Amazon, Waterstones algorithms promote vaccine misinformation

Occurred: January 2021

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Amazon was proactively recommending a wide range of anti-vaccination, health misinformation books, apparel and other products, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Washington also found (pdf) that Amazon's recommendation algorithms made matters worse by pushing users interested in these products at even more related products. 

Follow-up research in the UK by Sky News found that Foyles and Waterstones online bookstores were also recommending a wide range of COVID-19 anti-vaccination and health conspiracy theory books to their users. 

Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter and other companies are under pressure to tackle the huge volume of online misinformation about COVID-19.

Operator: Amazon; Foyles; Waterstones

Developer: Amazon; Foyles; Watertones

Country: USA; UK; France

Sector: Retail; Health

Purpose: Recommend content
Technology: Recommendation system

Issue: Mis/disinformation; Freedom of expression - censorship
Transparency: Black box; Governance

Page info
Type: Issue
Published: January 2021
Last updated: January 2022