In separate letters, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) shared concerns with Amazon CEO Andy Jassy for what both lawmakers refer to as “unacceptable” business practices with regard to the promotion and sale of materials that advance COVID-19 misinformation.
Referring to a University of Washington research paper that found more than 10% of vaccine-related search queries on Amazon.com lead to products that misinform, Rep. Schiff requested “detailed information on Amazon’s policies regarding false or misleading health information in order to identify potential needs for federal regulation.”
Senator Warren directed her staff to do their own research on Amazon.
“During the week of August 22, 2021,” Senator Warren writes, “my staff conducted sample searches on Amazon.com of pandemic-related terms such as ‘COVID-19,’ ‘COVID,’ ‘vaccine,’ ‘COVID 19 vaccine,’ and ‘pandemic.’ The top results consistently included highly-ranked and favorably-tagged books based on falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and cures.” She notes that among the top results was a book coauthored by Joseph Mercola, which The New York Times recently named “The Most Influential Spreader of Coronavirus Misinformation Online.”2021.9.7-Letter-to-Amazon-on-COVID-Misinformation
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.