Amazon blames ‘bad actor’ for racial slurs

Amazon said a “bad actor” was to blame after listings containing racial slurs appeared on its store within searches for Apple’s AirPod earphones and similar products.

Shoppers using Amazon’s UK-facing site and app discovered listings had replaced the product image with an abusive message that contained several instances of the N-word.

Many of the listings appeared on the highly coveted and trafficked first page of results for “airpods” or “bluetooth headphones”.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company was “removing the images in question and have taken action on the bad actor”. She would not offer any further information.

The images appeared as Amazon faces greater scrutiny over the unruliness of its third-party marketplace, sales from which make up more than half of its retail revenue.

Last month, the US added five of Amazon’s websites to its “notorious markets” list, citing the presence of counterfeit and pirated goods among genuine listings.

Last week, it was revealed that price gougers had been circumventing Amazon’s prevention measures by listing products as “collectible”, which allowed them to be listed at much higher prices.

In one example, highlighted by tech news site The Verge, a popular dumbbell set that previously sold for $279 was being offered as “collectors items” worth around $900. Other “collectibles” on offer included USB cables and inflatable hot tubs.

Amazon previously said it had taken down more than 500,000 price-gouging listings, and provided information to prosecutors. The company has since argued that the absence of a nationwide law on price gouging in the US made clamping down on abuse more difficult.

On Saturday, the racist listings appeared to be confined to listings on Amazon’s UK store, and were placed by new sellers with few or no customer reviews or ratings. Customers reacting to the racist listings made “Airpods” a trending topic on Twitter.

“Being Black right now is hard enough,” wrote Nadine White, a journalist. “We don’t need to be called the N-word while shopping online, to boot.”

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