The American trade giant Amazon is facing new criticism for its role in spreading health misinformation after the American press reported on donations made through AmazonSmile, the charity program, to anti-vaccine groups, reports The Guardian.
According to an analysis by Popular Information and the Washington Post, AmazonSmile has donated more than $ 40,000 to major sources of vaccine misinformation in 2020. Experts call the revelations “shocking” as millions of Americans remain unvaccinated in the face of another wave of Covid -19.
“It’s really shocking,” said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “It’s amazing that Amazon supports those groups.”
The e-commerce giant’s charity program is donating 0.5% of its purchases to designated nonprofits, including at least dozens of organizations campaigning against widespread vaccination in the United States.
“Beyond money, it offers a lot of power”
Last year, Amazon donated more than $ 60 million to nonprofits. The amount for vaccine groups is small compared to the total amount, but can be significant for fundraising efforts by groups with relatively small budgets.
The company led by Jeff Bezos, one of the richest people in the world, has faced the spread of misinformation in the field of health. The donations raise questions about the role of technology companies in combating misinformation and addressing potential threats to public health.
Donations legitimize vaccine groups, Hotez said. “Beyond money, it gives a lot of power, because a strong organization like Amazon essentially supports them.”
The National Vaccine Information Center has received $ 41,533.71 over several years, according to an anonymous AmazonSmile volunteer. Last year, Amazon gave them $ 12,675, according to the Washington Post, being one of ten vaccine groups that received such funding.
Childrens Health Defense, led by famed anti-vaccine Robert F Kennedy Jr. – the grandson of former US President John F. Kennedy, received $ 10,969.
Over one million nonprofits are registered with the AmazonSmile program. The platform requires registered organizations “not to engage, support, encourage or promote illegal, fraudulent or deceptive activities”, according to the participation agreement.
In 2019, The Guardian wrote about donations to Amazon’s anti-vaccine groups, as well as its “influencer” program, which allows many followers – including leading anti-vaccine supporters – to earn commissions for the products they recommend. Amazon hosts a large number of prominent anti-vaccinators and promoters of anti-conspiracy theories, after other platforms banned them.
How to defend Amazon
“We respect that our customers want access to a wide variety of views on this issue, which is why we continue to list the books in question and include these charities in the list of organizations from which customers can choose as part of AmazonSmile.” an Amazon spokesman explained.
“Organizations that engage, support, encourage or promote intolerance, hatred, terrorism, violence, money laundering or other illegal activities are not eligible,” he said.
Anti-vax T-shirts, herbal supplements and other products are also sold on the Amazon platform. Over the summer, clients have posted reviews of ivermectin as a potential treatment for Covid, despite warnings from public health agencies that the drug used to deworm animals is not effective against coronavirus.
A simple search for the word “vaccine” on Amazon.com ranks third and sixth in the results of anti-vaccine books. In the search for “Covid”, a conspiracy theory book is the second result. Many of the books are sold by Amazon itself, not by third parties.
“There are certain segments of the population who have not received even a single dose of vaccine. Because this actually has an impact on public health, all of these platforms have an ethical responsibility to take strong steps against this vaccine misinformation, “said Tanu Mitra, a professor at the University of Washington.
Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have also been criticized for spreading misinformation and conspiracies online, but retailers – including Amazon, the world’s largest retailer – have been largely relieved of allegations of misinformation. .
Source From: Libertatea