After flaunting rainbow-colored products throughout the month of June as part of its ‘Pride Out Loud’ campaign, Amazon is now restricting items and search results related to LGBTQ people on its website in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The company received pressure from the government to remove products and keywords from its website, according to documents viewed by The New York Times.
Amazon removed some product listings like books from its UAE website, as well as 150 keyword searches like “lgbtq,” “pride,” and “closeted gay,” and other product keywords like, “chest binder for lesbians,” and “transgender flag.”
“As a company, we remain committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and we believe that the rights of LGBTQ+ people must be protected,” an Amazon spokesperson told Gizmodo in an email. “With Amazon stores around the world, we must also comply with the local laws and regulations of the countries in which we operate.”
The UAE criminalizes same-sex sexual activity, as well as the gender expression of trans people, with maximum sentences of up to 14 years. The gulf state also does not allow same-sex marriage. Aside from enforcing laws against LGBTQ people, the UAE government also censors content related to queer issues. The government reportedly gave Amazon an ultimatum to restrict its LGBTQ products by Friday or be subjected to penalties, the Times reports. Although it wasn’t clear what kind of penalties the government would enforce against the Amazon itself, the warning was enough to coerce the company into compliance.
Major tech companies like Amazon are often criticized for displaying disingenuous support of civil rights issues like those of LGBTQ people, while not actually following through with it when supporting such rights could diminish their bottom lines. Amazon in particular has donated over $450,000 to politicians who voted against the Equality Act in 2020. This prompted Seattle Pride, which takes place in Amazon’s headquarters hometown, to nix the company from this year’s pride parade. In the past, Amazon has offered to pay Seattle Pride $100,000 to rename the parade to “Seattle Pride Parade Presented by Amazon,” and have its logo plastered everywhere during the namesake parade.
Update: This article was updated to include the statement from Amazon.