Politics | July 25, 2020 6:30 am

Amazon Criticized for Sales of “Boogaloo” Merchandise

Patches, flags and shirts for the alt-right group turned up in searches

Amazon boxes on a conveyor belt
What happens when extremists sell gear on Amazon?
Christoph Scholz/Creative Commons

Amazon’s evolution from store to market has been a gradual one; Jeff Bezos’s e-commerce giant now offers shoppers a range of products sold directly via Amazon and those sold by external vendors. But what happens when something sold on Amazon espouses a troubling or hateful ideology? Earlier this year, the online retailer was criticized for allowing the sale of Nazi-friendly books. Now, a similar issue has cropped up, and it’s one that involves the alt-right “boogaloo” movement.

Writing at The Informant, reporter Nick R. Martin notes that “boogaloo” merchandise is very easy to find on Amazon. Martin’s research into this matter turned up a host of products with images and rhetoric that echo the movement’s call for a second Civil War.

Searching for “boogaloo” on Amazon also turns up a number of related searches that echo the movement’s rhetoric, as Martin notes:

The related search terms included boogaloo patches, boogaloo flags, T-shirts depicting a “big igloo,” and even Aloha-style shirts that have become the de-facto uniform of the movement.

Amazon did not respond to Martin’s request for comment. As their issue with Nazi books — among other controversies — shows, Amazon has encountered problems dealing with violent content and hate speech in the past. They’re also not the only tech company to do so; earlier this summer, TikTok came under criticism for an inconsistent policy regarding “boogaloo” videos.

Martin’s report offers an unsettling look at the way that the spread of far-right rhetoric has been enabled by technology and algorithms. Drawings of igloos and allusions to 1980s comedies might not seem sinister on their own, but in the right context, they can be deeply unsettling.

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