Amazon on Tuesday decided to take down promotional ads it had erected covering New York City subway cars in Nazi and Imperial Japanese insignia, according to a transport official, after the ad campaign prompted criticism on social media.
“Amazon has just decided to pull the ads,” Kevin Ortiz, a spokesperson for the city’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Amazon for comment.
On Monday, people took to Twitter to point out that the MTA’s 42nd Street shuttle was covered in Nazi and Imperial Japan insignia to promote The Man in the High Castle.
The show is based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name and imagines a future in which the Axis Powers won World War II.
Trains that run from Grand Central to Times Square were covered with 260 posters made to look like American flags influenced by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japanese designs.
The ads do not contain any swastikas. Instead, the posters include the Nazi Reichsadler eagle with what looks like a cross emblem in a wreath. Amazon’s ad campaign was due to run until Dec. 14.
In April, the MTA announced new rules that prohibit political advertisements on the subway in response to a federal judge’s ruling that the agency must run an ad from a pro-Israel group.
The policy allows the MTA to avoid being obligated to run ads that might be considered hate speech but could be defended on First Amendment grounds.
The MTA said in April the new rules were meant to maintain “a safe and welcoming environment for all MTA employees and customers.”
The MTA’s Ortiz told BuzzFeed News on Monday that the Amazon campaign met the revised standards.
“The ads do not violate our content-neutral ad standards,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz said the agency does not disclose how much it is paid for individual campaigns. The MTA makes as much as $130 million annually in advertising revenue, New York’s PIX 11 reported.
A spokesperson for the New York branch of the Anti-Defamation League, an NGO that monitors anti-Semitism, called the ads exploitative and insensitive.
“Our concern is that the Nazi imagery that is being used as part of this ad campaign comes without any context,” Evan Bernstein said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “On the train, seeing the American flag paired with a Nazi symbol is viscerally offensive, because there is no context as to what it means. The fact that the flag is spread across the seats only compounds the effect.”
The MTA reportedly rejected ads in October made by Thinx, which sells menstruation underwear, that were deemed too racy for the subway. The ads were later approved after a major pushback from people on social media.
Many people online compared the two situations, asking how the period-related ads could be deemed unacceptable, while Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan symbolism is allowed.