Following an open letter from Representative Adam Schiff calling on Jeff Bezos to curb the promotion of anti-vaccination content and videos on Amazon, it appears his website has done just that.
BuzzFeed News reported Friday that Andrew Wakefield’s Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe is among a number of anti-vaxxer titles that no longer populate in Prime Video search results for “vaccines” and are not available for streaming. (You can however still purchase hard copies, and the site’s “Frequently bought together” section still promotes related anti-vaxxer content.) BuzzFeed News noted the site may have pulled the plug on streaming anti-vaxxer videos because they violate its content policy guidelines, a question raised by Schiff’s letter on Friday:
In his letter, Schiff explicitly asked Amazon: “Does content which provides medically inaccurate information about vaccines violate your terms of service?” According to Amazon’s content policy guidelines for Prime Video, it bans “content that promotes, endorses, or incites the viewer to engage in dangerous or harmful acts.”
It’s not clear whether the content violates Amazon’s rules, and Amazon did not immediately return a request for comment about the change. But on YouTube, for example, videos that violate its ad policies by promoting “harmful or dangerous acts” do include anti-vaccination content.
That Amazon is no longer surfacing anti-vaxxer videos in its vaccine-related search results follows concerns about the site’s algorithms raised by Schiff’s letter. Schiff pointed to a recent CNN report that revealed searching for legitimate resources about vaccination on Amazon surfaced anti-vaxxer content as well, an issue he said could contribute to vaccine hesitancy.
“If a concerned parent consistently sees information in their Amazon searches or recommendations that cast doubt on the safety or efficacy of vaccines, it could cause them to disregard the advice of their children’s physicians and public health experts and decline to follow the recommended vaccination schedule,” he wrote. “Repetition of information, even if false, can often be mistaken for accuracy, and exposure to anti-vaccine content via your web service may negatively shape user attitudes towards vaccination.”
Schiff also specifically addressed the ongoing measles outbreak in Washington state, calling the situation a “dramatic demonstration of the dangers” of vaccine hesitancy and disinformation campaigns. As of Friday, Clark County Public Health reported there were 68 confirmed cases of measles in the area since the start of the year, mostly in young children. In at least 59 of those cases, the individual had not received the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
“There is strong evidence to suggest that at least part of the source of this trend is the degree to which medically inaccurate information about vaccines surface on the websites where many Americans get their information, among them Amazon,” Schiff wrote. “As the largest online marketplace in the world, Amazon is in a unique position to shape consumption.”