In a statement to shareholders Thursday afternoon, Amazon rejected calls for greater disclosure on government-ordered removal of product pages and reviews.
Amazon currently does not disclose when it removes a product as the result of a court order, and there have been numerous incidents of apparent government intervention. In one case, the company was found to be restricting LGBTQIA products and searches in the United Arab Emirates, where homosexuality is illegal. In another incident, user reviews were disabled for a book written by Chinese president Xi Jinping.
As a result, civil society groups have called on Amazon to commit to greater disclosure on the issue, bringing it in line with competitors like eBay and MercadoLibre.
A recent shareholder proposal, listed as Item 8 in the letter published Thursday afternoon, called on Amazon to address the issue by expanding transparency reports to include government takedowns. “Amazon’s failure to provide comprehensive reporting on content and product restrictions presents material risk to investors,” the proposal read. “The company must demonstrate a serious commitment to transparency and human rights.”
But in the letter, Amazon’s board recommended against adopting the measure, arguing the company’s existing policies should be sufficient to explain why materials have been removed. “In light of our robust and detailed policies available on our website addressing prohibited content and products, the Board recommends that shareholders vote against this proposal,” the proxy statement read.
Notably, it was not the only shareholder proposal calling for more transparency on government orders. Another proposal came from the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), a conservative group that works to counter liberal activism in the corporate sector — it raised concerns about the apparent removal of books by Russian ultra-nationalist Aleksandr Dugin. Despite its political differences with the digital rights groups, NLPC’s proposal asked for a similar remedy — an itemized report on government-ordered takedown requests — and Amazon cited the same points in recommending that shareholders reject the proposal.
Amazon faces a record 18 shareholder proposals this year, all of which the board recommended against adopting. The proposals require a 53% majority to succeed, although the vote is not legally binding. Shareholders will vote on the proposals at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on May 24.