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Amazon Is Quietly Selling Racist, Anti-Semitic Products, Report Finds

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduces new electronic products in 2012. A new report finds that Amazon violates its own anti-hate speech policies by allowing the sale of racist, anti-Semitic and other offensive products and content. (Reed Saxon / AP)

Amazon prides itself on the ability to sell and deliver almost any product imaginable. It also creates television shows and movies and builds its own electronics like the Kindle and Echo and runs such businesses as Whole Foods, Audible and IMDb. However, what should not be included in its vast offerings, according to its own policies, are “products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.”

A new report from the Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race & the Economy, however, outlines how Amazon continues to sell products and host content in violation of the company’s own rules. Many of the products are made or promoted by hate groups, as classified by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, both of which monitor extremist groups.

As the report says, “for growing racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic movements, the breadth of Amazon’s business combined with its weak and inadequately enforced policies provides a number of channels through which hate groups can generate revenue, propagate their ideas, and grow their movements.”

Among the items the researchers found are “a ‘Confederate Officer’ kids’ costume, which is stickered as ‘Amazon’s Choice,’ with the Confederate flag pin and patch gift set [and a] hangman’s noose lynching” decal.

Even babies are not exempt: “Parents looking for racist clothing for infants can purchase baby onesies featuring a burning cross.”

And for just $3 at the Kindle store (and more in hard copy), consumers can purchase “The Fable of the Ducks and the Hens: A Dramatic Saga of Intrigue, Propaganda and Subversion,” written by the founder of the American Nazi Party, George Lincoln Rockwell.

“The description on Amazon’s site,” the report points out, “makes no mention of Rockwell’s background or the racist propaganda in the book. Parents considering the book would see it described as a ‘witty,’ colorfully illustrated story about ducks whose lives are ruined by ‘an influx of pushy, scheming hens.’ ”

Nazi and modern-day white supremacist imagery is also available. There are swords with SS symbols, swastika necklaces and toys featuring Pepe the Frog, a cartoon animal popular within the alt-right. These items are sold both by Amazon and the third-party sellers it hosts.

The continued sales of these items, the report explains, “are made possible by a combination of weak and poorly enforced policies.”

According to The New York Times, some of the items were taken off the site as of Sunday, but others, “like a sword with Nazi symbols, remained.”

An Amazon spokesperson reiterated the company’s anti-hate speech content to reporters Sunday, telling the Times that sellers “must follow our guidelines, and those who don’t are subject to swift action, including potential removal of their account.”

The company did not answer the Times’ questions about the specific items it had removed or any procedures for vetting products or content in the future. According to The Washington Post, “An Amazon spokesman said the company is in the process of removing some of the identified neo-Nazi bands from its music platform,” but the article doesn’t mention specific steps.

Moriah Montgomery, campaign director for the Partnership for Working Families and one of the report’s authors, told the Times about Amazon: “They’re making money, they are doing business with the people who are selling these things. The company has tremendous resources, and some of them should be devoted to making sure they are not propping up racist organizations.”

The report recommends that Amazon develop clearer, stricter and more consistent policies for the content and products it sells, and that it do so with help from organizations and experts that study hate groups.

“It’s about investing the resources in developing better policies and enforcing them adequately,” Carrie Sloan, research director for the Action Center on Race & the Economy, told The Washington Post. She said it’s also about “making a public commitment to say that Amazon will not be used to spread these ideologies.”

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