E-commerce giant Amazon has shut down a controversial influence campaign in which it paid its employees to tweet nice things about the company, Financial Times reported on Thursday.
Employees at the retailer’s warehouses were paid to share positive impressions about the company and to deny widely-reported workplace failings, the report mentioned.
As per internal documents shared by The Intercept in 2021, the scheme was launched in 2018 in response to waves of criticism of the company’s safety standards and working conditions.
Workers were selected for their “great sense of humour” and told to respond “in a polite — but blunt — way” to the company’s critics, including policymakers and politicians, according to the report
“I have worked at Amazon filling orders for two years now. Do you think if I was not being paid enough I would still be here? Full (and generous) benefits package. OH! AND I like the people I work with! Yeah – I’m doing just fine partner!” an employee had responded to a critic by saying in one such tweet.
The employees were recognisable on Twitter due to the “Amazon FC Ambassador” moniker appended to the end of their names. But the exact identity or number of “ambassadors” was never clear, the report said.
A Bellingcat investigation found at least 53 accounts active on Twitter but noted that the users tended to deploy similar language, tweeted the same pictures, and even swapped ownership of accounts creating a blur of overlapping identities.
To many, this set-up looked too artificial to be taken seriously, and the accounts quickly became a target of criticism and mockery.
This was not helped by the fact that anyone could call themselves an “Amazon FC Ambassador” on Twitter, and several parodies soon appeared.
“It was so bizarre to me that Amazon was making their employees sit on the clock and be sycophants for the people hiring them. Also, their strategy was so chaotic that this wasn’t even effective,” the operator of one popular parody account was quoted as saying by The Verge.
The employees were recognisable on Twitter thanks to the “Amazon FC Ambassador” moniker appended to the end of their names, it added.