Senators Calling Out Amazon on Product Recommendations

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U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, and Bob Menendez, D-NJ, wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos questioning how Amazon chooses which products to put on its “Amazon’s Choice” recommendation list.

The senators expressed concerns about whether the badge is motivating consumers to purchase inferior products.

“Amazon bears the responsibility of providing its customers with accurate information to ensure they can be informed purchasing decisions,” Blumenthal and Menendez said in the letter. “Unfortunately, Amazon has failed to fulfill this responsibility with its use of ‘Amazon’s Choice’ badge.  We are concerned the badge is assigned in an arbitrary manner, or worse based on fraudulent product reviews.”

Both senators provided a list of questions about Amazon’s methodology in choosing an “Amazon Choice” badge. Some of the questions centered on whether Amazon uses an algorithm to make a decision, whether employees choose the products personally and review them and what steps are being taken to remove phony product reviews.

Amazon told Business Insider in a statement that it uses investigators and automated technology to prevent and detect fake reviews:

“Amazon invests significant resources to protect the integrity of reviews in our store because we know customers value the insights and experiences share by fellow shoppers.”  “Even one inauthentic review is one too many. We have clear participation guidelines for both reviewers and selling partners and we suspend, ban, and take legal action on those who violate our policies.

We use a combination of teams of investigators and automated technology to prevent and detect inauthentic reviews at scale, and to take action against the bad actors behind the abuse. We estimate that 90% of inauthentic reviews are computer generated and we use machine learning technology to analyze all incoming and existing reviews 24/7 and block or remove inauthentic reviews.  Our team investigates suspect reviews, works with social media sites to stop inauthentic reviews at the source, pursues legal action to stop offenders from planning reviews abuse, and feeds news information into our automated systems so it continues to improve and become more effective in catching abuse. We work hard to enrich the shopping experience for our customers and selling partners with authentic reviews written by real customers. Customers can help by reporting any requests they get to manipulate reviews to customer service.”

This comes just after Amazon, Facebook and Google have come under fire over the influence the three platforms have over the public. Less than a month ago, the Department of Justice announced a probe into market-leading online companies in the search, social media and ecommerce spaces.

According to Business Insider, U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline, D-RI, chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee, questioned Amazon associate general counsel Nate Sutton over whether Amazon uses data it gathers about third-party sellers to inform its own product strategy.

Business Insider reported that while Bezos hasn’t directly addressed whether tech firms like his have grown too powerful, he did position Amazon as a “small player” in retail highlighting the success small and medium-sized businesses have experienced on the platform.




One response to “Senators Calling Out Amazon on Product Recommendations

  1. “We estimate that 90% of inauthentic reviews are computer generated” What a load of garbage corporate spin.
    I am a top 500 reviewer and I am offered free stuff, and even paid opportunities to review, every single day. Many of their so-called top reviewers review 10 to 20 products a day. No one buys 10 to 20 products a day.
    Amazon reviews are largely a scam. Buyer beware. Look for people who don’t review all the time., but ignore reviews from people who have less than a handful. Look for negative reviews, but be aware that even negative reviews can be hacked.

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