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Amazon responds to Congressman's letter regarding neo-Nazi merchandises

The move comes in response to a report revealed that neo-Nazi and white supremacist products are sold on Amazon.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
2 min read
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

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Amazon has removed a number of books espousing neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology after a study revealed such paraphernalia available on its site.  

The Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race and the Economy found listings for "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."

The study prompted US Representative Keith Ellison last month to send a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos asking the company to remove neo-Nazi and white nationalist books and e-books from its platform. 

Amazon  responded to Rep. Ellison last week in a letter. 

"Amazon has reviewed the products and content referenced in your letter, and we have removed those listings, and permanently blocked the seller accounts found to be in violation of our policies," wrote Brian Huseman, Amazon's vice president of public policy, in the letter referred by a representative of Ellison. "We have restricted the inventory to prevent it from being sold and are in the process of removing it from our fulfillment centers."

An Amazon spokesperson also clarified in an email statement that "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."

This means that anyone can flag an inappropriate listing to Amazon and the company's teams will review if it violates the company's policy. Amazon declined to comment regarding how it sweeps and vets listings in a proactive manner. 

A spokesman for Ellison also mentioned that books, including a children's book, written by American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell, are still listed on Amazon.

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.

When asked how Amazon decides which to keep and which to ban, the company also declined to comment.

Ellison's request wasn't the first time Amazon has dealt with a complaint to about controversial merchandise from its site. Amazon and eBay banned sales of the Confederate flag and related products in 2015 due to complaints from the public.

First published Aug. 2, 5:01 p.m. PT
Update, 2:04 p.m.:
Includes additional comment from Amazon and Ellison and a clarification that the Nazi products were removed from the site before Ellison sent his letter to Amazon.