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Amazon denies reports that it will proactively moderate content on its hosting service

Amazon denies reports that it will proactively moderate content on its hosting service


The company pushes back against Reuters report about new hiring for AWS moderation

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amazon is planning to expand its in-house moderation team for Amazon Web Services, according to a report published on Thursday by Reuters. Citing two sources, the report says Amazon is planning to use the new workforce to proactively remove more prohibited content from AWS before it’s reported by users.

Reached for comment on Thursday, Amazon said it did not plan to pre-review content before it is posted on the platform, but declined to confirm or deny specifics. On Friday, however, Amazon followed up with a more strongly worded statement directly contesting that the team’s methodology would change.

“Reuters’ reporting is wrong,” a representative said. “AWS Trust & Safety has no plans to change its policies or processes, and the team has always existed.”

“Companies need to proactively monitor what’s on their platforms”

Amazon has long maintained an Acceptable Use Policy for AWS, which forbids using the service for computer intrusions, spam, or the promotion of violence or other crimes. But enforcement of those terms has been largely reactive, often relying on external user reports to identify prohibited content. While the policy itself will not change, the aggressive enforcement approach will put AWS in the same category as major platforms like Facebook and YouTube.

Terrorism researchers have previously called for a more proactive approach from hosting platforms, with one editorial in 2019 calling out Amazon specifically. “Companies need to proactively monitor what’s on their platforms to be sure they are not inadvertently hosting it,” the editorial reads, “not wait for outsiders to expose it.”

The move comes on the heels of a similar shift from Apple, which recently announced a controversial system to proactively scan for child abuse imagery in iCloud photos.

A shift toward proactive moderation would likely to inflame conservative concerns about supposed censorship on AWS, launched when Amazon abruptly discontinued Parler’s hosting after the platform refused to remove a string of violent threats. Parler sued Amazon in the wake of the decision, although it has found little success in court.

Some aspects of that shift already appear to be underway. Reuters notes that Amazon took down an ISIS-linked website earlier this week, following the trail from an app operated by an offshoot group that was not hosted on the service.

The new moderation hires are part of a broader hiring push by CEO Andy Jassy, who had previously been in charge of AWS. Jassy plans to hire as many as 55,000 new employees in tech and corporate roles, including a significant expansion of the company’s satellite internet ambitions under Project Kuiper.

6:33PM ET: Updated with statement from Amazon.

9/4 9:13AM ET: Included new statement from Amazon, which directly contests Reuters reporting. The article and headline have been changed to reflect that Amazon is disputing the report.