Screenshots via Amazon/Compilation
Figurines of anime characters are being flagged as “child exploitation” on Amazon—despite depicting fully clothed adult fictional characters. As first reported by Bounding Into Comics, Chuck Gaffney, who used to sell anime figures as a licensed retailer through his own site, Amazon, and eBay, recently received notices from Amazon saying that the company had identified several figurines that he formerly sold in his own storefronts as being prohibited for sale or listing on Amazon.
“Amazon does not allow the sale of products that promote child exploitation or depict children or characters resembling children in a sexually suggestive manner,” the notices said, according to screenshots Gaffney posted to Twitter. The figurines in question are women from Japanese manga and anime, and are all wearing clothing that fully covers their bodies: pleated skirts and long-sleeve uniforms, or long skirts and full-coverage blouses. Other Amazon sellers offer disembodied torso-and-legs sex dolls in pleated skirts, and as Gaffney pointed out on Twitter, there are many other dolls and figurines for sale on Amazon that are more explicit than the manga characters that were flagged to him.
In 2020, Gaffney reported that this had been happening to figurines he’s listed through Amazon for years, dating back several years, with Amazon flagging other figurines as “child exploitation.” At the time, his store was dormant for a few years, and was most active from 2008 to 2012. But Amazon continued to send notices and demand that the seller review the listings and “close, delete, or archive any listings that do not comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and Amazon’s policies, including the product(s) listed above.”
“I tried appealing at first but the links to do so in the emails almost purposefully make you go through a reply setup on Amazon that makes you restate everything with no context (basically a global reply/complaint back...if the link even works..sometimes it didn't),” Gaffney told Motherboard. “I never heard a reply back from Amazon so I mostly gave up when I see these.” With the most recent notifications, he tried contacting Amazon support through tagging it on Twitter, but after an initial response from the support account to someone who quote-tweeted his request, he didn’t hear back.In the most recent batch of notices, the characters included Kagami Hiiragi from the manga Lucky Star, Mirai Suenaga, a mascot created by TV personality Danny Choo that was the official mascot for Japan Tourism in 2013 and in Malaysia in 2014, a bunny character from the Japanese light novel Haruhi Suzumiya, and Asaba Ureshiko from the anime Okusama Wa Maho Shoji. Each of these characters either were over 18 during their storylines or don’t have ages, but are intended to be adult women, not children. According to Gaffney, the listings are now unavailable in the United States Amazon catalog and banned from relisting.Historically, Amazon’s moderation systems punishing actual, sexually-themed content seemingly at random makes its methods difficult to understand for sellers. ”I can imagine any seller trying to list on Amazon right now would be having a rough time with these random and erroneous bannings,” Gaffney said.In 2018, a glitch with the Kindle store caused multiple erotica book authors to lose their bestseller statuses which influences how they appear in search, directly impacting their businesses. Outside of Amazon, social media platforms use over-broad algorithmic moderation to detect things like nudity and sexual speech, in attempts to appease banking partners or ineffective child sex trafficking laws. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.