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Amazon keeps trying to troll US Congress members in perplexing new PR strategy

Amazon keeps trying to troll US Congress members in perplexing new PR strategy


Who is Amazon trying to convince?

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amazon is intensifying its bizarre online public relations strategy of picking increasingly petty fights with sitting US Congress members, with the company’s Amazon News account on Friday shifting targets from Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

“You make the tax laws @SenWarren; we just follow them. If you don’t like the laws you’ve created, by all means, change them. Here are the facts: Amazon has paid billions of dollars in corporate taxes over the past few years alone,” the account tweeted Thursday in response to a critique from Warren that Amazon exploits “loopholes and tax havens to pay close to nothing in taxes.” There’s a growing mountain of evidence pointing out how Amazon pays very little in taxes compared to its annual sales and profits.

Then, earlier today, the Amazon News account struck back at Warren yet again after she responded outlining her intentions to regulate the company, taking an even more trollish turn and accusing the senator of trying to “break up an American company so that they can’t criticize her anymore.”

Somehow, one of the most powerful and valuable companies on Earth has decided its bold new PR strategy should involve playing immature semantics with a US senator.

This latest dust-up caps a surreal week for Amazon’s PR team, which continues to wage these battles anonymously and without attaching an executive’s name to any of its childish internet taunts and misdirection.

The same account falsely asserted earlier this week that it is untrue Amazon warehouse and delivery workers find themselves forced to pee into water bottles. The Amazon News account lied about this — despite the wealth of evidence to the contrary — in a late Wednesday tweet in response to Pocan calling out the company for hypocrisy.

The whole debate started when Amazon’s Dave Clark, its senior vice president of worldwide operations and so far the only executive to publicly spar on Twitter under their own name, criticized Sanders. The context, of course, and why Amazon’s PR division may be kicking up so much dust is that Sanders had publicly announced his plans to travel to Alabama today to speak in support of the state’s historic Amazon warehouse unionization campaign.

Clark attacked Sanders on Tuesday of this week and then again yesterday after Sanders mentioned his trip to Birmingham, and Clark has since gone quiet except to retweet the Amazon News account’s latest Warren dig.

Amazon’s defensive tweets, specifically the one about pee bottles, ignited a torrent of backlash, photographic evidence, and yet more investigative reporting from The Intercept, Vice, and others proving that countless Amazon workers have, in fact, resorted to urinating into bottles and even defecating into bags because of the time and efficiency pressures imposed upon them.

All of this leads us to believe that Amazon either thinks it is so powerful and untouchable that it can openly taunt the few Congress members who’ve expressed desires to regulate Big Tech, or the company has simply handed the Twitter reins to an internet culture warrior who thinks they’re battling in the trenches of a Breitbart comment section. Maybe both.