AWS to Remove Problematic Content From Cloud Services

Published · Sep 06, 2021

Amazon plans to be more forthright in determining what content violates its cloud policies and in removing it. The plans have stoked a debate about the power tech firms should have in limiting free speech.

According to a report by Reuters, Amazon Web Services (AWS) will hire a small team to develop expertise and monitor for future threats.

Recently, Amazon shut down a website that featured ISIL propaganda celebrating a suicide bombing in Kabal that killed 183. The company did this after the Washington Post contacted it.

Earlier this year, Amazon removed the app Parler from its cloud services following the January 6 Capitol riot. The platform was permitting content promoting violence. In a statement, AWS explained that it strives to protect users and the internet from abusive or illegal content.

It also clarified that it doesn’t preview content for the time being. However, it will take it down when it’s reported. With the rollout of this new team, the company hopes to be proactive and catch problematic content as it arises.

Questions Around Freedom of Speech

AWS and other cloud providers provide infrastructure for other services. This means they’re somewhat removed from the content they host. But activists increasingly put pressure not just on the platforms but on the providers too.

Some worry that AWS’ proactive approach could impact free speech. 

Amazon and other hosting providers have a vested interest in avoiding legal trouble and public relations disasters. But their understanding of “problematic” content may expand well beyond the definitions of civil society. Hence, the public might see their efforts to sanitize their clientele lists as a violation of privacy.

Other commentators have urged corporations not to “fence sit” when it comes to issues of extremism and discrimination. For the time being, it appears that the new AWS team will focus on “live” content. As such, services like cloud storage won’t be a priority for now.

This proactive approach is a new direction for a service that’s generally “backend.” Updates on these developments are sure to follow.

Garan van Rensburg
Garan van Rensburg

Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.