Amazon’s Hate and Counterfeit Problems Pile Up

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Amazon.com Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) self-policing problems are piling up. Recently, it has been attacked because it has done a poor job deterring the spread of counterfeit products sold on its website. Add to those new accusations that it allows products that “promote hate and violence” to be sold via Amazon.

While both accusations are true, Amazon has a challenge similar to YouTube and Facebook, which have to comb through billions of products and communications that fall into categories of “fake news, hate, and outright misleading claims.” The difficulty of the task will not keep away the critics. Amazon has created a massive business, and it has to live with the consequences and the demands for solutions.

The Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race & the Economy have fielded a large study titled “Delivering Hate: How Amazon’s Platforms Are Used to Spread White Supremacy, Anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia and How Amazon Can Stop It.” For some reason, the analysis starts out with a description of Amazon founder Jeff Bezo’s net worth, which is not key to the argument. The study’s authors go on to write:

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. Additionally, a number of these products are targeted at children.

Then the authors argue that Amazon does not have strong enough policies to combat the problem. In reality, the issue is one of resources more than rules.

Amazon also has been charged with another set of practices that needs massive resources to address. The sale of counterfeit products hurts the companies that make the real products and the people who buy counterfeits that they believe are genuine. Since Amazon is a highly trusted operation, it would never occur to most people that counterfeits would even be available. According to critics, they are not only available but plentiful. Amazon has a policy that counterfeits cannot be sold on the site. The list of rules is very long, but in part it says:

It is each seller’s and supplier’s responsibility to source, sell, and fulfill only authentic products. Prohibited products include bootlegs, fakes, or pirated copies of products or content; products that have been illegally replicated, reproduced, or manufactured; and products that infringe another party’s intellectual property rights. If you sell or supply inauthentic products, we may immediately suspend or terminate your Amazon selling account (and any related accounts) and destroy any inauthentic products in our fulfillment centers at your expense.

However, violations of these rules often go undetected by Amazon, nor are the counterfeiters punished.

“Hate” is the latest negative charge against Amazon. The statements about the issue are true, but Amazon cannot solve the problem completely. The number of “haters” is too large.