Amazon removes shoe description following complaint from MP David Lammy

'Is it 2020 or 1720? Please ⁦⁦Amazon take it down', Mr Lammy wrote

Vincent Wood
Tuesday 04 August 2020 09:46
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Amazon removes shoe description following complaint from MP David Lammy

Amazon has removed a listing for a pair of shoes described as “n***** brown” after a complaint from Labour MP David Lammy.

The shadow secretary of state for justice, who on the same day highlighted a separate incident of alleged racism he had faced on Twitter, said he had come across the descriptor after attempting to buy a pair of shoes from the site.

“Just buying brown brogues tonight leads to this racist micro aggression”, he wrote “Is it 2020 or 1720? Please ⁦⁦Amazon take it down.”

The firm has since removed the item, sold by a company based in Sichuan, China, from its listings.

The phrase evoking the racial pejorative had historically been used as a descriptor before falling into disuse due to its offensiveness – however in recent years it has turned up alongside a number of items being sold by Chinese firms on English language sites.

In 2007 Canada’s Toronto Star reported that a seven-year-old had spotted the phrase on the label of a sofa that had been delivered to her parents’ home after being delivered from a local furniture store.

The item’s manufacturer, a firm in Guangzhou, laid the blame on a bug in translation software, while stating it had intended for the text to say “dark brown”.

In 2017 another Chinese third-party seller used the same phrase to refer to the name of a wig-base cap sold on Walmart, forcing the US firm to issue an apology.

An Amazon spokesperson said: “All sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who do not will be subject to action including potential removal of their account. The product in question is no longer available.”

The MP in turn thanked the firm for their actions, however he asked Amazon to detail what systems they had in place “for reviewing descriptions and not allowing offensive terms to be posted in the first place?”. He added: “This is not the first time.”

It comes just hours after Mr Lammy called on Twitter to be “much faster at removing hate” after a delay in removing alleged racist abuse targeted at him.

The Tottenham MP said it took more than 13 hours for the social media giant to act before it suspended the perpetrator’s account.

“13+ hours later, the police are investigating and Mikolaos Nichaloliakos’ tweet calling me a ‘monkey boy’ and making threats about ‘hanging’ are still live.” he wrote on the site.

“You (Twitter) need to get so much faster at removing hate.”

Among those calling for tougher action from the site was home secretary Priti Patel, who said Twitter “must take decisive action against this sort of vile content much faster” following the “awful racist abuse”.

Twitter said: “Racist behaviour has no place on our service. We have policies in place that address abuse and harassment, violent threats, and hateful conduct.

“If we identify accounts that violate any of these rules, we’ll take enforcement action. This account in question has been suspended for violating our hateful conduct policy.”

Additional reporting by PA.

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