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Amazon Uses a Twitter Army of Employees to Fight Criticism of Warehouses (nytimes.com)
199 points by johnny313 61 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments




I believe this article was triggered by this tweet: https://twitter.com/rulesobeyer/status/1161820065773182976?s...


That's like a god damned parody. A new response every time from a happy smiling human face. It's ok, Diana, we just want the truth to be heard, Diana, why don't you believe us Diana, I am treated well at work Diana, I am not beaten when I misbehave.

Join us Diana. Join us and be free.

Edit: oh my God. I made up the beatings comment on the spot. But one of the borg actually said something like this https://twitter.com/antipoetry/status/1162028572929855488?s=...

Edit2: oh whew obvious parody. Hilarious, nearly fell for it!


His account is violating Twitter's impersonation policy. https://help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/twitter-imper...

> The profile clearly states it is not affiliated with or connected to any similarly-named individuals or brands.


What's Twitter's policy on using fake accounts with stock picture avatars for openly astroturfing?


> Bezos ain't paying me a dime to say I like my job. Instead, I get paid for my effort to educate others about how wonderful it is.


It's hard to know what's real and fake. Some of the FC Ambassadors are definitely satire accounts.


The more 'real' looking ones seem to be through some application called Sprinklr.


I was amused at how quickly sprinklr picked up my tweet with the word amazon in it, I got a canned response in minutes & actual human contact within a day.

https://twitter.com/ahmedrezat/status/1162081845170671616?s=...

Update: FYI, my qualm wasn’t about AmazonFCs, but seeing the business end of Amazon try to put a distressed driver back on the road immediately after a very serious accident. The person who contacted me from Amazon told me that the driver was not put back on driving duty that day (so at least someone paid attention). So it’s not all negative.


Damn...Diana ripping them a new one


Whenever I see a news story about Amazon workers and robots, I'm reminded of Amazon's "workers in a cage" patent [1]. It has spawned a bunch of funny (or sad?) "Amazon Wagie Cage" memes as a result [2][3]... and even an art exhibit of a real-sized patent drawing [4].

Needless to say, I shop a lot less on Amazon these days and try to buy from other shops whenever possible.

[1] https://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/amazon-has-pate...

[2] https://i.imgur.com/QGeNley.png

[3] https://i.imgur.com/LuEpNL4.jpg

[4] https://i.imgur.com/EhoEHqG.jpg


Amazon's "workers in a cage" patent

You do realize that the cage is there to protect the worker, right?

If you think "worker in a cage, on top of a robot" is terrible, have you ever seen a construction crane? It is literally a robot with a cage in which a worker sits -- and just like the (never implemented!) patent from Amazon, the point of the cage is to protect the worker.


Having a comfy chair instead of a metal bench and glass instead of wire net makes cranes look a lot nicer than that concept art.


Aren't patent drawings supposed to show only the essential functional elements?


Maybe. I personally think it's silly. Still, that's where I think the critique comes from.


[flagged]


I highly doubt anyone working in an Amazon Fulfillment Centre won the Putnam Competition. ;-)


I think this article from bellingcat earlier today is better overall: https://www.bellingcat.com/news/americas/2019/08/15/amazons-...

Here's the list of account names using Sprinklr that was mentioned in the NYT article: https://twitter.com/AlexBNewhouse/status/1162036960027742209


Nearly all entities in products and politics astroturf heavily. In the end it is a massive critical thinking lesson and adds much needed skepticism to the populace.

The truth is the internet is teaching the biggest lesson ever in critical thinking and getting your information from many sources across spectrums, individuals, companies, countries, divides and more.

Let's hope that people see it as a lesson and not somewhere they can bask in their confirmation bias all day, or make decisions based on fear, in those cases the populace is easy to manipulate.


> Let's hope that people see it as a lesson and not somewhere they can bask in their confirmation bias all day

While I agree that internet does teach critical thinking, it's also the the most dangerous. If you watch a video of Alex Jones on YouTube for example, I bet the recommendation engine would feed you similar items and would ultimately feed your confirmation bias. The machine learning is optimized for engagement and not necessarily to give you other views/perspectives.


It’s great to talk about lessons in critical thinking for sophisticated first-world countries, but in third-world, poorly educated countries, people with poor literacy are being exposed to a firehose of propaganda.

The critical thinking lessons you mention are likely to come at the price of a massive loss of human life.


Whereas in developed intelligent countries you're all immune to this effect. Pretty cool.


