The programme launched in 2018 to counter ‘untruths’ about the company
Amazon has quietly shuttered a programme that paid hand-selected workers to post positive messages about the company on social media to counter “untruths” about working conditions inside its warehouses.
The company scrubbed posts from its influencers at the end of 2021, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, as Amazon executives grew unhappy with the reach and success of the PR effort, which was quickly spoofed and coopted by trolls.
Amazon has declined to comment on the programme.
The influencer campaign began in 2018, and featured Amazon employees posting slightly wooden messages such as, “Everything is fine, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the money I make or the way I am treated at work,” and “I feel proud to work for Amazon — they’ve taken good care of me. Much better than some of my previous employers.”
The effort became more visible as Amazon warehouse conditions became a regular feature in national news during a 2020 union drive at one of its Alabama facilities.
The investigative website Bellingcat found in 2019 that there were at least 50 accounts that were part of the programme across the US and Europe.
Amazon set up the programme to leave “no lie unchallenged,” as it put it in documents published by The Intercept, offering an example message where an influencer said, “No, that’s not right. I worked in an Amazon FC [fulfillment center] for over four years and never saw anyone urinate in a bottle”.
According to a document obtained and published by The Intercept last year, fulfilment centre ambassadors received training on how to leave “no lie unchallenged”, with responses such as: “No, that’s not right. I worked in an Amazon FC for over four years and never saw anyone urinate in a bottle”.
“The ‘ambassador’ programme was always a laughable attempt to minimize the abuses unfolding inside Amazon warehouses,” Sheheryar Kaoosji from the non-profit Warehouse Worker Resource Center told the FT. “The fact that Amazon is now trying to hide the fact that the programme ever existed shows that the company is taking yet another page out of the authoritarian playbook to guide its management.”
Amazon added more than 700,000 workers since the start of the pandemic, and is the second largest employer in the US.