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Twitter bans fake Amazon worker accounts posting anti-union messages

Amazon union vote count underway
Union vote count underway for Amazon warehouse in Alabama 09:59

As a union vote by Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, drew to a close this weekend, several Twitter accounts appearing to belong to warehouse workers at the company posted cheerful messages about work contentment at Amazon.

"Unions are valuable tools at companies that don't provide good pay and benefits like Amazon does. We simply don't need them here," the account @AmazonFCDarla posted on Sunday, according to several media reports. In another tweet, the account said "a lot of the people here who want unions are...let's just say not team players LOL." The account was less than a month old and its profile photo was computer-generated, the tech news site Gizmodo noted.

Another account with an AI-generated photo, @AmazonFCLulu, posted a tweet mocking stories of Amazon employees forced to relieve themselves in bottles because they don't have enough time to use the bathroom on their breaks, Vice reported. "I'm beginning to worry that there's a problem with UTIs across the country, given how frequently many of you need a bathroom break?" the account tweeted, per Vice.

Both accounts are now suspended.

"A small number of accounts were permanently suspended for violating the Twitter Rules against impersonation," a Twitter spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch. The spokesperson confirmed a Washington Post report that at least four accounts were suspended

Amazon told CBS MoneyWatch it found "many" accounts impersonating employees. 

"Many of these are not Amazon FC Ambassadors – it appears they are fake accounts that violate Twitter's terms. We've asked Twitter to investigate and take appropriate action," Amazon spokesperson Maria Boschetti said in a statement.

Tweeting nice things about Amazon

FC Ambassadors are warehouse employees who tweet nice things about the company. The program first came to light in 2018, when Twitter users noted that dozens of similar-looking accounts were posting relentlessly positive reviews of working at the e-commerce giant. All the accounts had usernames following the format @AmazonFC(First name) and mentioned specific fulfillment centers in their bio.

Amazon confirmed at the time that the accounts were run by "employees who work in our FCs [fulfillment centers] and share facts based on their personal experience." One former ambassador said they received a $50 gift card and a paid day off for tweeting, while others have said they "don't get paid extra to tweet."

Tech CEOs questioned over how misinformation spreads on social media platforms 04:49

On Wednesday, the Intercept published internal Amazon documents that describe the formation of the ambassador program, code-named "Veritas." Workers in the program had to have good attendance, "good humor" and "creative writing" skills, according to the documents, and were trained to respond to negative tweets about worker pay, founder Jeff Bezos' wealth or workers urinating in bottles.

After news of the program became widespread, many parody accounts and imitators popped up. "Lol blinking is for when we're on our many many breaks we get," tweeted one such account, @AmazonFCBecky. The account has since been suspended.

Amazon has been in a contentious battle with pro-union workers at its massive warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, which has been open for less than year. On Monday, 5,800 warehouse workers finished voting on whether to unionize with the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union. Ballots are currently being counted.

Amazon reportedly ramps up surveillance of "labor organizing threats" within the company 05:41

Last week, , mocking Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as being ineffective legislators. Those tweets from an official Amazon account, @amazonnews, and from senior executive Dave Clark, are still up.

Amazon did not provide a list of sanctioned "ambassador" accounts, and did not answer a question from CBS MoneyWatch on what differentiates fake accounts from employees paid to tweet.

Parody and fan accounts on Twitter are permitted as long as they disclose their status, Twitter noted. The company added that the Amazon Ambassadors program does not in itself violate Twitter's policies.

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