Amazon employees pressure CEO to kill Breitbart ads

Tech activism in the Trump era is getting its second wind.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at a meeting with then President-elect Donald Trump in December 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at a meeting with then President-elect Donald Trump in December 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Amazon employees are pressuring CEO Jeff Bezos and SVP Jeff Blackburn to sever the company’s advertising ties with Breitbart News.

Five-hundred and sixty-four employees signed an email petition, complete with an attachment full of comments from 52 of them, called “Amazon Must Stop Advertising on Breitbart News,” Buzzfeed reported.

According to the email, an employee brought up Amazon’s relationship with Breitbart at a staff meeting with Blackburn, asking “What is it going to take for us to stop advertising on Breitbart News?” Blackburn responded, “We have our eyes on it.”

While companies like Amazon ultimately have control over where their ads land, most ads pass through third party ad technology companies. The resulting ad is typically the result of companies seeking a specific audience found and tracked through cookies rather than a purposefully placed ad on a news site. But public and tech employee backlash against monetarily supporting Breitbart has grown since President Donald Trump’s election.

That fight has been credited to an online campaign led by Sleeping Giants, a group dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, and xenophobia on news sites. The group, which encourages economic boycotts and grassroots protest, has also been successfully pushing for advertisers to abandon Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News.

Approximately 1,000 advertisers—including BMW, Visa, Lyft, and T-Mobile — pulled their Breitbart ads by February as a result of the campaign, but AT&T and Amazon’s presence lingered.

Amazon’s internal push represents something of a second wave of tech activism this year aimed at institutions and policies that contradict the industry’s core ideology. Silicon Valley sent up flares early following Trump’s immigration ban in January, contesting the policy’s inhumanity and potential effect on their ability to recruit and retain foreign workers.

Google employees worldwide, including co-founder Sergey Brin, protested the executive order at work and airports. Apple, Microsoft, and others banded together to pen a letter to Trump denouncing the policy and supporting immigrants.

Trump’s relationship with the tech industry is off to a tense start, with many tech leaders and workers openly lamenting the election result. Trump attempted to extend an olive branch by hosting a tech summit in December, which Bezos called “very productive” and from which Twitter CEO Jack Dorsay was excluded.

But the overall relationship between the industry and the White House remained tepid at best. Sentiments continued to sour as Trump pushed forward with policy changes that clashed with Silicon Valley’s interests and ideals. Aside from immigration, the industry has rallied against the president’s anti-net neutrality stance, and is preparing for a fight to preserve the open internet rules.