Amazon has been compelled by the UAE government to begin concealing search results for more than 150 LGBTQ-related keywords in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
According to The Times, the UAE government threatened to penalize Amazon if it did not comply with its request to conceal LGBTQ-related search results and gave the e-commerce giant until Friday to comply. The story did not specify why the Emirati government asked for LGBTQ-related search results to be taken down from Amazon, though.
On Thursday, a number of queries, including various LGBTQ-related keywords, were performed on Amazon.ae, the retailer’s website for the United Arab Emirates. A few of the searches returned no information or mentions. Search terms like “LGBTQ,” “pride,” and “queer” didn’t provide any results. On Thursday, Insider observed that some books, including Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer: A Memoir” and Jacob Tobia’s “Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story,” that was available through Amazon’s US shop were not available on Amazon’s UAE website.
There seems to have been a workaround for Amazon’s exclusion of search results for some LGBTQ-related search terms. For instance, when Insider typed “rainbow flag,” a writing journal with the name “Pride Story Paper Book” and a rainbow flag on the cover came up. Paper plates and napkins with the words “Mr & Mr” printed on them were listed when the term “same-sex” was searched.
The LGBTQ-themed books that UAE-based users could still search for were The Color Purple by Alice Walker, André Aciman’s “Call Me By Your Name,” and the kid’s book “Same but Different Too: The Colourful Life” by Naomi y Kissiedu-Green and Chris Laxton.
According to a US State Department released in April, the UAE has strong restrictions on LGBTQ representation, and same-sex sexual behavior is prohibited there.
An Amazon spokesperson admitted that the company had restricted some search results on its Amazon.ae website. The UAE embassy in Singapore did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Amazon joined the United Arab Emirates in 2017 by buying the Dubai-based e-commerce website Souq.com. This made it possible for the Seattle-based corporation to start doing business there without waiting for regulatory clearances. A press release from the company dated May 2021 stated that Amazon’s cloud computing business planned to establish three data centers across the country this year.
Numerous Silicon Valley titans have bowed to political pressure in return for the right to operate in specific markets. A Times investigation from May 2016 claimed that Apple banned apps and allegedly stored customer data on Chinese servers. Apple claimed that it complies with Chinese regulatory norms and gave the Times assurances regarding consumer data security. The Financial Times reports that in 2019, Netflix also removed an episode of a Saudi Arabian comedy show that made fun of the nation.