Amazon sold products promoting a transphobic and anti-vax term that has its origins on a far-right message board.
The platform was selling multiple shirts with the term “transvaxxite” on them. The product description said, “Freedom is arriving with vaccination you say? Time to tap into more flexibility and reap the rewards of being vaxxed- regardless of your status.” The items, which have since apparently been removed, were listed as first being offered on May 18.
The term “transvaxxite” seems to have originally gained traction months earlier in a post on the far-right message board TheDonald. The message board, which was housed on Reddit as “r/The_Donald” before the platform banned it, has been involved with spreading far-right misinformation, conspiracy theories, and troll campaigns. On March 29, a user posted, “I’ve decided I’m a transvaxxite. This means that I identify as having been vaccinated even though I haven’t actually been. Vaccination is a spectrum and you are a bigot if you don’t accept me for who I am.” (The term “transvaxxite” is a nod to an anti-trans slur, and the forum has a history of posting anti-trans content.) The post included an image of Pepe the Frog, a symbol used within far-right circles, with lip rings and blue hair.
As First Draft noted, the term was also added the same day to Urban Dictionary, a crowdsourced online dictionary for slang terms, with nearly the same language as in the post from TheDonald; the language and authorship of that page has since changed.
Over the following days, the post and others with similar language were shared by people in the far-right, who in turn added a different image of Pepe and the text “checkmate soy drinkers” (a reference to “soy boy,” a term used by those in the far-right to insult others).
Supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory also shared that post, and the meme received hundreds of thousands of views on QAnon Telegram channels. Some far-right Facebook and Instagram accounts also shared the post. The term was also used on “/qresearch/,” the central message board for QAnon on message board site 8kun, and on “/pol/,” a fellow far-right message board on 4chan.
In mid-May, around the time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that vaccinated people could stop wearing masks in most situations, the term gained traction again. The same text used in the post on TheDonald was shared by accounts on Facebook (including in multiple private Facebook groups), Instagram, Reddit, and Twitter, and it was shared again within the QAnon community and on 4chan. As First Draft noted on May 20, the term was “shared on more than 140 public Facebook posts and attracted at least 16,000 [Facebook] interactions over the past three days.” (Both Facebook and Twitter told Vice that the term did not violate their rules.) Multiple hashtags for the term have also appeared on TikTok, with associated videos receiving hundreds of thousands of views despite potentially violating the platform’s rules on hateful behavior. Some congressional candidates and conservative talk radio hosts, such as The Blaze’s Steve Deace and Wisconsin’s Vicki McKenna, also shared the language.
This is not the first time that Amazon has sold products connected to a far-right message board: In 2019, the platform sold multiple shirts promoting a 4chan campaign that tried to target Muslims, inflame tensions, and target liberals, and it has sold material promoting QAnon and the boogaloo movement, both of which originated from 4chan. And more recently, Amazon has refused to take down other products it has sold that advocates say are harmful to transgender people.