Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is the recipient of a letter (July 17, 2018) from Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn), who has “concerns about the amount of money Amazon has made from the sale of literature and music published by entities identified as ‘hate groups’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).” Ellison seeks Amazon’s sales data, specifically Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace, of “SPLC-identified hate groups.”
A business has no legal duty to provide sales data to a U.S. Congressman. For ill-informed liberals: The United States’ economic system is capitalism, not socialism: a government-owned or controlled company. If I received Ellison’s letter, I would shred it and mail it back to him!
SPLC’s opinion of “hate”
The liberal Southern Poverty Law Center attempts to define hate for its HateWatch, Hate Map, and How Tech Supports Hate. Also, in its Extremist Files, the SPLC profiles persons and groups in an attempt to delegitimize opposing views, particularly of conservatives who adhere to the traditional Judeo-Christian heritage, and critics of Islam.
As reported by PJMedia: “In the words of SPLC former spokesman Mark Potok (who spent 20 years as a senior fellow at the SPLC and only retired this year , according to LinkedIn), the group does not exist to monitor hate groups. ‘Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate groups, I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, completely destroy them,’ Potok declared at an event in Michigan in 2007.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, and media which rely on the SPLC, are exposed to liability, according to a joint statement by conservative persons and organizations, as reported by PJMedia here and here. “Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit against the charity navigation organization GuideStar for defamation after GuideStar adopted the SPLC’s ‘hate group’ list. That lawsuit is ongoing.”
How does Amazon define hate?
Amazon describes prohibition of “Offensive and Controversial Material,” but arguably out-sources the controversial AmazonSmile program, according to World News Daily: “When [Religious Freedom Coalition] questioned Amazon about the decision [to exclude RFC], a lawyer, Ambika Kumar Doran, said there would be no explanation coming. ‘Amazon relies on the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Southern Poverty Law Center to determine which registered charities fall into these groups,’ the lawyer wrote.”
Amazon, a publicly traded company, reports to its shareholders, and may establish its policies and procedures, and terms of service.
Amazon allegedly delivers hate, but how?
“Delivering Hate [et al],” a report jointly written by two organizations: the Partnership for Working Families, and Acre Action Center on Race & the Economy, cites two examples of groups which criticize Islam:
Allegation: According to the report [p. 11]: “Chick Publications, long identified as a hate group due to its ‘militant, vitriolic propaganda war against anyone who doesn’t adhere to its particular brand of Christianity.’”
Rebuttal: Chick Publications is known for its Christian tracts, including comics, since it’s a format for easy understanding of the Gospel. Christians love everyone, and therefore address spiritual issues including criticism of Islam. This article’s author has used these tracts for distribution including Halloween, school, and elsewhere.
Allegation: According to the report [p. 15]: “Among the content Amazon is helping to deliver via CloudFront is the website of Act for America, which the SPLC and The ADL identify as the largest anti-Muslim hate group in the United States.”
Rebuttal: Act for America’s mission: “is focused on educating, engaging, and mobilizing citizens and elected officials to impact legislative outcomes to keep America safe and secure. Through training and education ACT for America is empowering citizens to help prevent criminal activity and terrorism while preserving civil liberties protected by the US constitution.” Its founder, Brigitte Gabriel, “is one of the leading terrorism experts in the world providing information and analysis on the rise of global Islamic terrorism.”
Prosyletization and criticism are activities of all religions, including secular humanism. The phrase, “militant, vitriolic propaganda war against anyone who doesn’t adhere” describes Islam’s core doctrine: Muhammad used the sword to “persuade:” (a) convert to Islam; or (b) become a second-class citizen and pay Jiyza, a tax; or (c) die.
Progressive groups’ “militant, vitriolic propaganda war” of liberalism is used “against anyone who doesn’t adhere to its particular brand of” liberalism. That describes the Southern Poverty Law Center and its useful idiots: any business, media or group which relies on SPLC’s unscientific, opinion-driven, defamatory list of hate.
The marketplace to determine neutrality or fair dealing
The marketplace – voting with your wallet – should be the means to influence how an industry establishes policies, procedures, and self-regulation. However, when a business reaches a dominant market share, combined with its proprietary technology and substantial funds, there may be less incentive for neutrality or fair dealing.
According to the American Conservative: “Google controls nearly 90 percent of search advertising, Facebook almost 80 percent of mobile social traffic, and Amazon about 75 percent of e-book sales. This spectacular success has created unprecedented wealth and established U.S. leadership in the technologies of the future. But recent misuse of their platforms to influence the 2016 U.S. elections and broader concerns over data privacy, control, and revenue sharing have led some to take a more critical view of these big tech companies.”
“Social media censorship and online restriction of conservatives and their organizations have reached a crisis level,” reports MRC Newsbusters. “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s hearings on Capitol Hill only served to draw attention to how widespread this problem has become. Conservative leaders now have banded together to call for equal treatment on tech and social media … Here are four key areas that social media companies must address to begin to rectify their credibility problem:
1) Provide Transparency: We need detailed information so everyone can see if liberal groups and users are being treated the same as those on the right. Social media companies operate in a black-box environment, only releasing anecdotes about reports on content and users when they think it necessary. This needs to change. The companies need to design open systems so that they can be held accountable, while giving weight to privacy concerns.
