Amazon blocked an ad for a book critical of the Black Lives Matter movement, the latest example of the retail giant censoring conservative voices.
The online retailer prevented the Heritage Foundation from purchasing ads to promote Mike Gonzalez's BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution. Amazon told Heritage that the ad "contains book/s or content that is not allowed," specifically "content that revolves around controversial or highly debated social topics is not permitted." Amazon later reversed its decision and posted the ad, telling the Washington Free Beacon that its "policies were not enforced correctly in this case" and that the employees responsible would receive "additional training."
Amazon refused to explain the nature of the error. But in recent months, the company has used its policies to suppress conservative books. A book on the transgender movement was pulled from the platform in February without explanation. After senators pushed Amazon to explain its decision, the retailer announced it was changing its policies to ban any books that treat gender dysphoria as a mental illness. Amazon funded an effort to place hundreds of copies of critical race theorist Ibram X. Kendi’s book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You in Virginia public schools.
BLM criticizes the titular movement for its Marxist roots. One of the three Black Lives Matter founders said in 2015 that she and another cofounder "are trained organizers; we are trained Marxists." Gonzalez, a former journalist and Heritage senior fellow, said his book addresses important questions "after the 630 or more riots that left our cities burning, businesses destroyed and billions in damage, and Americans dead."
Gonzalez said Amazon is "trying to limit how many Americans read this book" and asked whether books by left-leaning authors on Black Lives Matter and race faced the same restrictions. Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James released a statement calling examples of "big tech censorship … inescapable and irrefutable." "Conservative voices are deemed ‘unacceptable’ and are silenced," she said.
Advertising makes up a substantial portion of Amazon’s revenue. Amazon, Google, and Facebook together took up almost two thirds of the digital advertising market in 2020. A growing contingent of lawmakers worry that advertising consolidation on a few online platforms could harm market competition.
Amazon has faced pressure from liberal politicians to exercise more control over which speech is allowed on the platform. Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) called on Amazon to ban books containing "misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and treatments."