After displaying rainbow-colored merchandise throughout June as part of its Pride Out Loud campaign, Amazon is now restricting LGBTQ-related merchandise and search results on its website in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Company received pressure from the government to remove products and keywords from their website, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.
Amazon has removed some product listings, such as books, from its UAE website.as well as 150 searches for keywords such as “lgbtq”, “pride” and “hidden gay”, as well as other product keywords such as “lesbian chest” and “transgender flag”.
“As a company, we remain committed to diversity, fairness, and inclusion, and we believe that the rights of LGBTQ+ people must be protected,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo. “With Amazon stores around the world, we must also comply with the local laws and regulations of the countries in which we operate.”
UAE criminalizes same-sex sexual activity; and transgender gender expression, with a maximum sentence of 14 years. The Gulf state also bans same-sex marriages. In addition to enforcing anti-LGBTQ laws, the UAE government also censors content related to queer issues. The government has reportedly given Amazon an ultimatum to restrict its LGBTQ products by Friday or face punitive damages, the Times reported. While it was not clear what sanctions the government would apply to Amazon itself, the warning was enough to force the company into compliance.
Big tech companies like Amazon are often criticized for showing insincere support for civil rights issues like LGBT rights when they didn’t actually do it when supporting such rights could hurt their bottom line. Specifically, Amazon has donated over $450,000 to politicians who voted against the Equality Act in 2020. This prompted Seattle Pride, which takes place in the hometown of Amazon headquarters, exclude a company from this year’s pride parade. In the past, Amazon has offered to pay Seattle Pride $100,000 to rename the parade to “Amazon Presented Seattle Pride Parade” and to have its logo ubiquitous during the parade of the same name.
Update: This article has been updated to include a statement from Amazon.
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