2) Provide Clarity on ‘Hate Speech’: ‘Hate speech’ is a common concern among social media companies, but no two firms define it the same way. Their definitions are vague and open to interpretation, and their interpretation often looks like an opportunity to silence thought. Today, hate speech means anything liberals don’t like. Silencing those you disagree with is dangerous. If companies can’t tell users clearly what it is, then they shouldn’t try to regulate it.
3) Provide Equal Footing for Conservatives: Top social media firms, such as Google and YouTube, have chosen to work with dishonest groups that are actively opposed to the conservative movement, including the Southern Poverty Law Center. Those companies need to make equal room for conservative groups as advisers to offset this bias. That same attitude should be applied to employment diversity efforts. Tech companies need to embrace viewpoint diversity.
4) Mirror the First Amendment: Tech giants should afford their users nothing less than the free speech and free exercise of religion embodied in the First Amendment as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. That standard, the result of centuries of American jurisprudence, would enable the rightful blocking of content that threatens violence or spews obscenity, without trampling on free speech liberties that have long made the United States a beacon for freedom.”
Treat online retailers and social media as monopolies
According to the American Conservative: “The historical success of antitrust enforcement poses an important lesson for conservatives. The question should not be whether a particular course of action is taken by government or the private sector, but whether that action achieves constitutionally acceptable goals while preserving or even enhancing individual liberty and opportunity.”
Yet, “Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple have all operated on the ‘too big to regulate’ principle,” argues The New Republic. “They built popular products, scaled up quickly, then dared governments to do something about their blatant violations of numerous laws or their opportunistic use of outdated regulations.”
The U.S. Congress’ current legislative session concerns: (a) Honest Ads Act; (b) Bot Disclosure and Accountability Act; (c) Social Media Privacy Protection and Consumer Rights Act; and (d) the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act.
Sue the tech giants
Internet service providers, and online platforms for retailing, claim immunity based on §230 of the Communications Decency Act. The immunity was intended as a defense to a claim of tort – injury, defamation, etc. – allegedly due to content on a website. The ISPs and online platforms defend that they simply provide a platform for, but are not publishers (editors) of, a website’s content.
However, Internet Service Providers, and online platforms for retailing, via censorship and discrimination, essentially violate the spirit of free speech. By so doing, they are publishers and therefore should not have immunity.
No surprise, lawyers use mental gymnastics to make claims and defenses. Litigation is expensive.
The U.S. Attorney General is empowered to defend federal statutes. In the Obama administration, the Attorney General (Holder and Lynch) ignored federal law, such as the Defense of Marriage Act.
In a lawsuit brought by the American Freedom Defense Initiative et al, Attorney General Lynch claimed her office was not responsible to enforce the Communications Decency Act. The case was dismissed for lack of standing. In-other-words, the Obama administration did not want a judicial opinion whether the Communications Decency Act unconstitutionally enabled violations of free speech. Instead, Plaintiff should directly sue social media, a more expensive endeavor. Faced with a threatened lawsuit by Geller, Facebook and other social media reinstated Geller’s accounts. You go, girl!
Notwithstanding the above-described hurdles, lawsuits have been brought by victims who allege social media was responsible in part for the Islamic terrorist attack at the Pulse night club. Dismissal was the result of a federal case in Detroit, Michigan; while a related case will have a renewed motion to dismiss a second amended Complaint (added plaintiffs) in Orlando, Florida.
Amazon, Congressman Ellison, and Sharia Law
Amazon may provide sales data for all transactions of “SPLC-identified hate groups.” Whether intentional or inadvertent, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn) may receive sales data of his critics, such as Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, and other conservatives. If so, would Congressman Ellison have ethics to not read the data, and immediately return the data to Amazon?
Ellison was the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress.
As reported by JihadWatch: “Ellison has spoken at a convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Yet ISNA has actually admitted its ties to Hamas, which styles itself the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Justice Department actually classified ISNA among entities ‘who are and/or were members of the US Muslim Brotherhood.’”
“It gets worse. In 2008, Ellison accepted $13,350 from the Muslim American Society (MAS) to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The Muslim American Society is a Muslim Brotherhood organization: ‘In recent years, the U.S. Brotherhood operated under the name Muslim American Society, according to documents and interviews. One of the nation’s major Islamic groups, it was incorporated in Illinois in 1993 after a contentious debate among Brotherhood members.’ That’s from the Chicago Tribune in 2004, in an article that is now carried on the Muslim Brotherhood’s English-language website, Ikhwanweb.”
“Also, the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) raised large amounts of [funds (sic)] for Ellison’s first campaign, and he has spoken at numerous CAIR events. Yet CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case — so named by the Justice Department. CAIR officials have repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas and Hizballah as terrorist groups.”
If Amazon prohibits access, either as a vendor or the AmazonSmile program, by every person and group listed on SPLC’s HateWatch, then the result effectively will be Sharia’s blasphemy law: the prohibition of criticism of Islam and Muhammad, a self-identified murderer, thief and pedophile.
Attention Islamists: This author will NEVER submit to Sharia law. If you dare to try to enforce it, know this: I’m locked and loaded!
Gerald Lostutter is a Florida licensed attorney, college professor, journalist, and life member of the National Rifle Association. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should consult a licensed attorney for advice.
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