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Amazon’s Toxic Algorithm: EU Eyes ‘Manipulative’ Ads


EU Cracks Down on Amazon’s Dirty Secrets: New RFI Exposes the Ecommerce Giant’s Dark Underbelly

In a move that’s sending shockwaves through the tech industry, the European Commission has sent Amazon a new request for information (RFI) that’s threatening to expose the ecommerce giant’s most closely guarded secrets. The Commission is demanding answers about Amazon’s recommender systems, ad transparency provisions, and risk assessment measures – and it’s not just asking nicely.

The EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) has been a thorn in Amazon’s side since its inception, requiring the company to be more transparent about its algorithmic decision-making processes. But Amazon has been dragging its feet, and the Commission is fed up. The latest RFI is just the latest salvo in a long-running battle between the two sides.

Amazon’s Dirty Little Secrets

The Commission is asking Amazon to provide detailed information about its recommender systems, including the input factors, features, signals, information, and metadata used to determine what products users see. It’s also demanding more transparency about Amazon’s ad repository, which is supposed to be publicly available.

But that’s not all. The Commission is also seeking information about Amazon’s risk assessment report, which is supposed to identify and mitigate systemic risks on the platform. And it’s not just asking about the report itself – it’s demanding to know how Amazon developed, deployed, and tested its risk assessment process.

Amazon’s Response: A Whole Lot of Nothing

Amazon has responded to the RFI with a statement that’s as vague as it is evasive. "We are reviewing this request and working closely with the European Commission," the company said. "Amazon shares the goal of the European Commission to create a safe, predictable and trusted shopping environment. We think this is important for all participants in the retail industry, and we invest significantly in protecting our store from bad actors, illegal content, and in creating a trustworthy shopping experience."

The Stakes Are High

The stakes are high for Amazon, which could face penalties of up to 6% of its global annual turnover if it’s found to be in violation of the DSA. That’s a lot of money – especially considering Amazon’s revenue for 2023 was a whopping $574.8 billion.

The EU’s War on Algorithmic Bias

The EU’s DSA is all about cracking open the black box of algorithmic decision-making and ensuring that platforms like Amazon aren’t using their algorithms to manipulate users. The Commission is determined to hold platforms accountable for the content they recommend and the ads they display – and it’s willing to take them to court to get what it wants.

Amazon’s Next Move

Amazon has already challenged its DSA designation as a Very Large Online Platform (VLOP) and won an interim stay on one element of VLOPs’ DSA compliance. But the EU General Court overturned that decision, and Amazon is now required to comply with the full set of DSA obligations.

What’s next for Amazon? Will it continue to fight the EU’s demands, or will it finally start to open up about its algorithmic secrets? Only time will tell.



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