Amazon sought out warehouse staffers with a “great sense of humor” to build a squad of Twitter warriors to knock down criticism of its fulfillment centers, a leaked document reveals.
Amazon started recruiting rank-and-file workers for its social-media army in 2018 through an initiative that was known by the codename “Veritas,” the Latin word for truth, according to the document obtained by The Intercept.
The e-commerce colossus gave these fulfillment center “Ambassadors” a mandate to “vigilantly refute untruths” about what it’s like to work inside its warehouses, where Amazon has been accused of running workers ragged, the 10-page memo shows.
The document outlines the criteria Amazon used to select model warehouse staffers for what was then a pilot program. The candidates needed a clean HR record, a strong performance background, “a great sense of humor” and an enthusiasm for “rebutting our critics in a polite, blunt way,” according to the memo.
Amazon thought the ideal ambassador would have three to four years of experience in a warehouse, but the memo noted that newer employees with just a year under their belts “can be very passionate and effective.”
“These associates will speak in the first person about their own experiences working in
Amazon [fulfillment centers] and set the record straight — leaving no lie unchallenged and showing that people who actually know what it’s like to work in our FCs love their jobs,” the document says.
While Amazon wanted the workers to speak for themselves, the memo shows company officials wanted a standardized format for their Twitter handles and usernames. They mulled adding an emoji to the username to “give personality, for example a small box emoji,” it says.
The document includes early examples of how the ambassadors would respond to online criticism from Amazon customers, journalists, lawmakers and other “influencers.”
For instance, staffers at Amazon’s Kent, Washington warehouse who were being trained for the program were asked to respond to claims about workers peeing in trash cans or bottles — anecdotes that Amazon has disputed as recently as last week.
“| work for Amazon and not sure about other facilities but I’ve never felt pressured to pee in a trash can,” one trainee wrote in a draft tweet. “My managers understand when you gotta’ go you gotta’ go.”
Amazon wrote in the memo that it was “encouraged by many of the un-coached responses” like that one.
While the keyboard warriors were free to rebut claims about Amazon’s working conditions or pay, the company told them not to respond to tweets about employees’ right to unionize or certain “compound issues,” such as an inquiry about Amazon advertising on the right-wing blog Breitbart.
Asked about the leaked document, Amazon spokesperson Rachael Lighty said the company’s online ambassadors “choose to share their personal experience” about fulfillment center work.
“The FC ambassador program helps show what it’s actually like inside our fulfillment centers, along with the public tours we provide,” Lighty said in a statement.