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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

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
32 mins ago - Economy & Business

How GameStop exposed the market

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Retail traders have found a cheat code for the stock market, and barring some major action from regulatory authorities or a massive turn in their favored companies, they're going to keep using it to score "tendies" and turn Wall Street on its head.

What's happening: The share prices of companies like GameStop are rocketing higher, based largely on the social media organizing of a 3-million strong group of Redditors who are eagerly piling into companies that big hedge funds are short selling, or betting will fall in price.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

Who benefits from Biden's move to reopen ACA enrollment

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Nearly 15 million Americans who are currently uninsured are eligible for coverage on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, and more than half of them would qualify for subsidies, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation brief.

Why it matters: President Biden is expected to announce today that he'll be reopening the marketplaces for a special enrollment period from Feb. 15 to May 15, but getting a significant number of people to sign up for coverage will likely require targeted outreach.

2 hours ago - Technology

Big Tech bolts politics

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Big Tech fed politics. Then it bled politics. Now it wants to be dead to politics. 

Why it matters: The social platforms that profited massively on politics and free speech suddenly want a way out — or at least a way to hide until the heat cools.