Donald Trump does not like Amazon.
We were reminded once again this morning of our Commander in Chief’s specific animosity toward the tech giant as we are so often reminded of things in Trump World: via tweet. And yet, as is par for the 45th Presidential course, he managed to mostly miss the point.
Trump lambasted Amazon for reportedly paying zero federal taxes last year on $5.6 billion in profits, using the United States Postal Service as “their Delivery Boy” (which, isn’t that kind of the point of the postal service?), and driving presumably brick and motor retailers to shutter.
I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2018
And while yes, Amazon should absolutely pay federal taxes (that’s a legit critique), Trump perhaps unsurprisingly missed the mark. There are plenty of valid reasons to criticize Amazon, and, in fact, many on the left might even get behind him on a few of them. Here are just a few of our bigger concerns:
Robots replacing workers
Amazon is notorious for the way it treats its so-called fulfillment center workers. The company doesn’t pay them for time spent in security lines, allegedly denies them overtime pay and breaks, and has patented a wristband to track their every move.
What’s more, if Trump is concerned about the loss of low-skilled jobs, he doesn’t need to look to mom and pop retailers. Amazon Fresh stores eliminate the need for supermarket cashiers, and in general the company is pushing to replace humans with robots.
Congratulations to @DanaPerino on your book going to number one on Amazon. Great book – Great job!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2015
Essentially, Amazon’s warehouses are tax-incentivized overheated hellscapes that are moving to drive out humans, and there is room for criticism right there. By ignoring the company’s workers in his tweet, Trump missed an opportunity for a righteous dunk on his billionaire boogeyman.
Data mining and user privacy
While the world is rightly up in arms about Facebook playing fast and loose with its users’ data, Amazon isn’t exactly a privacy angel. In addition to collecting obvious details like its customers’ names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers, the company also tracks purchase histories and what you do on its site.
And definitely don’t forget the Echo Look — the camera enabled smart device that judges your outfits. What is Amazon doing with all the data it gleans from literally peeking into your bedroom? It’s not exactly clear, but we do have some hints.
“Amazon may display interest-based advertising using information customers make available to us when they interact with our sites, content, or services,” a spokesperson told Mashable last April.
In other words, Amazon reserves the right to use information derived from video of the interior of your house to advertise you other products. That means, by default, the information would likely be added to whatever advertising profile the company has on you.
With this data, Amazon won’t be able to just sell you clothes or judge you. It could analyze if you’re depressed or pregnant and much else. pic.twitter.com/irc0tLVce9
— Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) April 26, 2017
While there has yet to be a Facebook-esque privacy scandal involving Amazon, it may still one day come. Calling attention to the risks posed by this kind of vacuuming up of data would be a forward-thinking move on the part of Trump, which, well, is perhaps why the opportunity to do so escaped him.
Monopolies are generally understood to be bad, and it would make sense to highlight Amazon’s growing stranglehold on many industries. Trump hinted at this in his tweet with the comment about “putting many thousands of retailers out of business,” but stopped short of making an insightful critique.
Notably, he has accused the company of being a monopoly before, so it’s not like he doesn’t understand the concept.
Is Fake News Washington Post being used as a lobbyist weapon against Congress to keep Politicians from looking into Amazon no-tax monopoly?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017
If he truly wants to hit the company where it hurts, he should probably go back to using the dreaded “M” word and threaten corresponding antitrust action.
Missing the point
Trump’s Thursday morning tweet was perfectly Trumpian in all the ways we’ve come to expect. It was full of bluster, involved odd capitalization, and had an exclamation point thrown in for good measure.
It also missed the point. But hey, that perfectly Trumpian as well.