Despite its own policies against hateful content, Amazon still sells racist products—some of them marketed at children, a new study finds.
Baby onesies featuring a burning cross, swastika necklaces, and “costumes” depicting a black man being lynched have all found a recent home on Amazon, according to a new study by the Action Center on Race and the Economy and the Partnership for Working Families. The study also found a trove of white supremacist literature that has been created on Amazon’s publishing platform. Those products lingered on the site despite Amazon’s policy prohibiting “products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views,” the company states on its website.
Amazon, which takes a cut of sales, often doesn’t take action against the products unless facing public backlash, the study found. While some of the products cited in the study have since been removed from Amazon, others remain for sale on the site.
“Third party sellers who use our Marketplace service must follow our guidelines and those who don’t are subject to swift action including potential removal of their account,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Daily Beast of the study.
Retailers aren’t exactly hiding their Nazi products. A “leather WWII German Waffen SS” replica hat was allowed on the site, despite it being modeled after Nazi uniforms, the study found. The same goes for a swastika necklace, Nazi swords, and paraphernalia with the “Totenkopf,” a Nazi skull logo that has since been adopted by violent neo-Nazi groups.
A number of those products were marketed at children, including a series of custom Legos modified to look like Nazi troops, and a “for girls” backpack featuring Pepe, a cartoon frog that has become a symbol of the far right. The Pepe on the girls’ backpack is wearing a Nazi SS cap. Other Pepe products flagged in the study include a Pepe-fied Donald Trump children’s backpack and a baby romper featuring Pepe in a turban and thick beard for an anti-Muslim variant on the meme. Baby rompers featuring burning crosses, images often associated with the Ku Klux Klan, were also available.
Amazon also hosts neo-Nazi children’s literature. The study found Amazon selling physical and Kindle versions of The Fable of the Ducks and the Hens, a children’s book by George Lincoln Rockwell, the late founder of the American Nazi Party.
“The description on Amazon’s site makes no mention of Rockwell’s background or the racist propaganda in the book,” the study reads. “Parents considering the book would see it described as a ‘witty,’ colorfully illustrated story about ducks whose lives are ruined by ‘an influx of pushy, scheming hens.’ Those taking a closer look might notice a user review approvingly describing the book as a ‘Great National Socialist Kids book’ that ‘teaches our children to be careful and don’t let refugees into your country’ and illustrates how ‘we’ are ‘screwed by the colored birds!’”
Rockwell’s name should, in theory, be easy to screen for. One of America’s most prominent Nazis, Rockwell is frequently name-checked by prominent racists including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. His children’s book even appears in full on the American Nazi Party’s website.
Amazon isn’t just selling white supremacist literature. It’s also giving racists the tools to create those texts through CreateSpace, a self-publishing platform.
“At least seven SPLC-identified hate groups are publishing materials in Amazon Kindle format as of June 2018, per a review of Amazon’s site,” the study found, referring to the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The white nationalist publishing house Counter-Currents has 50 titles available in Kindle format.”
Other white supremacist books include a “bloodthirsty white nationalist fantasy” novel from Kyle Bristow, a lawyer who previously represented white nationalist Richard Spencer, and 18 books by the neo-Nazi Billy Roper. One of his books advertises tips on how to become an influential figure in the white supremacist movement.
Amazon’s music-streaming services also host white power or “hatecore” bands. Although some of those bands have slightly modified their song titles to appear more Amazon-friendly (one song title cited in the study was modified from “Die Jew Die” to “Die Die”), the artists go under their real band names, which are known for “hatecore” music. A hatecore record label that owns the website whitepower.com “maintain[s] an entire storefront on Amazon up for sale.”
Amazon sometimes removes content that violates its hateful product policies. But often the company only does so after facing serious backlash, the study found. In 2015, following a Washington Post exposé, Amazon booted a hate group off an Amazon-run fundraising service. The SPLC later noted that it had been trying to oust that same group from the service for years, but that it had no luck until the Post went public with the story.
“Amazon has been reactive, not proactive, in its response to use of its site by peddlers of hate,” the study found. “Amazon has a history of responding slowly—or not at all—to public pressure on this front rather than effectively preventing hate groups from using its platforms in the first place.”