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Amazon restricts LGBTQ searches and products in the United Arab Emirates

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The company was pressured to remove results by the UAE government

amfAR Celebrates NYC Pride 2018
Amazon sponsors LGBTQ issues in the US, including this Pride float from NYC in 2018.
Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images

Amazon has restricted search results and inventory related to LGBTQ topics in the United Arab Emirates after being pressured to do so by the government, reports The New York Times. Same-sex relationships and sex acts are illegal in the UAE, and are punishable by fines and imprisonment.

A number of books related to LGBTQ topics were removed from sale in the UAE (including Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir), and search results have been hidden for more than 150 keywords. These include broad search terms like “lgbtq” and “pride,” as well as targeted queries like “transgender flag” and “chest binder for lesbians.”

The Times notes that it’s not clear what penalties Amazon was threatened with by the UAE government before it introduced these restrictions.

Nicole Pampe, a spokesperson for Amazon, told the Times: “As a company, we remain committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and we believe that the rights of L.G.B.T.Q.+ people must be protected. With Amazon stores around the world, we must also comply with the local laws and regulations of the countries in which we operate.”

The news comes days after Amazon’s hometown of Seattle hosted its annual Pride march at the weekend, and highlights the difficulties US tech companies face espousing certain ideals on their home turf while following international laws that clash with these principles.

Amazon, though, has also been criticized for its hypocritical approach to LGBTQ issues just within in the US, too. The nonprofit Seattle Pride group that organizes the city’s Pride march recently cut ties with Amazon over its “support of anti-LGBTQIA+ politicians.” The group cited a number of political activities, including Amazon’s donations of more than $450,000 to lawmakers who voted against the Equality Act in 2020.

“We simply cannot partner with any organization actively harming our community through the support of discriminatory laws and politics,” said Seattle Pride in a statement. The nonprofit’s executive director, Krystal Marx, also claimed that Amazon offered $100,000 to the group for a number of changes highlighting the company’s sponsorship, including renaming the parade to “Seattle Pride Parade Presented by Amazon.”