Amazon shareholders rejected proposals aimed at curbing sales of the company's controversial facial recognition tool and limiting its carbon production.
The proposals, which were promoted by activists and employees of actions, were not binding, but represented a moment of challenge against Amazon. The company's reconnaissance tool, which is sold to the police, has been criticized on grounds of civil liberties, and employees have said that the company could be doing more to combat climate change.
Two Recognition proposals would have asked Amazon to suspend sales to government agencies and complete a review of the implications of the tool in terms of civil liberties. Amazon went to the Securities Exchange Commission to try that the proposals were not put to a vote, but the agency allowed them to continue. The measures had received the support of groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which pressured shareholders to adopt facial recognition proposals.
"The fact that we have to vote on this is a disgrace for the Amazon leadership team," Shankar Narayan of the ACLU in Washington said in a statement. "This shows that shareholders have no confidence that company executives are adequately understanding or addressing the civil and human rights impacts of their role in facilitating widespread government oversight."
Amazon employees also united around the proposed climate change, which asked the company to adopt a far-reaching plan. Thousands of employees signed an open letter to CEO Jeff Bezos supporting the plan. "It's time for Jeff Bezos and the Amazon board to listen," Amazon organizers said in a statement read after the vote.
"Incremental steps are no longer acceptable at this time of weather emergency," says @emahlee "Nearly 7,700 Amazon employees understand that Amazon must have a comprehensive plan that matches scale and urgency of the climate crisis. " @Amazon #AGM #AMZNClimate
– Amazon employees for climate justice (@AMZNforClimate) May 22, 2019
A spokesperson for Amazon confirmed that the proposals were rejected and said more details will be filed with the SEC and will be published later this week.
The shareholders meeting was held on the same day at a hearing in Congress on the use of facial recognition technology. "It's more important that Congress act," Rep. Jimmy Gómez (D-CA) said at the hearing, in response to Amazon's vote.