As coronavirus has shuttered many physical retailers and forced people to do more of their holiday shopping online, Amazon has been enjoying a mind-bogglingly profitable year. If you, like so many others, have done any of your holiday shopping on the platform, you've likely been prompted to switch to AmazonSmile, a program that donates 0.5 percent of purchases to the charitable organization of your choosing. Amazon launched the program in 2013 and has reported donating more than $215 million to charitable causes over the last seven years. On its face, that seems like a good thing! But this is Amazon we’re talking about here, and not all causes are equal. New research published this week by OpenDemocracy has found that many anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion groups are eligible to receive funds through the AmazonSmile program.
AmazonSmile only gives money to organizations of a buyer's choosing, but the program has approved dozens of problematic groups, including some designated hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to OpenDemocracy, there are more than 40 groups eligible for the AmazonSmile program that have expressed anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion views and support efforts to oppress or criminalize the community.
Among the groups eligible for AmazonSmile donations is Human Life International, a US-headquartered faith-based "family values" group that has called on Christians to "oppose the LGBT movement." It has also been involved in funding anti-abortion movements in other countries, providing misinformation in an effort to ban the procedure. Another group on AmazonSmile, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), has been involved in legal efforts to prevent same-sex families from adopting children, backed doctors and businesses who refuse service to LGBTQ people, and pushed for anti-abortion laws both in the US and in other countries. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is also on the list of partners, despite the fact that the organization's president, Franklin Graham, has claimed that support for LGBTQ people reflects a "deepening depravity that now vexes our country" and has accused trans people of "grooming and mutilating children."
Mic reached out to these three organizations to ask about their experience with AmazonSmile, including how they were approved for the program, how many donations they have received, and what percentage of their fundraising occurs through AmazonSmile, but did not receive a response. A review of publicly accessible documents does not provide clear insight into how much money these organizations generate directly from AmazonSmile.
The presence of these groups and others that have expressed outwardly anti-LGBTQ sentiments would seem to violate AmazonSmile's "Participation Agreement," which states that Amazon does not allow organizations that “engage in, support, encourage, or promote: intolerance, discrimination or discriminatory practices based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or age."
A spokesperson for Amazon tells Mic that charitable organizations "must meet the requirements outlined in our participation agreement to be eligible for AmazonSmile." According to the spokesperson, "If at any point an organization violates this agreement, its eligibility will be revoked." Amazon also stated that it relies on the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Southern Poverty Law Center to provide data that helps determine if a group should be removed from the program.
Amazon has removed organizations from its AmazonSmile program in the past. Two higher-profile instances include the removal of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its ongoing attempts to create laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people. Amazon also removed the Family Research Council from the program earlier this year due to the organization's long history of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, including support for conversion therapy.
The revelation about Amazon's allowance of anti-LGBTQ groups on its charitable program is just the latest in a long line of controversies that have plagued the company this year. The online retail giant came under fire for failing to provide sufficient protection for its employees during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, cracking down on minority employees as part of an attempt to squash labor organizing, using contractor labor to cut corners and flout safety for rushed deliveries, partnering with police to create surveillance networks with home security cameras, and creating a massive amount of plastic pollution. Safe to say the company has no shortage of opportunities for New Year's resolutions if it's looking to turn a new leaf.