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You Aren’t Paranoid If They Really Are Out To Get You.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO

One of the websites we visit is Legal Insurrection. Generally speaking, LI has some interesting takes on issues, highlighting national and international issues, as well as issues on college campuses such as free speech and the so called “SJW” movement.

Yesterday, while skimming and surfing along, we came upon this post from LI:

Amazon demonetizes conservative website (us)

Huh? What the heck?

In case you didn’t know, many sites generate revenue through sales on the Amazon site through links on the original site. Amazon gets a sale, the site gets a small percentage, and the consumer “supports” a website they like through the linked sale.

(For the record, we don’t link to sales promotions or anything like that here. We sometimes talk and link to charities, but we don’t get anything back from them. Behind the scenes that you don’t see, we are constantly bombarded with requests to have ads on this site or “sponsored content.” We reject them all out of hand. We don’t even have a “tip jar” that some sites use. We aren’t in this for the money and the costs of running Raised on Hoecakes is not worth the perception that we may be tanking an opinion or posting something for money. We never have and never will.)

Amazon terminated their “associates” program with Legal Insurrection which means that the site won’t get the revenue from linked sales. Amazon also is withholding revenues that were earned prior to the termination which seems wrong to us on many levels.

We wish we could explain what happened, but we don’t think that we could do a better job than what William A. Jacobson, who is a Clinical Professor of Law at the Cornell Law School wrote. Jacobson is the owner of Legal Insurrection. We also wish that we could post his entire post, as it is a worthwhile read, but copyright laws being what they are, we won’t. We can, however, post a portion of the post:

For as long as I can remember, Legal Insurrection has participated in Amazon Associates, a way for websites to earn fees when readers shop at Amazon.com via links from our website.

It was an important source of revenue to us, and paid for some of the operating expenses readers never see.

On Saturday morning, April 28, 2018, I woke up to an email in my inbox from Amazon Associates telling me our participation in the program was terminated, our account closed, that the decision was final and there was no appeal. On top of that, Amazon was holding back any accumulated money it owed us.

There was no prior indication of a problem, or chance to cure. It’s always been our intent to comply with the program requirements. I detail what happened, including all the email communications, below.

In isolation, it’s just a website cut off from a source of revenue by an internet behemoth because the internet behemoth could. But if there was an anti-conservative ideological angle to it, either at inception or during the review process, it would be consistent with what is happening at high tech companies more generally. The problems Prager U and others have had with video restrictions and demonetization at YouTube, the exposure of Twitter shadow-banning, and the intolerance revealed at Google are just a few of the examples of an anti-conservative bias among internet giants.

We have not been immune to such problems, YouTube removes influential conservative website’s channel.

Amazon does not perform the same gatekeeper role as other internet giants, but it is not just a shopping site. Its cloud computing service plays an increasingly important role in access to information, potentially including such giants such as the Department of Defense.

Now that the month-long futile process of seeking reinstatement is over, it is clear to me that someone at Amazon wanted us gone. Amazon Associates came up with false explanations as to our alleged violation of the Operating Agreement, then additional false explanations, and at the very end a new explanation that was previously resolved 5 months ago to Amazon’s satisfaction.

As I was going through this process, the proverbial light bulb went on when when I saw an article at The Daily Caller about a problem at a different Amazon program, Prominent Christian Legal Group Barred From Amazon Program While Openly Anti-Semitic Groups Remain.

Professor Jacobson’s post is really long, but a quick read. He details what happened and even posts his communications with Amazon over the termination.

But what is disturbing about this from a consumer standpoint is that Amazon simply takes the attitude of “screw you.”

In there correspondence, Amazon claims that LI violated the Amazon Associates agreement. Jacobson tells the company that they didn’t do anything wrong and asks for proof.

Bizarrely, Amazon responds by saying “we can’t tell you how we came to the decision to terminate you from the program as that is proprietary.”

Jacobson continually asks for examples of wrongdoing and Amazon never responds to that. They never show Jacobson anything that LI has done wrong.

You hear of disputes similar to this all the time where a customer violates a company policy, company says “you violated the policy by doing this…,” and customer says “that’s shouldn’t be your policy.” That’s not what’s happening here. Jacobson is not saying that Amazon should not have policies. Quite the contrary, he is respecting the policies and if he and Legal Insurrection violated those polices, he wants to fix them on his end, or at least know specifics of how he violated the policies. That’s reasonable to us and yet Amazon refuses to this day to provide any example of how LI violated the agreement.

From a customer standpoint, this is really poor service. The arrogance of Amazon is both maddening and stupefying. Amazon’s position makes no sense at all until you look at it is a different light:

Amazon won’t support conservative websites.

Take a look at what happened with the Alliance Defending Freedom (which we have mentioned on this site before):

Amazon has barred prominent Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) from participating in its Amazon Smile charitable program, which allows nonprofits to recoup a small fraction of the money their supporters spend through Amazon.

ADF, which specializes in First Amendment law and has won cases at the Supreme Court, is barred from Amazon Smile on account of the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, which labeled ADF a “hate group.”

“All nonprofits are eligible as long as they meet our participation agreement,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “As a part of that participation agreement, we also state that Amazon relies on the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Southern Poverty Law Center to determine which charities are eligible.”

The participation agreement forbids member groups from, among other things, promoting “hate” or “intolerance.”

[….]

The spokesperson pointed to groups like the NRA Foundation, which liberals have tried to pressure Amazon into removing from the charity program. So far, the gun rights nonprofit has stayed in the program. But whether they continue to do so ultimately remains up to the SPLC.

“We remove organizations that the SPLC deems as ineligible,” Amazon’s spokesperson confirmed to TheDCNF.

TheDCNF identified several branches of the Nation of Islam, which the SPLC recognizes as an openly anti-Semitic organization, participating in Amazon Smile.

The Nation of Islam’s New York headquarters, for example, is eligible for donations through Amazon Smile.

Amazon Smile users can also donate to Muhammad Mosque No. 24, an arm of the Nation of Islam located in Richmond, Virginia. The group advocates for black nationalism and is open about its affiliation with the Nation of Islam.

A Nation of Islam affiliate in Springfield, Mass., is also participating in the program. The group blames Jews in the media for “crucifying” prominent black people, including Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby.

Farris, ADF’s CEO, described the SPLC as “a discredited fundraising group that fills its ever-increasing coffers by attacking veterans, Catholics, Muslims who oppose terrorism, and even nuns,” in a statement to TheDCNF.

“SPLC is not a neutral watchdog organization. Instead, it raises money by slandering people and organizations who disagree with its views,” Farris said. “ADF is one of the nation’s most respected and successful Supreme Court advocates, working to preserve our fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience for people from all walks of life.”

That means that not only did Amazon kick out of their programs two conservative groups and websites, they used the left leaning and hateful group of the Southern Poverty Law Center to help in their charade.

We have to be honest in that we don’t buy much through Amazon. If we can get a good deal on something that we need, we will use them, but generally speaking, we shop local or at other online retailers who we think are really great with customer service. Certainly the loss of our sales and the loss of others who are going to walk away from Amazon over this may not destroy the company or the bottom line. Still, we have to wonder where the principles of Amazon and Jeff Bezos lie.

Amazon was built on the so called “American dream” of a “better mousetrap” and now the company seems to be squashing ideas with which it disagrees.

That’s certainly not American in any stretch of the imagination.

Once again, go read the whole post including the emails from Amazon. See if you can see where Legal Insurrection did anything wrong, or is Amazon trying to hide and defend the indefensible?



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