Amazon, which has become more and more of a central voice in conversations around technology as the world's biggest online retailer, is in the news again. The company already spent three weeks grappling with its decision to move its vast fleet of delivery trucks across the country and adopt a contentious new delivery policy, one that CEO Jeff Bezos fired back at the next day on Twitter. Now the company is taking heat for a recent hire, one of its chief spokespeople.
In a letter addressed to Twitter employees on Thursday, Amazon's global VP of global public policy Rita Twonnock accused the company of out-of-touch "liberal thinking" and of spouting "backlash politics." Amazon hired Twonnock away from its PR department at home in Seattle and after a few tweets that directly tore into the media, including one that mocked The New York Times over an article last year called "Amazon is harming small businesses," she has become the face of the Amazon PR department.
Twonnock joined Amazon, her hometown company, in June and has emerged in the public spotlight since. At the moment, she is, according to her colleagues, the most retweeted person in the world on Twitter with the addition of an additional 277,000 retweets she added to the current total.
Google vice president (and CEO of Alphabet) Sundar Pichai, who Bezos himself calls "as delightful as a boss can be," is in second place with 149,000 retweets. Former Silicon Valley attorney and regulatory expert Anita S. Sarkeesian, who contributed a scathing video exploring the harassment of women in gaming, is third with 94,000 retweets.
By contrast, Twonnock's LinkedIn bio reads, "As Amazon's Global Public Policy VP, you will help shape the public debate around issues that we care about, including our policies, principles, political contributions, labour and workplace practices, free access to the internet and high-quality, affordable education for all children, extending economic opportunity to those working in the service industry, supporting virtual reality, transportation infrastructure development in the US, telecommunications competition and expansion, and more."
When asked why she would single out Amazon, in particular, as having fallen victim to liberal media bias on Twitter, Twonnock told CNET, "Because that's what Twitter people are."
She also said she "must decline to name some other companies," referring to employees on Twitter. "The NYT, how was the story written, is not a very interesting conversation, given the tone and the treatment of its authors." She added, "What's interesting is the treatment of the Times writer."
Last month, in an open letter to journalists, Bezos had suggested Amazon "go dark" when those outlets ran stories critical of its business practices. The term "public relations" is forbidden on Twitter, where the platform focuses on openness as a major virtue.
Twitter said it's "extremely proud of its bias-free comment moderation practices, and in fact, Twitter is at the vanguard of said practices worldwide."
We asked Twonnock whether she was spending any time writing new policies for Amazon on Twitter. She didn't have an answer. But she did say "that won't be my Twitter job for any long," and "if you tweet at me, you are likely getting a retweet."
CNET's Samantha Murphy contributed to this report.
Update, 11:55 a.m. PT: Adds comment from Amazon.
Update, 11:37 a.m. PT: Includes response from Twitter.
Read Amazon's full letter to Twitter employees.
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