Big Tech companies have so much power that even a small step creates an earthquake that ripples throughout the world. For instance, Amazon has quietly adopted a new policy against any books or movies with material it considers hate speech.
There’s just one problem: Amazon doesn’t define what it considers hate speech. Because of this, tons of free speech advocates are sounding the alarm bells, especially since Amazon is quietly cracking down on conservative media. The tech giant recently removed a documentary about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as well as a book about transgender issues written by conservative author Ryan Anderson.
This isn’t the first time Amazon removed right-wing content this year. In January, it shut down Parler, a popular social media app for conservatives. Republican senators claim this issue impacts the entire digital world.
Is Amazon allergic to transparency?
The book causing a stir is a former Amazon bestseller named “When Harry Became Sally,” which claims to provide “thoughtful answers to questions arising from our transgender movement.” Amazon has banned books in the past, although these were mainly full of conspiracy theories claiming the Holocaust never happened.
Although Amazon hasn’t released any statements condemning this book, it removed “When Harry Became Sally” from its subsidiaries Kindle and Audible. Despite the lack of communication, Amazon’s actions make a clear message: This book has been deemed unacceptable. Now, Republican lawmakers want to know why.
Marco Rubio, Mike Braun, Mike Lee and Josh Hawley demand an explanation in an open letter to Jeff Bezos. The politicians declared this an assault on free speech that could impact the future of digital discourse. “By removing this book from its marketplaces and services, Amazon has unabashedly wielded its outsized market share to silence an important voice merely for the crime of violating woke groupthink,” they wrote.
Below is part of their statement:
Many Americans have come to rely on online retail more than ever before to meet their basic needs, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In its decision to remove Mr. Anderson’s book from its platforms, Amazon has openly signaled to conservative Americans that their views are not welcome on its platforms.
Whether you agree with Amazon’s actions or not, the lack of transparency is sparking concerns across the political spectrum. It triggers worries about Amazon’s reliability.
For instance, tons of huge tech companies track you from site to site. Amazon gives you options to mitigate the amount of data it collects on you — but if the company isn’t open about certain aspects of its business practices, that calls into question its honesty across all aspects of its company.
Speaking of data gathering, if you want to figure out what information the websites you visit are collecting, we found a handy tool that can help.
One author calls this a “dangerous move”
“When Harry Became Sally” is far from the only book Amazon frowns upon. For example, it recently banned advertising for “Irreversible Damage,” a transgender research book by journalist Abigail Shrier. She took to Twitter to share her thoughts on Big Tech’s censorship.
“We’re really not making a big enough deal of the fact that Amazon has begun deleting books,” Shrier wrote in a post. “This is a dangerous move — and we are all too complacent about it.”
Amazon dominates the book-selling scene, so any move makes ripples throughout the publishing community. According to research firm Codex Group LLC, Amazon sells 53% of all books and 80% of all eBooks. Its power and influence mean the decision to remove a book can tank its sales.
“When a company controls over 83% of the market for books, it begins the process of deleting ideas from a society,” Shrier said on Twitter. She voiced concerns about Amazon’s ability to control public opinion.
This line of thinking reflects a common concern for Americans. Amazon is so mighty that its fingers reach nearly every sector: finance, business, marketing and even medicine.
Amazon is eating the world. How can you escape its bite?
Although COVID-19 ravaged many lives across the globe, it was great for Amazon. In fact, the tech giant just had its most profitable year yet. According to Forbes, Amazon sales hit $386 billion last year.
Even if you don’t have an Amazon account, the company is so powerful and far-reaching that it’s even planting seeds in our neighborhoods. For example, a recent initiative named Sidewalk hit the scene. It turns your Echo speakers and Ring gadgets into bridge devices, which gives internet-connected tech a huge boost — even if they’re far away from your property.
Basically, Sidewalk is a mesh network that extends your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection range by up to a mile. Tap or click to find out if Sidewalk is safe to use or something you should opt-out of right away.
If you want to learn more about Amazon’s impact on your life, Kim recently put out a podcast episode all about the e-commerce giant’s use of data. Give it a listen to find out how the company makes money — and how you can get in on the action.