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Congressman asks Amazon to stop selling neo-Nazi books, merchandise

The listings may violate Amazon's own policies.

Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

US Rep. Keith Ellison on Tuesday raised concerns about "a staggering amount" of neo-Nazi and white nationalist books and e-books being sold on Amazon and asked the company to remove them.

Citing a new study by the Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race and the Economy, the Minnesota Democrat mentioned in a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos that Amazon also sells "baby onesies, toys, children's Halloween costumes, flags, clothing, and jewelry emblazoned with nazi, neo-nazi, white nationalist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and violent, racist imagery."

Such listings appear to violate Amazon's own policies, which prohibit "products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views," according to the company's website.

"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," an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday.

Ellison's request comes at a time when Amazon's site has grown to include two million independent sellers and hundreds of millions of listings. That enormous scale and size makes it difficult for the company to monitor all the listings and sales on its site.

In another alleged oversight, last year Amazon said it would look into a problem where its site would recommend shoppers buy combinations of items that could be used to make bombs, through its "frequently bought together" feature.

While Amazon does prohibit hateful content, it may still need to grapple with potential gray areas in its policy, an issue other tech giants like Facebook and Google's YouTube have had to deal with, as well. For example, Amazon currently offers for sale Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf." Some might consider it hateful propaganda that should be removed, while others may see it as a historical text.

Ellison's request isn't the first time Amazon has been asked to address controversial listings on its site. In 2015, Amazon and several other e-retailers banned sales of the Confederate flag and related merchandise, following public outrage over a shooting in a historic African-American church in South Carolina.

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