The anti-Trump Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos is rolling out a new feature in October that will allow Alexa users to make campaign donations to 2020 presidential candidates using the virtual voice assistant.
Amazon unveiled its new Alexa Political Contributions feature on Wednesday, informing users it must have voice purchasing enabled and a payment method stored in their Alexa settings to make the campaign donations.
Users will be able to use Alexa to donate up to $200 to any presidential campaign.
“Alexa, I want to make a political contribution,” users can now declare to support their candidate of choice, or “Alexa, donate [amount] to [candidate name].”
“All candidates are invited to make use of this technology,” the company said. “On-boarding is simple and doesn’t require any technical experience.”
2020 U.S. Presidential Candidates and campaigns can register to receive campaign contributions through Alexa as of Thursday, September 19, Amazon said.
However, only presidential campaigns that have set up accounts with Amazon Pay will be able to accept donations made on their behalf, but they will be subject to a 2.9 percent processing fee charge in addition to a 30 cent donation, Amazon spokeswoman Kerry Hall told The Washington Post.
Candidates must also be defined by the Federal Election Commission as “principal campaign committees” and “have a U.S.-based street address, a U.S.-based bank account, a credit card associated with a U.S. street address and a U.S. based phone number” in order to be permitted to use the feature.
Amazon’s latest innovation to its voice-controlled assistant is ripe for legal conflict, as the company will not report directly to the Federal Trade commission.
To prevent “unintended donations,” Amazon recommends its users set up a 4-digit pass code to confirm their purchases and recommends turning off voice purchases altogether.
However, the company currently has no mechanism to screen whether the campaign contributions are legal or whether the donations are being made by foreigners in violation of U.S. campaign finance law.
While Amazon will provide the donors’ name, email address and physical address to campaigns, it does not publicly disclose donor information. Nor has the tech giant stipulated policies to assure individuals using a shared Amazon account to make donations with another person’s credit card linked to the account.
Despite the legal concerns presented by Bezo’s latest venture, the FEC is currently unable to offer official guidance until the White House acts to restore the agency’s quorum. The commission lost its voting quorum after its vice chairman, Matthew Peterson, resigned last month and President Trump has not yet announced a nominee for a new commissioner.
Amazon claims it is gearing up to provide users with “the most relevant, accurate and timely information about elections and candidates.”
“We federate across hundreds of information sources and we collaborate with nonpartisan organizations to provide customers with information on polls, ballots, results and more,” the company website states, assuring “Alexa herself does not have opinions on politics or candidates.”
“If you’re looking to get a refresher on how the election process works, an update about who’s in the running and who’s not, the timing for the next debate, or simply learn more about a candidate’s stance on a particular issue—just ask Alexa,” the announcement reads.
Yet, the company’s CEO Jeff Bezos, who bought The Washington Post for $250 million in 2013, is a longtime critic of President Trump and has made it clear he holds a vendetta against the president.
Bezos has warned Trump is “dangerous” for his criticism of the liberal media and claimed his criticism of reporters is an affront to an “essential component of our democracy, describing the president’s rhetoric as “dangerous.”
“What the president should say is, ‘This is right. This is good. I am glad I am getting scrutinized,’” he exclaimed in 2018. “But it’s really dangerous to demonize the media. It’s dangerous to call the media lowlifes. It’s dangerous to say they’re the ‘enemy of the people.’”
Bezos has pledged The Washington Post’s reporting on the Trump administration is fair and balanced amid the publication’s battle with the New York Times for the title of ‘The Resistance’s’ official newspaper.
President Trump has frequently slammed the Post for disseminating fake news and has railed against Amazon for evading taxes.
Amazon came under fire earlier this year after an investigation by Bloomberg news uncovered Amazon violated its users’ privacy by allowing thousands of workers to listen to voice recordings captured by Alexa and the company’s Echo “smart” speaker devices in people’s homes.
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