Amazon Enforces Offensive Materials Policy

As recent developments, particularly the invasion of the United States capitol, have caused more people to consider how companies deal with potentially offensive and incendiary material, Amazon has reiterated how it is monitoring and policing material on its site that may be objectionable and foster hate.

As it has grown, Amazon has to contend with products and content that the company determines is inappropriate for its website. For that reason, Amazon maintains and acts on Offensive and Controversial Materials policies and Content Guidelines for Books.

The offensive products policy prohibits the sale of items that promote, incite or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual, or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views, Amazon related. It also prohibits listings that graphically portray violence or victims of violence, the company noted.

Amazon periodically reviews and updates the policies based on experience, current events, and other relevant developments in consultation with internal and external resources, the company reported. The company operates a dedicated Offensive Products team responsible for developing and updating company policies, refining and maintaining systems and processes, continuously monitoring the retail operation, and directly evaluating questionable products, it pointed out. The team spans global operations and regularly consults Amazon leaders from around the world to refine policies when necessary. Amazon also consults resources issued by civil rights and anti-hate organizations as guidelines.

Amazon said it has proactive mechanisms in place to catch offensive listings before a customer ever sees them. According to the company, its technology continuously scans all products listed for sale looking for text and images that violate policies, and immediately removing offensive content. In addition to reviewing information from sources such as customer service contacts, social media posts and the press, Amazon teams conduct what it calls “walk the store” reviews every day, proactively looking for potentially offensive products.

The realm of potentially offensive products can be nuanced and diverse, so Amazon reviews thousands of products each day to ensure policy compliance. If it determines that a product violates its policies, Amazon removes it immediately and takes action with the selling partner involved, the company asserted, including suspending or banning an account or withholding payments.

Amazon conducted the following 2020:

  • Reviewed some 10,000 product listings each day to ensure compliance with its policies.
  • Removed more than two million items for violating its offensive or controversial guidelines, with more than 1.5 million of the products identified, reviewed and removed proactively by automated tools, often before being seen by a customer.
  • Spent more than 5,000 hours manually “walking the store” to ensure the selection available to customers is compliant with its policies.

Amazon acknowledged that what one person considers offensive may not necessarily be offensive to others and that views can change over time, and the company said it recognizes that something may be disagreeable but may not violate its policies. Amazon maintained that it keeps cultural differences and sensitivities of the global community in mind when making a decision on products, striving to maximize selection for all customers even if the message or sentiment of the product itself may not be appreciated by everyone. The Offensive and Controversial Products Policy, Amazon said, attempts to provide a clear and objective standard against which to measure the products permitted on the company’s platform.