Amazon.com — a retail juggernaut that Michigan and other states have sought to lure with billions of dollars in financial incentives — has been offering items bearing symbols of white supremacy, despite a company policy prohibiting those products on the website.
“Amazon has enabled hate organizations and ideologues to spread their ideas and generate resources to support their operations,” a report released Friday by two nonprofits said, adding the Seattle-based retailer, in turn, “gets a cut of this revenue.”
Among the items: a Nazi swastika pendant, and a hangman’s noose decal, a cross burning baby onesie.
What Amazon is selling and whether it is enforcing its own policies is significant as many enterprises come under increasing pressure from the public and investors to be socially responsible, and as Amazon seeks tax incentives to expand and build a second headquarters.
The 30-page report, “Delivering Hate: How Amazon’s Platforms Are Used to Spread White Supremacy, Anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia and How Amazon Can Stop It,” was published by two nonprofit groups, Action Center on Race & the Economyand Partnership for Working Families.
“It’s a company that’s making money through racist and violent propaganda,” said Maurice BP-Weeks, the co-executive director of Action Center on Race & the Economy, in Detroit. “It’s not even within the policy Amazon purportedly holds itself to remove these items.”
Amazon, which refused to confirm or deny to the Free Press that the items had been on its website, would only release a one-sentence statement: “Third-party sellers who use our Marketplace service must follow our guidelines and those who don’t are subject to swift action including potential removal of their account.”
Amazon’s guidelines state that offensive and controversial items prohibited on the website include: “products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.”
But, the report also blasted Amazon for responding slowly — or not at all — to complaints.
In 2015, Amazon said it was pulling down Confederate flag merchandise after white supremacist Dylann Ruff killed nine people — all African Americans — at a church in Charleston, S.C. In photos, he had posed with symbols of white supremacy and neo-Nazism, including the flag.
On Friday, products bearing the flag, including a belt buckle and swim trunks, were available on the website.
In addition, other items that could be found included the “Kek Republic Flag,” which, the Southern Poverty Law Center said, mimics a German Nazi war flag replacing red with green and is used by white supremacists.
BP-Weeks said public investments in Amazon add another dimension to the organization’s concerns.
The company also solicited bids from cities throughout North America for a second headquarters. Detroit, which fell short in its proposal, had offered $4 billion in incentives, likely one of the largest amounts ever proposed by the state to a private enterprise for a project.
“We offered a pretty rich package here in Detroit to get Amazon,” BP-Weeks said. “To think that this kind of company is doing things like allowing neo-Nazis to put propaganda on their website really does call into question: Should taxpayers be offering these incentives to a company that clearly doesn’t meet the general values of social good?”
The report urged Amazon to take a clear public stand against hate groups, pledge not to profit from hate, stop allowing its platform from being used to sell items featuring hate symbols, and destroy the offensive merchandise.
Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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