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Report: Amazon’s Algorithm Highlights Its Own Products, Lending Credibility To Elizabeth Warren’s Concerns Of Anticompetitive Behavior

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  • Amazon changed its algorithm to highlight its own products late last year without publicizing the move, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
  • The report lends credibility to 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s concerns that big tech companies like Amazon partake in anticompetitive behavior.
  • Amazon has previously argued against accusations that it promotes its own products, saying in July that the company’s “algorithms are optimized to predict what customers want to buy regardless of the seller.”

Amazon quietly changed its algorithm to highlight products that are more profitable to the company, including Amazon-brand products, late in 2018, according to a Tuesday Wall Street Journal report.

The algorithm change, which was never published by the company, lends credibility to 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren‘s concerns that companies like Amazon partake in anticompetitive behavior.

The game is up,” Warren tweeted Tuesday in response to the report regarding Amazon’s algorithms. “Amazon pretends to be a neutral marketplace platform, but it bulldozes competition by juicing the search results for its own products. Reports say even Amazon’s own lawyers identify this as an antitrust problem. The [Federal Trade Commission] must take action.”

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Internal Amazon employees disputed the company’s latest algorithm, WSJ’s article noted, and Amazon lawyers initially rejected the algorithm proposal, saying it could create concern for regulators over allegations of monopolistic practices by Amazon.

“This was definitely not a popular project,” one lawyer said, according to WSJ. “The search engine should look for relevant items, not for more profitable items.”

Amazon’s retail business eventually won the argument against the company’s search team. Now, Amazon private-label goods make frequent appearances on the first page of a product search, where most shoppers are likely to make purchases.

Warren’s presidential campaign has focused largely on policy to break up big take and promote more competitive markets.

“Today’s big tech companies have … bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else,” Warren wrote in a March Medium post. “And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.”

“That’s why my administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition — including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google,” the Massachusetts senator added.

She also wrote in an April Twitter post highlighting a clip from a CNN town hall segment, “Giant tech companies have too much power. My plan to #BreakUpBigTech prevents corporations like Amazon from knocking out the rest of the competition. You can be an umpire, or you can be a player — but you can’t be both.”

WATCH:

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Amazon responded to the tweet and town hall clip in another Twitter post, saying, “We don’t use individual sellers’ data to launch private label products (which account for only about 1% of sales). And sellers aren’t being ‘knocked out’ — they’re seeing record sales every year. Also, Walmart is much larger; Amazon is less than 4% of U.S. retail.”

Amazon Associate General Counsel Nate Sutton said during a July House antitrust hearing that accusations of the company promoting its own products on customers are “not true.”

He added the company’s “algorithms are optimized to predict what customers want to buy regardless of the seller.”

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigators are interviewing small businesses to see whether Amazon has affected their revenue in what could be another big tech antitrust probe, Bloomberg Technology reported on Sept. 11.

The interviews suggest the tech giant could be facing an FTC probe into whether it is stifling market competition for small businesses that sell products on its website.

Amazon did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected]


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Audrey Conklin

The Daily Caller was founded in 2010 by Tucker Carlson, a 20-year veteran journalist, and Neil Patel, former chief policy advisor to Vice President Cheney, The Daily Caller is one of America’s largest and fastest-growing news publications. Our team of experienced, full-time reporters and editors works around the clock to deliver award-winning original reporting, in-depth investigations, entertainment, thought-provoking commentary and up-to-the-second breaking news. Visit https://dailycaller.com

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