Amazon’s algorithms are promoting ‘unethical, unacceptable’ books on hoax COVID-19 cures and anti-vaccination claims, warn top Democrats

A black Amazon sign with an orange smile logo on a wall
An Amazon building. Pascal Rossignol/Reuters
  • Amazon has been marketing books that peddle anti-vaccine misinformation.
  • Now, lawmakers are probing the site’s terms and conditions regarding the peddling of falsehoods.
  • Elizabeth Warren has described the sale and promotion of this literature as “unethical” and “unacceptable.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Typing “COVID-19 vaccine” into Amazon’s search engine does not bring up just informed, helpful resources to buy to better understand the inoculations.

Rather, the third item on the list is a book with a title that describes the COVID-19 vaccine as a “weapon of mass destruction” and a “tool for world depopulation and organ degeneration.”

Books about hoax COVID-19 cures and anti-vaccination claims frequently feature as top-sellers on the giant digital retailer’s site, and US lawmakers are probing the company and investigating Amazon’s misinformation practices.

On September 7 and 8, respectively, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. Adam Schiff of California sent letters to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy asking for an explanation.

Warren describes the sale and promotion of this literature as “an unethical, unacceptable, and potentially unlawful course of action from one of the nation’s largest retailers.”

In a separate letter, Schiff states that “we cannot allow the rapid and dangerous spread of anti-vaccine marketing and misinformation to keep Americans from the valid, factual information they need to protect themselves from the virus.”

Warren’s letter details that when her staff searched the internet retailer for the terms “COVID-19” and “vaccine,” the first result was a book by Joseph Mercola and Ronnie Cummins called “The Truth About COVID-19: Exposing the Great Reset, Lockdowns, Vaccine Passports, and the New Normal.”

The sale of misleading literature is not a new phenomenon on Amazon.

In December 2020, top results on the site included the 2019 book “Anyone Who Tells You Vaccines Are Safe and Effective is Lying” by Dr.Vernon Coleman, Insider’s Grace Dean reported.

According to the description on Coleman’s book page, he “used to debate vaccination on TV and radio but won every public debate and these days vaccine supporters will no longer debate with him.”

Another prominent result was Brett Wilcox’s “Jabbed: How the Vaccine Industry, Medical Establishment, and Government Stick It to You and Your Family,” which came out in March.

According to its description on Amazon, the book reportedly proves that vaccines are “a racket run by criminals and gullible believers,” creating a “breeding ground of tyranny.”

An Amazon spokesperson told NPR that the company is “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.”

“Our shopping and discovery tools are not designed to generate results-oriented to a specific point of view,” an Amazon spokesperson told Bloomberg.