Once again, Amazon is allowing its customers to donate a portion of the cost of their purchases to a questionable organization; this time, it’s the ivermectin-promoting faux medical group Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC). The FLCCC is leading promoter of the use of ivermectin as a preventative, treatment, or cure for COVID. All available evidence suggests that ivermectin does not work as a COVID treatment and serious, material harm and even deaths have resulted from its use in that context.
AmazonSmile is a charitable program that allows shoppers to pick an organization and have Amazon donate 0.5 percent of their purchase price; the donations come from the AmazonSmile Foundation, meaning that they’re tax deductible by Amazon, not by the shopper. A cynic would suggest that this is a convenient way for Amazon to score some extra tax writeoffs, and of course donate money to charity, but it’s also come with some significant public relations downsides.
According to the company, there are more than a million charities supported through AmazonSmile, a nearly impossible number to track or police, and some of which have proven to be extremely embarrassing when brought to light. Previously, AmazonSmile has been used to fund the Oathkeepers, an extremist group, which was removed following a public outcry and pressure from the activist group Sleeping Giants. AmazonSmile also allows users to donate to a welter of anti-vaccine organizations, which Amazon has declined to remove from the program. A spokesperson for the company told the Washington Post in December 2021, “We respect that our customers have a wide variety of viewpoints on this matter, which is why the charities in question continue to be included in the list of organizations customers can choose from as part of AmazonSmile.”
In its latest newsletter, the FLCCC touted its inclusion in the AmazonSmile program, along with a more general plea for money amid what they called “intensified digital throttling.” (Many of the founders and members of the FLCCC are active and unbanned on Twitter, the group has an Instagram account with more than 44,000 followers, and in general they show very few signs of being particularly throttled. The group does say they were concerned about being censored on YouTube and switched to Vimeo as a result.)
The FLCCC are an active part of the program as of today; they describe themselves on AmazonSmile as “a public health program” which provides “Lifesaving protocols for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19,” all of which is objectively not true. The FLCCC has promoted fear and distrust around COVID vaccinations, falsely claiming in May that there is “no measurable benefit” from them and implying they frequently lead to vaccine injury. (Conveniently, they made that claim in a blog post announcing a new “treatment protocol” for purported vaccine injury; it involves ivermectin, of course, along with doses of vitamin C many times higher than the daily dose recommended by actual medical organizations.) The organization does, in fairness, also advocate for basic protocols like handwashing, physical distancing and masks, but does it alongside a heaping dose of misinformation and fearmongering. (AmazonSmile’s terms of service prohibits organizations from participating who engage in what it calls “ illegal, deceptive, or misleading activities.”)
Indirectly funding an ivermectin advocacy group would also appear to be a particularly sensitive issue for Amazon, which has faced criticism for years that it allows medical misinformation and particularly COVID-19 misinformation to be sold on the site. They’ve taken some infant-sized steps to counter that; when you search Amazon.com for ivermectin, a disclaimer pops up, reading, “The FDA advises against the use of ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19,” followed by a link to the FDA’s info page on the misuse of the drug. Ironically, when I searched for the drug today, the first search result was FLCCC co-founder Pierre Kory’s book about the purported “war” on ivermectin by the sinister and omnipresent powers that be who he insists are suppressing the drug.
In a statement to Motherboard, Amazon spokesperson Patrick Malone didn’t address the FLCCC’s involvement in AmazonSmile directly. Instead, he outlined AmazonSmile’s eligibility requirements and noted that the “customer-directed donations,” as he put it, made through the program “are not an endorsement by Amazon of the views of any eligible charitable organization.” His statement reads, in full:
Customer-directed donations made through the AmazonSmile program are not an endorsement by Amazon of the views of any eligible charitable organization. AmazonSmile customers are able to select from more than one million eligible charitable organizations and designate the charity of their choice.
All eligible charities need to be registered as 501(c)(3) organizations and not on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s lists of hate or anti-government groups. In addition, charities must also be in good standing in the states they operate and not be on the US Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctions list, which identifies organizations associated with money laundering, terrorism, and other illegal activities.