Anti-vax book No. 1 COVID-19 search result on Amazon, lawmakers warn

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Amazon has been accused of allowing lax misinformation policies to promote fake COVID-19 cures, such as anti-parasite drug ivermectin, and push anti-vaccination rhetoric, according to a Sept. 9 NPR report.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sent letters to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy asking the tech company what policies it has in place and what it is going to do to curb the spread of misinformation.

Six things to know:

  1. "Amazon is directly profiting from the sensationalism of anti-vaccine misinformation, while these conspiracy theories continue to directly contribute to COVID-19 deaths," Mr. Schiff said in a letter to Mr. Jassy.

  2. Ms. Warren accused Amazon of being "unwilling or unable" to adjust its algorithm to prevent further spreading COVID-19 misinformation, NPR reported.

  3. Ms. Warren said that when her staff searched for "COVID-19" and "vaccine" the top result was a book by Joseph Mercola, MD, who has been criticized for promoting conspiracy theories about the vaccine. When Becker's conducted a search for "COVID-19" on Sept. 10, Dr. Mercola's book was still promoted as a top result and best seller.

  4. Amazon has come under fire for its algorithm promoting ivermectin, with one review linking to a coronavirus misinformation website, CNBC reported.

  5. After searching for the term "iv" on Amazon, CNBC found that the website's auto-complete function suggests a range of ivermectin products, including "ivermectin pills," "ivermectin paste," and "ivermectin injectable." The search results indicate that enough people have been searching for "ivermectin" that Amazon's search algorithm was automatically trained to push it to the top of suggested results, according to the report.

  6. An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC in a statement that "Amazon's autocomplete responses are driven by customer activity. We are blocking certain autocomplete responses to address these concerns." 

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