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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For the last 2 years, Amazon has largely been a subplot in the global backlash against Big Tech, with much of the scrutiny on Facebook, Uber and Google — until now.

Why it matters: Amazon is one of the richest companies in history, and for decades, no amount of bad news has stuck to it. Now, an onslaught of regulatory investigations and critical coverage is putting the behemoth on the defensive.

The latest: Federal investigators are conducting an antitrust probe into Amazon, along with Google, Apple and Facebook — and small sellers who operate on the e-commerce giant's platform are lining up to speak to the Feds, says Chris McCabe, a former Amazon employee who now consults for brands.

  • "Sellers haven’t really had an outlet like the FTC before to approach with these concerns and complaints," he says.

And in just the last 4 weeks ...

  • An investigation by the Wall Street Journal uncovered over 4,000 items on Amazon's site that have been deemed unsafe by federal agencies. Amazon said it continually reviews the productson its site to make sure they are safe and comply with federal regulations.
  • The Journal also reported that Amazon changed its search algorithm to promote its own products.
  • A number of stories have shed light on the stressful, low-paying and physically taxing jobs inside Amazon's many warehouses. The company has started paying warehouse workers to tweet positive things, and it's leading members of Congress on tours around its facilities to rehabilitate its image.
  • The company grabbed headlines when it cut Prime free delivery to just one day, but that dizzying pace has implications for Amazon's contracted drivers and for the environment. Drivers have struck and injured or killed people while speeding to deliver packages on time, BuzzFeed reported. The investigation prompted 3 senators to urge CEO Jeff Bezos to keep a closer eye on Amazon's contractors.
    • An Amazon spokesperson told Axios, "Safety is and will remain Amazon’s top priority as evidenced by the vast percentage of deliveries that arrive on time and without incident."
  • Amazon is getting into trouble with publishers and brands. The company broke an embargo on Margaret Atwood's new novel due to a logistical error, then apologized. Birkenstock quit selling shoes on the platform after counterfeits surged.
  • And it's upsetting some customers. Hijacked product reviews on the site are tricking shoppers, per Consumer Reports. "We have guardrails in place to prevent products from being incorrectly grouped, either due to human error or abuse," a company spokesperson said.

The big picture: Amazon touches everything from retail to robotics to movie-making, but "the larger the company is and the more industries it's in, the more opportunities there are to screw up," says Ryan Hamilton, a professor at Emory University.

But, but, but: Amazon is resilient.

  • "Leaving Amazon requires a lot of sacrifice," Hamilton says. "To cancel Amazon Prime? That's a lifestyle change. You need to be really worked up to do that, and some people are. But most are like, 'Meh.'"

Go deeper

21 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans’ secret lobbying

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The five Senate Republicans who helped negotiate and draft the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill have been privately courting their Republican colleagues to pass the measure in the House.

Why it matters: House GOP leaders are actively urging their members to oppose the bill. The senators are working to undercut that effort as Monday shapes up as a do-or-die moment for the bipartisan bill.

CBC members nix border visit

A Haitian migrant carries a toddler on his shoulders today as he crosses the Rio Grande River. Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus weighed visiting the U.S.-Mexico border this week to investigate the conditions faced by Haitian migrants and protest allegations of inhumane treatment by U.S. agents.

Why it matters: It's a thorny proposition both in terms of timing and messaging. Going assures a new wave of negative headlines for President Biden amid sinking popularity. And with congressional deadlines in the coming days over infrastructure, a possible government shutdown and debt-limit crisis, Democrats can't afford to lose any votes in the House.

Jan. 6 select committee subpoenas four Trump aides

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Jan 6. select committee investigating the deadly Capitol riot has subpoenaed four aides to former President Trump for testimony and documents.

Why it matters: Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former communications official Dan Scavino, former Defense Department official Kash Patel, and former Trump advisor Steve Bannon were all in touch "with the White House on or in the days leading up to the January 6th insurrection," the committee said in a release.