Amazon has restricted search results and inventory related to LGBTQ topics in the United Arab Emirates after being pressured by the government. The New York Times† Same-sex relationships and sexual acts are illegal in the UAE and are punishable by fines and jail time.
A number of books related to LGBTQ topics have been withdrawn from sale in the UAE (including Roxane Gay’s bad feminist and that of Maia Kobabe Gender Queer: A Memoir), and search results are hidden for more than 150 keywords. These include broad search terms such as “lgbtq” and “proud,” as well as targeted searches such as “transgender flag” and “lesbian chest folder.”
The Time notes that it is not clear what penalties Amazon was threatened by the UAE government before it implemented these restrictions.
Nicole Pampe, an Amazon spokesperson, told the Time: “As a company, we remain committed to diversity, equality and inclusion, and we believe that the rights of LGBTQ+ people must be protected. With Amazon stores all over the world, we also have to comply with the local laws and regulations of the countries in which we operate.”
The news comes days after Amazon’s hometown of Seattle hosted its annual Pride march over the weekend, highlighting the difficulties US tech companies face in embracing certain ideals on their own turf while following international laws that conflict with these principles.
However, Amazon has also been criticized for its hypocritical approach to LGBTQ issues, including in the US. The nonprofit Seattle Pride group that organizes the city’s Pride march recently cut ties with Amazon over its “support for anti-LGBTQIA+ politicians.” The group cited a number of political activities, including Amazon’s donations of more than $450,000 to lawmakers who voted against the Equality Act in 2020.
“We simply cannot partner with an organization that is actively harming our community through the support of discriminatory laws and politics,” Seattle Pride said in a statement. The nonprofit’s executive director, Krystal Marx, also claimed that Amazon had offered $100,000 to the group for a number of changes that highlighted the company’s sponsorship, including renaming the parade to “Seattle Pride Parade Presented by Amazon.” .