SAN FRANCISCO >> Amazon said this week that it would no longer let third-party retailers sell products that feature Nazi and white nationalist symbolism on its platform, after pressure from nonprofit groups and lawmakers.
In a letter dated Tuesday to Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., Amazon said it had removed products that violated its policy against product listings that promote hatred, violence or discrimination.
“We have reviewed the products and content referenced in your letter, and removed the listings that were found in violation of our policies and permanently blocked the seller accounts that were in violation of Amazon policy,” Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president for public policy, wrote in the letter, which was earlier reported by BuzzFeed. “We are also reviewing the seller accounts for potential suspension.”
Amazon sent its letter after two nonprofit groups — the Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race and the Economy — called attention in July to product listings on the e-commerce site that included an infant onesie with a burning-cross graphic and jewelry emblazoned with Nazi swastikas.
“Amazon enables the celebration of ideologies that promote hate and violence by allowing the sale of hate symbols and imagery on its site, including Confederate and anti-Black imagery, Nazi and fascist imagery, and the newly adopted imagery of the modern white nationalist movement,” the groups wrote in a report.
In response, Ellison wrote to Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, expressing alarm. “I am disturbed that such a powerful corporation is materially fueling the rise of hate groups in our country,” Ellison said.
He also questioned Amazon about the profits it generated from white supremacist literature available on its Kindle e-reader platform. The Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race and the Economy pointed to Amazon’s sales of an illustrated children’s book by George Lincoln Rockwell, who founded the American Nazi Party in 1959.
In a statement, an Amazon spokeswoman said: “Sellers are expected to comply with our policies, and we immediately investigate any reported violations. The items referenced by Rep. Ellison were previously reviewed, and we removed those that violated our policies well before we received his letter.”
While Amazon said the products in question would not be available for purchase anymore, the company is still removing them from its fulfillment centers. The children’s book was still available to buy on Amazon as of late today. The retailer uses a combination of automated tools and human investigation to uncover and remove products that violate its policies.
In his letter, Huseman declined to disclose how much money Amazon had made from the sale of literature published by groups that the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as hate groups. Amazon does not reveal its profits from individual publishers or product listings, he said.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Ellison’s office said he was not available for comment.