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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Amazon Places Restrictions on the Sale of LGBTQ Products in the United Arab Emirates

According to documents obtained by The New York Times from the company, Amazon was subjected to pressure from the government of the United Arab Emirates, which resulted in the company restricting items and search results on its website in the United Arab Emirates that were related to LGBTQ people and issues on Monday.

According to the papers, the government of the Emirate of Dubai gave Amazon until Friday to comply or face the possibility of fines. It was not quite obvious what the consequences of this action would be. According to the State Department, homosexuality is considered a crime in the Emirates and may result in both monetary penalties and jail time if caught.

This is true despite the fact that Amazon claims to be adamant about free expression in their own country. Netflix has withdrawn programmes from Saudi Arabia and restricted sequences in Vietnam. Apple has retained consumer data on Chinese servers despite worries about privacy, while Google disabled an app for a Russian opposition leader last year after receiving a threat of punishment in that country.

According to the documents, when Amazon heard from the Emirates, the company instructed its Restricted Products team to take steps to remove individual product listings. Additionally, the documents show that the team that manages the company’s search capabilities hid the results for more than 150 keywords.

The problem that is given to a global firm like Amazon that is attempting to juggle many different stakeholders was on full display over the weekend during the Pride march in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle. Amazon is no longer a sponsor of Seattle Pride, despite the fact that the company celebrates Pride in many of its operations, offers benefits to same-sex partners, and promotes L.G.B.T.Q. films on its website. This comes after parade organisers stated that they had rejected the corporate support in part due to Amazon’s financial donations to politicians who are opposed to L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

Amazon has, for the most part, refrained from eliminating books that are deemed sensitive or controversial. According to the company’s policy, “as a bookshop, we feel that giving access to the written word is crucial,” and this includes offering access to information that some people may find offensive.

The firm did modify its policy not so long ago to give employees greater leeway when deciding whether or not to delete “offensive” information, and it said a year ago that it would remove books that portrayed transgender identity and other sexual orientations as mental illnesses.

According to a story from Reuters from the previous year, Amazon erased all customer ratings and comments for a book including President Xi Jinping’s speeches and writings because they were under pressure from the Chinese government. Although the firm has just shut down its Kindle shop in China, it has disputed that censorship concerns were the basis for the closure. In the past, Amazon’s cloud computing business made it more difficult to escape censors in China and Russia by prohibiting workarounds that customers had been utilising. This made it far more difficult to bypass censorship.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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