Despite Crackdown, Some Capitol Riot Merchandise Slips Through E-Commerce Cracks
Online sellers have been cracking down on products related to far-right ideologies or phrases that potentially stoke violence.
Over the last two weeks, we’ve seen as e-commerce platforms shut down stores selling Q-related merchandise representing the fringe conspiracy group, as well the Proud Boys and even the official Donald Trump campaign store following the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
But, with platforms like Amazon, Etsy and eBay hosting so many products every day, it’s virtually impossible to stop everything. Some things still make it through the cracks.
Some were wondering how that happened when they saw things like T-shirts boasting Capitol Hill “veteran” status or other messages glorifying the attack.
The New York Times reported that, even after others cracked down on these products, e-commerce sites were still selling products like a shirt that said “Civil War 2020” before removing them.
Merchandise with phrases like "Battle for Capitol Hill Veteran" and "MAGA Civil War" has continued to proliferate on major e-commerce sites, as platforms have struggled to remove goods glorifying the attack on the Capitol.https://t.co/VigOvzdlgL
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 19, 2021
Frankly, these sorts of things take time when there are so many products, and also when companies rely so heavily on automation to handle quality control.
The New York Times reported:
These companies have largely been built with scale and ease of access in mind, with scant oversight of what vendors were actually selling. But questions about the businesses have emerged as many rioters donned what amounted to a type of uniform that could be purchased online. This included shirts with certain phrases or illustrations printed on them, and flags that not only supported President Trump, but promoted a civil war, conspiracy theories and debunked election claims. One shirt infamously worn by one of the rioters that said “Camp Auschwitz” was later found on Etsy, prompting an apology from the company, which is known for handcrafted goods.
It's taken e-commerce sites some time to get a handle on all of the problematic merchandise, but they're getting there. And there are lessons to be learned. The first is that automation might not be as reliable as some of these sites might have believed, requiring tweaks to the processes that filter out blocked items.
The second is that optics matter. Even companies as well established as Amazon and eBay can take a reputation hit if they’re associated with something like the Capitol riots.