There is a fascinating story over at the superb Legal Insurrection site: “Amazon demonetizes conservative website (us),” by William A. Jacobson. Jacobson explains how Legal Insurrection’s “participation in Amazon Associates [was] terminated without warning, with false and shifting explanations”: “On Saturday morning, April 28, 2018, I woke up to an email in my inbox from Amazon Associates telling me our participation in the program was terminated, our account closed, that the decision was final and there was no appeal. On top of that, Amazon was holding back any accumulated money it owed us. There was no prior indication of a problem, or chance to cure.”
Jacobson concludes: “Now that the month-long futile process of seeking reinstatement is over, it is clear to me that someone at Amazon wanted us gone. Amazon Associates came up with false explanations as to our alleged violation of the Operating Agreement, then additional false explanations, and at the very end a new explanation that was previously resolved 5 months ago to Amazon’s satisfaction.”
The same thing happened to Jihad Watch back in 2014. The wholesale effort to marginalize and silence voices that dissent from the Leftist agenda was not as obvious then as it is now, and at the time I thought the whole thing was just one of those inexplicable and unfortunate mistakes that happen sometimes. Now, after seeing Amazon’s explanation last fall of what happened (see below) and reading Legal Insurrection’s post, I realize that it was far more insidious.
On July 31, 2014, I received this email:
We are writing to notify you that we have terminated your Amazon Associates Program Operating Agreement and closed your Associates Program account. You will not receive further payment of advertising fees. We have taken this step because you are not in compliance with the Operating Agreement that governs your participation in the Associates Program.
You are not in compliance with Participation Requirement Number 26(https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/help/operating/participation) because you are sending traffic indirectly to the Amazon site via automatic redirection from another web site.
You can find the complete terms of the Operating Agreement and its Schedules via this link: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/agreement.
We insist that you immediately stop this activity and remove all Amazon content, including Special Links, from your site(s). Any other accounts you have or may open in the future may be closed and you will not receive any advertising fees. We reserve all other rights and claims we may have.
Yes, “warmest regards.” Anyway, I didn’t have the vaguest idea of what I was talking about, and wasn’t doing what they accused me of doing, so I wrote back:
I think this is an error on your part. To the best of my knowledge, I am not sending traffic indirectly to Amazon from an automatic redirect. Nor am I attempting “to intercept or redirect (including via software installed on users’ computers) traffic from or on, or divert advertising fees from, any site that participates in the Program.”
Is any appeal possible?
I got this response on August 4, 2014:
As previously stated, you have not complied with the Associates Program Operating Agreement that governs participation in the Associates Program and therefore your account was closed.
You can find the complete terms of the Operating Agreement, including the Linking Requirements and Participation Requirements, via this link: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/agreement.
We have confirmed that the decision to close your Associates Program account and withhold fees is final, and you are no longer eligible to participate in the Associates Program. Any other accounts you have or may open in the future may be closed and advertising fees withheld without further notice.
Because this decision is final, further requests to review your account for reinstatement will not receive a response.
Thank you for your understanding.
Your feedback is helping us build Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company.
That was that. Then in August 2017, the Left-fascist site ProPublica published a lengthy hit piece on Jihad Watch and others. Fascist “journalist” Lauren Kirchner went to various platforms, including Amazon, and pressured them to disallow us to use them on the grounds that we were a “hate group,” as designated by the discredited hard-Left propaganda smear group, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The article said:
Until recently [yeah, three years before this article was written], Amazon allowed Jihad Watch to participate in a program that promised a cut of any book sales that the site generated. All three companies have policies that say they don’t do business with hate groups.
Jihad Watch is one of many sites that monetize their extremist views through relationships with technology companies….
Amazon spokeswoman Angie Newman said the company had previously removed Jihad Watch and three other sites identified by ProPublica from its program sharing revenue for book sales, which is called Amazon Associates. When ProPublica pointed out that the sites still carried working links to the program, she said that it was their responsibility to remove the code. “They are no longer paid as an Associate regardless of what links are on their site once we remove them from the Associates Program,” she said.
The clear implication is that Amazon removed Jihad Watch from the Associates program because we’re supposedly a “hate group.” But you’ll notice that in its correspondence with me, Amazon said nothing of the kind, and instead proffered gobbledygook about how we were “sending traffic indirectly to the Amazon site via automatic redirection from another web site,” which we weren’t actually doing.
The same thing just happened with Legal Insurrection: as you can see from Jacobson’s article, they didn’t come out and say that they were axing Legal Insurrection for being conservative. Instead, they offered the same false accusations of misuse of their program, with no chance to appeal, that they offered me.
It’s clear what Amazon is doing, and it’s clear that they’ve been doing it for years. But they don’t even have the integrity to own up to it, and instead try to conceal it in a blizzard of Kafkaesque false charges, in which they play judge, jury and executioner.
They need to be called out for what they’re doing, which is why I’m writing this post now, even though Jihad Watch was dropped from the Associates program nearly four years ago. Legal Insurrection and Jihad Watch should be reinstated to the Associates program, and the Amazon charities program should be opened up to 501c3 organizations that are currently banned from it (including Jihad Watch) on spurious “hate” charges. You’ll notice that I still have Amazon links all over the site. That’s because Amazon is essentially a monopoly today; there is no viable alternative except Barnes & Noble, and they’re no better. But Amazon’s monopoly status is all the more reason why this unjust and unequal treatment must stop, or Amazon must be broken up in accord with anti-trust laws.