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US: Amazon denies algorithm manipulation claims

 |  September 17, 2019

Amazon has responded to a recent story in The Wall Street Journal which claimed the eCommerce giant has changed its algorithm to benefit its profitability, pushing its own products higher in search.

“@WSJ story based on anonymous sources is wrong,” the company tweeted on Monday (Sept. 16). “We have not changed the criteria we use to rank search results to include profitability. We feature products customers want, regardless of whether they are our own brands or products offered by our selling partners.”

Earlier in the day, a WSJ report cited people related to the project who told the media outlet that Amazon “optimized the secret algorithm” in its search results to feature the products Amazon would most benefit from instead of ranking the bestsellers and most relevant items.

The first initiative to fold profitability into the algorithm was reportedly nixed by the company’s lawyers because it could cause problems with antitrust regulators. In addition, Amazon’s search team didn’t agree with the plan to build profits into search rankings because it was against the company’s fundamentals to serve the customer.

“This was definitely not a popular project,” said one source. “The search engine should look for relevant items, not for more profitable items.”

The report comes as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been put in charge of looking into Amazon for possible antitrust violations, which could be bad news for Amazon since the FTC usually provides more antitrust scrutiny that many lawmakers from both parties have been calling for.

And the U.S. isn’t the only country potentially going after Amazon. In April, the Italian Competition Authority (ICA) launched an investigation into five separate Amazon outfits to determine whether the company is taking advantage of its position as the foremost logistical and eCommerce service. The companies being investigated are Amazon Services Europe, Amazon Europe Core, Amazon EU, Amazon Italia Services and Amazon Italia Logistica.