Amazon’s Dissemination of Conspiracy Theories and Extremist Literature

The  Institute for Strategic Dialogue has released Recommended Reading: Amazon’s Algorithms, Conspiracy Theories and Extremist Literature, a report examining how Amazon’s algorithm can spread disinformation and extremist ideology via literature recommendations. Aside from continuously suggesting more literature based on previously read extremist or misleading content, Amazon also outright suggests such content based on key search terms. In addition to this, Amazon allows for paid advertisements which can also lead to content with potentially negative influences. Not only can this serve to reinforce harmful ideology, but it can also allow for the spread of conspiracies previously unknown to the consumer.

Some of the suggestions the report makes to combat these issues include turning off recommendations for this kind of content and “moderating search auto-complete suggestions.” Amazon has outright removed some extremist content from it’s platform, however fully banning any content is difficult as fears over book banning and censorship are well-spread. While the report notes these changes as helpful in combatting the spread of conspiracies and disinformation, it is also emphasized that more research is needed to “understand the role which Amazon and other online retailers play in the conspiracy theory, disinformation and far-right information ecosystems.”

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to the issue of  Disinformation, as well as more resources on Hate CrimesDomestic (U.S.) Terrorism, and Global Terrorism. Visit the Featured Topics for more on information. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources. 

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Author: Victoria Vanderzielfultz

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