Amazon Accused of Meddling with Search Results to Favor its Own Products!

Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently published a detailed report in which Amazon is accused of tampering with search results to favor the listings that are more profitable for the eCommerce company. This wasn’t the first time Amazon was accused of something like that as earlier this year, Bloomberg published a similar report. In that report, it was mentioned that the tech giant was weakening sales of small merchants through its site and boosting its own private-label products.

Amazon has denied these accusations and assured that the company doesn’t promote its own brands at the expense of others. According to the WSJ report, there is an ongoing internal battle between Amazon retail executives and Amazon/A9 engineers pursuing independence. The article states that executives often pressurize A9 engineers to display their products higher in the search results.

Under the First Amendment, search algorithms are constitutionally protected speech. This allows Amazon to proceed as it may consider best when ranking the results. Consequently, there will be no legal implications in case Amazon boosts its own products.

However, the e-commerce giant is currently in hot water and is dealing with various antitrust investigations. Thus, the accusations raised by WSJ will most probably attract the attention from US regulators.

Responding to the allegations, Amazon said that it tried to explain that the tip received by Wall Street Journal from different sources was factually incorrect but the story was published anyway.

The e-commerce giant said that it hasn’t made changes to the criteria used for ranking search results. It was also said that the featured products are what customers would want to have, whether they are Amazon brands or offered by the company’s selling partners. Like every store, the profitability of products listed and featured on the site is considered but it doesn’t play a major role.

If people start believing that Amazon’s algorithm is biased towards the company’s own products, they could start losing trust in it. It is predicted that Amazon’s search advertising share will grow by leaps and bounds in the next couple of years. However, these accusations could halt that growth.

There’s no doubt that the concerns raised in the WSJ article are going to lead towards thorough investigation. If proven that Amazon plays with the search results, expect some severe penalties to be slapped on the biggest e-commerce company.

The most interesting role in this scenario is that of the judicial precedent which could allow Amazon to defend its choice of legally meddling with its search results algorithm.

Read next: Apple alters App Store after antitrust concerns
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