Amazon CEO Andy Jassy defended his decision to continue peddling the controversial anti-Semitic film that landed Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving in hot water.

During the Dealbook conference in New York on Wednesday, Jassy insisted the movie, “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” doesn’t directly incite hate as the reason for the film remaining on the site.

“Trying to decide which content contains hate content to an extent of which we don’t provide access to customers is one the trickiest issues we deal with at the company,” Jassy told interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin. “We have hundreds of millions of customers with lots of different viewpoints.”

The CEO explained that content that “espouses hate” or “negative characteristics to people” is more straightforward and deserves to be banned, but this case is more nuanced.

“Inside the company we won’t tolerate hate or discrimination or harassment, but we also recognize as a retailer of content to hundreds of millions of customers with lots of different viewpoints that we have to be willing to allow access to those viewpoints even if they are objectionable and even if they differ from our own personal viewpoints if you’re going to serve that number of people,” he said.

The documentary film, “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” is laced with anti-Semitic tropes.
Amazon
A description from Amazon.com of the anti-Semtic film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America.”
Amazon

The answer rankled Sorkin, who is Jewish and who said the film could spread anti-Semitism. Jassy, who is also Jewish, agreed but held firm despite admitting he finds some of the film’s content “objectionable.”

The film, which is based on a 2015 book of the same title, promotes anti-Semitic tropes and bogus claims, including that the Black Hebrew Israelites are the true descendants of biblical Israelites.

It also alleges a global Jewish conspiracy to oppress black people and that Jews were partially to blame for the African slave trade. Irving posted a link to the film on Twitter earlier this month, and later refused to condemn the movie when pressed by the media. He was eventually suspended for eight games by the Nets.

kyrie irving
Nets star Kyrie Irving was suspended after posting a link to the anti-Semitic film and refusing to condemn it after being pressed by the media.
Getty Images

Sorkin asked if Amazon would consider putting a notice or warning label on either the book or film.

Jassy said that while Amazon has a panel of people who look at each piece of content to evaluate if something should be removed, it didn’t have a process in place for warning labels. Adding this new layer is “tricky” because it is “hard to scale,” Jassy said.

“There are a lot of books and a lot of pieces of content where people would want those disclaimers and we don’t want a store where every page has a disclaimer,” he said, noting that customers do a good job of providing warnings in their reviews.

Andy Jassy
Jassy waffled when asked if Amazon would consider putting a notice on the anti-Semitic book and film.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amazon’s decision to continue selling the book and movie spurred backlash earlier this month from the Anti-Defamation League and Hollywood stars like Mila Kunis and Debra Messing, who wanted it pulled from the site.



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Tyler Cowan