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 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 jobs, 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. The 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 that a number of FC Ambassadors waded into. “Everything is fine, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the money I make or the way I am treated at work,” Amazon FC Ambassador Dylan responded. 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, saying that some seemed to change hands — a user name that once read Michelle was now being used by a worker called Rafael, for example.
Amazon would not comment on this. But the 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 by simply adding the 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 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.”
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