The difference is that developed countries usually have functioning police and intelligence agencies that can keep a lid on mob violence.


The truth is the internet is teaching the biggest lesson ever in critical thinking and getting your information from many sources across spectrums, individuals, companies, countries, divides and more.

I just did a quick check: 5% of the top 100 submissions on hacker news right now are from one information source - The New York Times. Hacker news does have some technical content as well, so the percentage would be higher if we only count political submissions.


I was waiting to see how long it will take for media to find the tweet thread and publish as news. Man what a world we live in.


There's a bit to go through here - and I agree Amazon employees are largely treated poorly (I work at amazon and lament the fact more or less daily) but this is linking to some parody accounts. Let's talk about real issues, like how Bezos could end hunger in the US and still be the richest man in the world.

Or keep focusing on the weird customer-antagonistic inferior chinese trash importing campaign that's been ongoing for the last few years.

This looks like a bunch of joke tweeters that got caught in each others' schticks.


>This looks like a bunch of joke tweeters that got caught in each others' schticks.

Amazon PR email to bellingcat.com confirms that the ambassador program is real:

https://www.bellingcat.com/news/americas/2019/08/15/amazons-...


I mean, yeah it's real - that's not under suspicion. Is Jordan - Amazon FC Ambassador (with a free stock photo as his avatar) real?

Replying to "I also am required to enjoy things. I like laughing and having fun. It is agreeable to me." with "I like smiling!"

Or "Post literally anything from this account if you're being forced to do so against your will by your boss." with

"My boss is awesome! He’s great. I asked him if I could do this and he said sure!"

all seems really tongue-firmly-in-cheek.


Do we know if this is a corporate social media team, or actual employees who volunteered? Many of the accounts claim to be warehouse workers. It's rare for a major corporation to lie about something like that so blatantly.

I imagine that amazon employees didn't like the bad rep their company was getting for working conditions, and volunteered to respond on social media in an organized way. IF this is the case, then media organizations probably shouldn't be attacking them


Supposedly it's normal warehouse employees that can opt to spend a portion of their shift responding to tweets. They're still getting paid their normal wage while they do this, and supposedly they're not provided with taking points, but their responses are universally positive. My guess is that it they were critical of Amazon while they're doing it then they probably won't be doing it much longer.


It is somewhat more likely that the employees are doing it for the gift card and paid day(s?) off instead of any particular exemplary loyalty and love for their employer.


So you really imagine a bunch of lowest paid blue collar workers came together, out of the goodness of their hearts, to help the richest man alive improve his company's public image?


I can. There are a lot of Amazon employees. Many are probably happy with their job and unhappy to be constantly told that they shouldn't be. I think that I would personally be annoyed by all the think pieces unilaterally claiming that the job I chose was a sucker's game and I'm too dumb to realize, especially since Amazon is distinctly better than average as warehouse jobs go


They chose to work at Amazon, and most people don't second guess their own decisions. If amazon is evil it would reflect poorly on them for deciding to work there.

And again, it's incredibly rare for major corporations to tell easily verifiable falsehoods. I can't imagine that Amazon would instruct these people to lie about working on the warehouse floor. It's too big of a risk to their reputation and corporate goodwill for a very small reward.

You-know-who's razor here...the simplest explanation is most likely correct.


I imagine... Not that.


If you read through the chain of tweets. There is one account that says "I'm Michelle", from a non-Michelle account.


If you read the actual article you'll find this is a common theme.


There's this tweet that I find strange. One side effect of the oversold mindfulness-stoicism outlook is that people do not raise genuine concerns and instead say "the problem is within me, I just need to breathe right":

https://twitter.com/AmazonFCHannah/status/116191039733676851...


It reminds me of a favorite quote: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” -- Upton Sinclair

A genre I used to read a lot of is the cult escapee autobiography. Humans are incredibly good at believing whatever they need to believe to get by. And, presumably as with Amazon, there's a strong selection bias. The people who won't blame themselves like this don't work at Amazon for long, and if they do, they don't get selected to be "ambassadors". The first step for which is surely a "thank you sir may I have another" relationship [1] with their boss.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdFLPn30dvQ


Companies have been doing this for at least the last 8 years, just based on my own experience working for a company that provided a solution in this space. Amazon isn’t unique or even remotely the first. They’re just using one of those social media reputation dashboards to manage complaints and support issues before they go viral online.


Indeed, solutions for all needs. For example, presidential elections. Tweetattackspro, buyaccs.com anti-captcha.com

https://www.thedailybeast.com/i-bought-a-russian-bot-army-fo...

