Amazon restricts LGBTQ+ search results in United Arab Emirates

The online retail giant bowed to pressure after it was threatened with penalties.

Close up of a person scrolling through Amazon on their phone
Image: Image by Hannes Edinger from Pixabay

More than 150 LGBTQ+ search keywords have been restricted on the Amazon website in the United Arab Emirates after the online retailer faced threats of penalties from authorities in the Gulf state.

Restricted product searches on (the UAE branch of the site) include LGBTQ+ books and rainbow flags, with search terms such as ‘LGBTQ’, ‘Pride’, ‘Transgender flag’ and ‘queer’ now yielding no results.

“As a company, we remain committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and we believe that the rights of LGBTQ+ people must be protected,” said an Amazon spokesperson. “With Amazon stores around the world, we must also comply with the local laws and regulations of the countries in which we operate.”

As Pride month draws to a close, this comes as a terrible blow to the LGBTQ+ community living in UAE, one of 69 countries around the world which still criminalises homosexuality. Furthermore, expressing support for LGBTQ+ rights could also be deemed an offence, BBC News reports.

The New York Times broke the story citing Amazon company documents and they report the UAE government has given Amazon until tomorrow, Friday, July 1, to remove LGBTQ+ related search results. Should they fail to meet that deadline, they may face penalties, the nature of which are unclear.

While books such as Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay and Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe are now no longer searchable to the Emirate consumer base, Out News Global notes that, in the USA, Amazon has frequently come under pressure to remove books deemed by many to be anti-Trans. However, the tech giant made the decision to keep certain titles available for purchase, citing freedom of speech as their determining factor. Their policy states: “As a bookseller, we believe that providing access to the written word is important, including content that may be considered objectionable.”

Prior to this development, Amazon was dropped as a sponsor for Seattle Pride which took place last weekend.

“Seattle Pride has decided to not partner with Amazon for the 2022 Seattle Pride Parade,” their website reads, “because of their financial donations to politicians who actively propose and support anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation, oppose pro-LGBTQIA+ and other human rights legislation, and for allowing anti-LGBTQIA+ organizations to raise funds from their AmazonSmile program.”

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