By Roy Mathur, on 2019-05-10, at 21:36:43 to 21:58:30 BST, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen
This is a special single topic show dedicated to asking why Amazon is perfectly fine making money from extremism.
I talked about this subject in episode 260, stewed about it for a week, put on my journalist hat, and wrote an article that not one single liberal news outlet was interested in printing. Yes, I feel let down by my own side, and now we're here and I'm using this podcast to make this as public as I can.
Neo-Nazi Merch Still for Sale on Amazon UK
By Roy Mathur, 2019-05-09
In the UK, Amazon still sells Neo-Nazi merch. This is not a new problem. In 2015, products, some aimed at children, were withdrawn by Amazon in the US, following warnings by hate group watchdog, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and an article in the Washington Post. In 2018, an investigation by the Action Center on Race and the Economy, and a letter from American politician Keith Ellison, led to even more items pulled from Amazon. The Telegraph in the UK also discovered that Amazon UK was selling Nazi and far-right products in August last year. Almost a year later and guess what? Surprise, surprise, they didn't do a great clean-up job and, as I was to find out, they don't care. For a change, it's nothing to do with algorithms. It's simply Amazon don't care how they make money.
Then recently, while browsing Amazon UK, I discovered similarly vile and racist material still easily available. Examples of products included flags and enamelled badges displaying variations of the so-called "Celtic cross" symbol commonly used by modern Neo-Nazis organisations, and that show up in press photographs of Neo-Nazi rallies.
And what of the customers? Are we talking about people who perhaps share the late Lemmy of Motorhead's penchant for Nazi-era Hugo Boss, or historical "we're just hobbyists" re-enactors? No, I'm talking about radicalised Neo-Nazi extremists. I even found a boastful customer mentioning the 14 words of white supremacist terrorist David Lane in their review.
I approached Amazon with my concerns. After being ignored, then sent a boilerplate reply, only my third attempt evinced a more detailed response. In an extraordinary email from a representative in Amazon Executive Customer Relations, I was told:"Please bear in mind, however, that as a retailer, our goal is to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover and buy any item they might be seeking. Because our customers represent a wide spectrum of opinions, that selection may include some items which people find objectionable."
This suggests Amazon is blissfully unaware that these items breach their terms of service, which specifically prohibits products "that promote, incite, or glorify hate or violence towards any person or group", or is, "related to terrorist organizations", or, "that promote intolerance based on race, religion, and sexual orientation".
They went on to say: "You may wish to contact (MERCHANT NAME) directly with your comments about this item."
Incredibly, Amazon also wants me to police their own platform.
Curiosity provoked me to dig a little deeper and see what other "items which people find objectionable" I could find. Although I found no evidence of Amazon selling anything promoting banned organisation Daesh (IS), I did find a disturbing paramilitary Ulster "Loyalist" flag.
What is Amazon doing? What makes one flag, er... flagged to "incite, or glorify hate", but another perfectly acceptable? Why is Amazon making a special exception for certain extremist material?
As we have seen from previous atrocities committed by white assailants, until very recently, governments in the west have been puzzlingly reluctant to brand such acts terrorism. Similarly, other tech giants like Facebook and Twitter have, for a long time, dragged their heels over white nationalist content, often citing freedom of speech. Is it because of the colour of the perpetrators?
This is a problem, because, by not enforcing their own terms and conditions, Amazon are actively encouraging, emboldening, and empowering extremists.
Further, if we do nothing as consumers to hold the retail behemoth to account, this obnoxious fringe will start to think itself mainstream. They may even become normalised in the mind of the public. This, of course, is something that funny little men with inflated egos always want. Then, before we know what's happening, we've lost control and it's 1933 again.
It's made me seriously question my use of Amazon, and it should concern you too.
Maybe it's also time I put this to Bezos himself, as I'm about to with this special episode. Whether his company will do something, after the way they've already behaved, is another thing entirely. As soon as this is uploaded, the link's going to firstname.lastname@example.org, @JeffBezos, @AmazonUK, @amazon, and the @washingtonpost. I have screenshots and all correspondence between me and Amazon, so I can prove my story. Let's see what happens.
If any of you listening work for Amazon or a major news outlet, tell someone about this episode.