HideTechdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.
HideTechdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.

Lego Reverses Policy On Block Orders For Political Projects After Public Shaming

from the blockheads dept

Late last year, we relayed the story of Ai Weiwei, an artist who had previously used Legos to create political art in the form of portraits, being refused a bulk order of Lego blocks by the company. At issue was a long-standing company policy prohibiting its facilitation of blocks being used for political speech. As a result of Weiwei going public about the refusal, the story was Streisanded into the public consciousness, resulting in condemnation and shaming from more of the masses than would have ever been aware of the project otherwise.

And, in a classic example of how the Streisand Effect often culminates, Lego is now reversing course -- not only regarding Weiwei's project, but it's nixing the entire policy.

On Tuesday, Lego announced that it would no longer ask what the "thematic purpose" of a project is. Instead, customers who intend to display their creations in public will be asked to make clear that Lego does not support or endorse them.

Asked whether it was in response to Ai's case, the toy-maker said it had been asked whether it supports human rights and freedom of expression. In an email, spokesman Roar Rude Trangbaek wrote: "We always have and continue to do — this is at the heart of what Lego play is all about. ... We hope the new guidelines will make it more clear what we stand for."
It would have been too much to hope for to expect Lego to come out and flat out admit the policy it had previously adopted was simply wrong on a moral level. Still, this is a lesson in the power of public shaming, particularly in an era where the internet has fostered wider connections than had been possible previously. Would Lego have revised its policy if Weiwei's story had not gone viral? I think we know the answer to that question, given that this isn't the first time the question over Legos being used in political artwork has come up, but is the first time the policy has been revised.

Oddly, after Lego had initially refused Weiwei's order, he turned to a Chinese competitor instead. This was done as many speculated that Lego had taken its actions in order to appease the Chinese government, as Weiwei is a Chinese dissident.
The Melbourne exhibition, which opened in December, was to feature 20 portraits of Australian pro-freedom figures made from Lego bricks. Instead, it used similar bricks from a Chinese company, Ai said.

"I couldn't tell much difference and the price is much, much lower," he added.
And now the Streisand Effect has multiplied to include the greater exposure of a Lego competitor. Perhaps that's the reason for the policy change.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: ai weiwei, art, china, cutlure, free speech
Companies: lego


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 16 Jan 2016 @ 8:06pm

    Re: Now you have a company refusing to allow anyone to utilize a discount

    No the article is about that company backing down on that refusal.

    You think it should have stood by its “principles” in this case? In which case, please tell us what those “principles” should have been for a large, profit-oriented multinational corporation.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Loading...
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.