Anyone can start this up. Just get some bitcoin ready.


>Companies have been doing this for at least the last 8 years

Eight years ? To me they just look like good old strikebreakers in a modern context.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strikebreaker


I don't really see the issue.

These appear to be real humans.

I see so many fake accounts, sock puppets etc. just about any place I look, that I just accept that to not be an idiot myself I need to spend time thinking through everything.

I don't understand writing that seems to assume that anybody, or their analysis, can be automatically believed.


most of these Twitter accounts are parody accounts, Amazon has the embassador program but don't believe in every thing you read on Twitter


The parody accounts are pretty obvious. The really disturbing stuff comes from the real ones.


I've seen Amazon's sponsored tweets on Twitter. Didn't realize they are going so hard to work on their public image.


I'm wondering how this even makes sense from a PR prospective.

Workers (?) that are paid for talking good about their employer? What's the interesting bit here?


"Amazon FC Ambassadors" seriously?

Reminds me of the missionaries carrying bibles, in this case spreading the Lord Bezos word.


Reading the Amazon employees’ responses in the Twitter thread made me feel physically ill.

It’s pure propaganda, straight out of Russia’s 2016 playbook.

If companies like Amazon will dominate in the future I don’t want to have kids.


I seriously doubt there's anything remotely grassroots about this. I find it unlikely that Amazon is lying about the fact that the employees running these twitter accounts are low level, but I also find it hard to believe that they wouldn't be instantly taken off for going off script.

Also notice that each tweet is sent out by sprinklr.


The NYT sure writes a lot of anti-Amazon stuff. I guess the Washington Post is their main competitor and it’s owned by Jeff Bezos so it makes sense.


The question is why is this story not covered by the Washington Post?

The answer involves the degree of editorial indepence they have and sheds light on the precise the motiviations of the world's richest man for buying a masthead newspaper.

Different people will draw different conclusions. I suspect there will be a majority leaning in one direction.


Do you think NYT's article is inaccurate in some way?


You can be biased without being inaccurate.


You can also be biased without it being a bad thing.


I am biased towards hot chocolate and duvet nests and against TV programs presented by people with sunglasses on the top of their head. Am I a monster?


I think they do a poor job of considering more than one viewpoint on some issues. Even on issues that only have one correct answer, I expect nominally neutral outlets to help me understand the thought process driving the people I disagree with, instead of being forced to conjure strawmen


That's conspiracy thinking. The NYT covers a lot of negative stuff about a lot of prominent companies because it's interesting to readers. You haven't even demonstrated that Amazon gets coverage out of proportion to its scale [1], let alone that it's unduly negative. And if you did, you still wouldn't have any evidence that it's part of some sort of high-level conspiracy.

[1] Which is huge; they're #5 on the Fortune 500 and employ 647,000 people: https://fortune.com/fortune500/2019/amazon-com


I recently watched a Danish documentary about Israel, it’s a whole series on the Middle East, and one of the things they talked about in it was how Israel is never in the Danish media for anything positive. That same day I read an article about the youngest Dane to visit every country in the world, something he finished recently, talk about how there is peace and security in every country if you go to the right places. Now this is anecdotal of course, but it does seem extremely rare to see a positive story about Israel, and positive stories about minor countries around the world don’t exist. Small countries only make the news when some warlord does something horrendous, there is an outbreak of some terrible disease or climate change is sinking their country.

You may be wondering what my point is, but maybe the media brought this on themselves? I’m as appalled as you are by Amazon workers wearing diapers, and I personally think the way they utilise the gig-economy to avoid giving workers rights is bordering wage-slavery (I’m a socialist Dane, so I hope you’ll forgive me for that), but Amazon is a huge company and I’m betting a lot of people there are genuinely happy.

Imagine being those people. I work in public sector digitalisation, I think I know a thing or two about how it feels when everyone has a negative opinion on what you do. I makes you want to post like these Amazon employees, especially because onlookers almost never have a clue about actually what’s going on because the world is way too complicated to fit into a few 3-6 paragraph articles on the web.


I think you’ve been downvoted here because there isn’t really a clear point to your comment. Perfectly written but having read I don’t know what you are actually saying.


I was trying to say, that maybe the media is seeing this backlash, not because of some Amazon marketing army, but instead because a lot of people are genuinely happy working for Amazon.


If they wanted to do any of this, why are they only posting while getting paid, lying about who they are (many accounts have various different names used), and have limited guidelines on what they can say?




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