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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new report from CNN finds that a search for "vaccine" on Amazon yields a results page dominated by anti-vaccination books and movies. Some include sponsored posts, or ads for the anti-vaccine content. CNN notes that a number of anti-vaccination movies are also available for free viewing on Amazon's streaming video service Prime Video.

Why it matters: Amazon has until now avoided the "fake news" drama that its rivals Google and Facebook have faced, in part because it's considered a hub for products, not a platform for ideas. This example underscores the fact that any platform that takes contributions from the public can be susceptible to manipulation, which can lead to the spread of misinformation.

To be clear, Amazon, like other tech companies, faces no legal responsibility to curb the spread of misinformation on their platforms in the United States.

  • Amazon's content guidelines say that it provides customers "with access to a variety of viewpoints, including books that some customers may find objectionable."
  • But anti-vaccination content, as has become evident through recent examples on YouTube, Facebook, and even Pinterest, is often held to a different standard by tech firms, because the spread of this type of misinformation can lead to real-world harm.

The big picture: For this reason, many companies are taking stronger action against false vaccine-related information than they have in other areas of dubious content. In the past month:

  • YouTube announced it will begin reducing recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways, including videos promoting anti-vaccination content.
  • Pinterest says it's currently blocking results for searches like "vaccine" or "vaccination" altogether.
  • Facebook says it is working with health experts to decide how to make anti-vaccine misinformation on its platform less visible without removing it.

The bottom line: Any platform that relies on open contributions of unvetted material, whether it be articles posted on Facebook or products sold on Amazon, will inevitably end up offering material containing fake or misleading claims.

  • Case-in-point: Even Pokemon Go, an open gaming platform, was used by Russians agents for election meddling.

Our thought bubble: This problem isn't new to Amazon, whose open platform is 10 years older than Facebook's. But attention to the problem now, in the wake of headlines about election manipulation and financially-driven fake news schemes, shows that watchdogs are more aware of the ways any platform can be abused.

Go deeper

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

8 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.