought up in such hatred.
“I think it’s evil to sell evil. It’s evil to sell hatred. It’s evil to teach any children to hate...
“I think the message should be there’s a lot things to put on your duvets.”
A devout Christian, she tries to live her life on the understanding that “God loved the man that killed our son every bit as much as he loved our son... He loves us all, LVF, IRA, whatever you are – God loves you.”
Doing this is “not easy”, she says.
The LVF went on to kill at least another 17 people in its short existence – a death toll that nonetheless pales in comparison to the likes of the IRA (well over 1,700 according to Ulster University’s CAIN service) or the UVF (a minimum of 430 – likely far more).
MAJOR INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION EVENTUALLY RESPONDS TO QUESTIONS ABOUT TERRORISM:
Redbubble was first contacted by the News Letter on the evening of Tuesday, November 3.
A reminder was sent the following day.
No response was forthcoming.
Meanwhile, Redbubble’s Twitter account shows that it responded the same day to an artist who was complaining about alleged copyright infringement, telling them: “We take intellectual property rights seriously at Redbubble and process complaints promptly. This issue has been resolved.”
Then, at almost midnight GMT on Sunday, the corporation issued this statement to the News Letter: “Redbubble is reviewing the works cited in your article and related designs.
“Any content found to violate our Community Guidelines, such as those that promote or celebrate violence, will be removed from the marketplace.
“Some have already been moderated. Redbubble believes that violence and hatred have no place on our marketplace, and we will enforce our Community Guidelines, which can be found here: https://help.redbubble.com/hc/en-us/articles/202270929-Community-and-Content-Guidelines.
“We appreciate any and all efforts to bring designs that are in violation to our attention.”
READ MORE FORM THE NEWS LETTER:
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.
Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.
Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.