Amazon's army of tweeting warehouse workers backfired spectacularly this week after a thread about working conditions went viral
- Last year, Amazon enlisted an army of fulfillment center employees to write positive comments about working in its warehouses. They are called "FC Ambassadors."
- But the program has backfired after going viral this week.
- The ambassadors were ridiculed for writing "propaganda for amazon" and some were even asked if they were being held at gunpoint to write their tweets.
- Other users pointed to the flaws in the system. Some of the ambassador accounts appear to have changed hands, leading to confusion over whether the accounts are real.
- It's also easy to mimic the Amazon FC Ambassador accounts, meaning people have been changing their Twitter names to mock the army of tweeters.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
It's been a year since the internet discovered that Amazon had enlisted a small army of workers to tweet positive comments about working at its warehouses.
The so-called Amazon FC Ambassadors (FC is short for fulfillment center), who are also warehouse workers, were asked to share their experiences about working at Jeff Bezos' company to educate the rest of the world.
"It's important that we do a good job of educating people about the actual environment inside our fulfillment centers," Amazon told Business Insider at the time.
Designed as a response to a series of horror stories about warehouse working conditions, the ambassadors tweet photos, post details about their job, and respond to other social media users saying negative things about Amazon.
The viral thread about Amazon working conditions
But now, 12 months on, the FC Ambassadors have gone viral and Amazon's program has backfired spectacularly.
It all started with a Twitter thread earlier this week. Twitter user Diana Wilde responded incredulously to the Amazon News account inviting followers to tour a fulfillment center and "see what our warehouses are really like."
"Really like? cause your workers are liars? you're not going to convince the working class that everything is fine by telling us where to avert our eyes, we already know what it's really like. why don't you really treat your workers better, you can afford it," Wilde said.
She sparked a debate into which a number of FC Ambassadors waded. "Everything is fine, I don't think there is anything wrong with the money I make or the way I am treated at work," responded Amazon FC Ambassador Dylan. Ambassador Rafael chimed in: "It's a lot of physical work but I believe that associates are not treated less."
But the responses bewildered other Twitter users, who began to mock their contributions. One user accused ambassadors of writing "propaganda for amazon with fake Twitter accounts." Others mocked their "robotic" replies and asked if they were being held at gunpoint to write the tweets.
Flaws were also spotted in Amazon's program. Some users questioned whether many of the FC Ambassador accounts were even real, pointing out that some seemed to change hands - user names that once read Michelle were now being used by a worker called Rafael, for example.
Amazon would not comment on this. But investigations website Bellingcat did a deep dive on the ambassadors and found that there may be a logical reason for accounts swapping hands - it means Amazon can cut down on setting up new accounts that require SMS or email verification.
Bellingcat found 53 legitimate FC Ambassadors, producing a full list you can see here. It verified the accounts in a number of ways, including noticing that some tweet from Sprinklr, an enterprise marketing tool used by the workers.
Fake FC Ambassador accounts flood Twitter
But the viral thread exposed how easy it is to imitate Amazon FC Ambassador accounts, simply by adding this title to your Twitter username. It meant Twitter was flooded with parody accounts tweeting things that undermine Amazon's original ambition. Here are a few examples:
An Amazon spokesman confirmed that some of these accounts are fake and are not part of the program. In a statement, he added:
"FC ambassadors are employees who work in our FCs and share facts based on their personal experience. It's important that we do a good job educating people about the actual environment inside our fulfillment centers, and the FC ambassador program is a big part of that along with the FC tours we provide.
"Thousands of guests across the world have come to see for themselves what it's like to work inside one of our FCs. If you haven't visited, we recommend it."
Hi. I am Michelle. I am a pick ambassador and trainer at BFI4 in Kent, WA.- Rafael - Amazon FC Ambassador (@AmazonFCRafael) August 21, 2018
If you have any questions about what it is like to work at an FC feel free to ask me.
I am passionate about my family, and love to cook, bake and garden. It gives me peace. pic.twitter.com/ihaK3Jd9tr
thank you to amazon for employing 19 year old grandma Rafael, who is 100% real pic.twitter.com/yDJds0VXcD- pierre menard (@PierreMenard) August 15, 2019
Hi, fc ambassador here, I used to want to kill myself all the time, but now I only want to do so when not at work! I absolutely not being forced to tweet this. I love amazon and I can go home whenever I want as well as use the bathroom!- Mr. Amazon FC Ambassador (@shitfisted) August 15, 2019
Amazon FC Ambassador :- Jose (@mrharmonia) August 16, 2019
Hi I'm Kyle and I work at an Amazon Fulfillment Center and I love it. We don't get pee breaks so I've gotten used to using diapers and my god, they're so comfortable. Also I have grandkids even though I have the profile pic of a 20 year old and-
Amazon is treating me well. At no time have I been beaten for my slow work speed. Any reports to the contrary are rumors only. These injuries are my own fault for stepping in front of the Happiness Forklift. I must go now. Say hello to my children for me.- Steven - Amazon FC Ambassador (@antipoetry) August 15, 2019
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