According to Business Insider, two US Senators have written to Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, asking him how the company decided which products get “Amazon’s Choice” recommendation. The letter could be seen as an effort to understand how big tech companies influence people and impacts competition in the industry.
Understanding influence in the industry
Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote a letter to Bezos asking if the “Amazon’s Choice” tag is making people buy inferior products. They cited the case of an infant thermometer that was recommended by the online retailer but had disappointing reviews.
In the letter, the senators wrote, Amazon bears the responsibility of providing its customers with accurate information to ensure they can make informed purchasing decisions. Unfortunately, Amazon has failed to fulfill this responsibility with the use of the “Amazon’s Choice” badge. We are concerned the badge is assigned in an arbitrary manner, or worse, based on fraudulent product reviews.”
The senators also asked if the company used an algorithm to decide which products get the badge or if employees are allowed to review the products personally. They also want to know what Amazon has done recently to tackle the problem of fake product reviews.
What does Amazon suggest?
While Bezos has not officially responded to the senators’ letter, an Amazon spokesperson provided a detailed comment on how the company used automation tools to remove fake comments at scale. The spokesperson said that the company is investing significant resources in preserving the integrity of product reviews and has strict guidelines on the same.
The spokesperson that a team of investigators, as well as automated technology, is being used to tackle this issue. 90% of the fake reviews on the website are machine-generated, which the retailer monitors them 24×7 to detect issues. Machine learning technology is used to block or remove such reviews. The company, according to the spokesperson, is working hard to better the shopping experience of the customers as well as their selling partners.
Though the letter is concerned with Amazon, it signals the rising scrutiny and suspicion on big tech companies, especially in terms of anti-competitive practices. Lawmakers now want to assess how these companies influence their markets. The Department of Justice also launched a broad probe into market-leading companies in the online space, including those engaged in the search, e-commerce, and social media. The DoJ didn’t specify the names of the companies, but Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon may have come under scrutiny.