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Amazon.com Inc plans to take a more proactive approach to determine what types of content violate its cloud service policies, such as rules against promoting violence, and enforce its removal, according to two sources, a move likely to renew debate about how much power tech companies should have to restrict free speech.
Over the coming months, Amazon will expand the Trust & Safety team at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) division and hire a small group of people to develop expertise and work with outside researchers to monitor for future threats, one of the sources familiar with the matter said.
It could turn Amazon, the leading cloud service provider worldwide with 40% market share according to research firm Gartner, into one of the world's most powerful arbiters of content allowed on the internet, experts say.
AWS does not plan to sift through the vast amounts of content that companies host on the cloud, but will aim to get ahead of future threats, such as emerging extremist groups whose content could make it onto the AWS cloud, the source added.
A day after publication of this story, an AWS spokesperson told Reuters that the news agency’s reporting "is wrong," and added "AWS Trust & Safety has no plans to change its policies or processes, and the team has always existed."
A Reuters spokesperson said the news agency stands by its reporting.
Amazon made headlines in the Washington Post on Aug. 27 for shutting down a website hosted on AWS that featured propaganda from Islamic State that celebrated the suicide bombing that killed an estimated 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops in Kabul last Thursday. They did so after the news organization contacted Amazon, according to the Post.
The discussions of a more proactive approach to content come after Amazon kicked social media app Parler off its cloud service shortly after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot for permitting content promoting violence.
Amazon did not immediately comment ahead of the publication of the story on Thursday. After publication, an AWS spokesperson said later that day, "AWS Trust & Safety works to protect AWS customers, partners, and internet users from bad actors attempting to use our services for abusive or illegal purposes. When AWS Trust & Safety is made aware of abusive or illegal behavior on AWS services, they act quickly to investigate and engage with customers to take appropriate actions."
The spokesperson added that "AWS Trust & Safety does not pre-review content hosted by our customers. As AWS continues to expand, we expect this team to continue to grow."
Activists and human rights groups are increasingly holding not just websites and apps accountable for harmful content, but also the underlying tech infrastructure that enables those sites to operate, while political conservatives decry what they consider the curtailing of free speech.