Amazon paid employees to act as cheerleaders, according to a news report in Slate. “Amazon FC Ambassadors were a group of Twitter accounts belonging to employees who were paid to respond to posts criticizing the company,” it wrote.
The article went on to allege, “Although the ambassadors had always been Amazon’s biggest cheerleaders, they typically tried to mask their corporate propaganda as neutral fact checks based on their own experiences working at the company’s warehouses up to that point. When it came to the prospect of labor organizing, though, the accounts became more clearly opinionated, with ambassadors arguing that unions breed laziness and cronyism.”
(Today, Federal labor regulators allege Amazon went further. According to the Washington Post, regulators accuse Amazon of “illegally surveilling and threatening workers who are trying to unionize a Staten Island, N.Y., warehouse.” The Post reported that “Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said the allegations were false, adding without elaboration that “we look forward to showing that through this process.””)
The term “cheerleaders” has been tossed around on discussion boards for decades, as early eBay users can attest. The book “The Perfect Store” described how when eBay hired Jim Griffith and Patti Ruby as customer service reps, the company encouraged them to continue posting on the boards as “Uncle Griff” and “Aunt Patti” without disclosing they were employees. This tradition was carried on when eBay invited sellers to its Voices program but prohibited participants from disclosing they were members.
The program sounds similar to the eBay Voices in that the perks include access to information members wouldn’t otherwise have (“Opportunity to shape new Community features”; “Invitations to exclusive events and opportunities,…”).
It’s actually in sellers’ best interest to promote a platform on which they sell – but when they are compensated by that platform in any way, financial or otherwise, should there be transparency?