0917 GMT September 24, 2021
Searching for COVID-19 on the site gives the top result as Joseph Mercola and Ronnie Cummins’s ‘The Truth About COVID-19,’ a title that claims to reveal how the “effectiveness of the vaccines has been wildly exaggerated”, how the virus was lab-engineered in Wuhan, and how “safe, simple, and inexpensive treatment and prevention for COVID-19 have been censored and suppressed to create a clear path for vaccine acceptance,” the Guardian reported.
Warren has written to Amazon’s chief executive Andy Jassy over her concerns that the online retailer’s search algorithms “appear to contribute to the spread of COVID-19 misinformation”. The Massachusetts senator pointed to research from her staff, which found that searches on pandemic-related topics “consistently included highly ranked and favorably tagged books based on falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and cures”.
Other titles appearing high in Amazon.com’s search results include ‘Reversing the Side Effects of the COVID-19 Vaccine,’ and ‘Heal COVID-19 on Your Own,’ said Warren. “Collectively, this is an astonishing sample of misinformation,” said the senator, describing it as “deeply troubling” that Amazon is “potentially leading countless Americans to risk their health and the health of their neighbors based on misleading and inaccurate information that they discover on Amazon’s website”.
She called on the retailer to perform an immediate review of its algorithms, to report publicly on the extent to which it is directing consumers to books containing misinformation, and to lay out a plan to modify its algorithms so that they no longer do so.
Warren was joined in her attack by Adam Schiff, a California congressman, who wrote to Jassy about his concerns that as long as anti-vaccine products remain on the site, “Amazon is directly profiting from the sensationalism of anti-vaccine misinformation, while these conspiracy theories continue to directly contribute to COVID-19 deaths”.
Schiff called on Amazon to lay out the steps it is taking to ensure its recommendations are not used to promote misleading health information.
In a statement, Amazon told NPR that “we are constantly evaluating the books we list to ensure they comply with our content guidelines, and as an additional service to customers, at the top of relevant search results pages we link to the CDC advice on COVID and protection measures.”