There’s a lot to dislike about Amazon. It’s a trillion-dollar albatross that’s put countless small businesses under, and its anti-union practices are notorious. The company is facing criticism for donating over $40,000 to anti-vaccination groups in 2020. There is an explanation.
What Is AmazonSmile?
Launched in 2013, AmazonSmile is another way to shop through the website. About 0.5% of all eligible purchases will be donated to the charity of your choice. The program has donated $286 million to US charities, which should tell you the sheer amount of money Amazon pulls in.
Critics haven’t endorsed AmazonSmile since its launch. Nonprofit blogs pointed out how paltry 0.5% really is, and how easy the page is to miss. Unless someone rigorously visits “smile.amazon.com,” they’d have no idea this service even existed. Still, nearly $300 million in charitable donations should be a good thing… right?
An expose by the Washington Post found that AmazonSmile has funneled $40,000 to anti-vaccination groups. Incidentally, Jeff Bezos owns the very paper that analyzed these donations. Anyway, the company donated this money to various prominent anti-vaccination groups. While $40,000 is just a tiny fraction of $60 million in 2020 donations, it makes up a sizable chunk of income for these groups.
For instance, the Guardian points out that the National Vaccine Information Center, a leading source of fear-mongering and misinformation surrounding vaccination, received about $42,000 over the last few years. In 2020, Amazon gave it $12,675, over a quarter of its revenue.
The Blame Doesn’t End There
Many are left wondering why these anti-vaccination companies are even eligible for donations on the site. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, for AmazonSmile has historically helped fund anti-LGBTQ groups.
For that matter, Amazon is the largest purveyor of anti-vaccination literature on the planet. This is a side effect of being such a monolithic bookseller, but its algorithm regularly promotes anti-science literature for searches of “vaccine” or “Covid.” This doesn’t even get into its ample supply of anti-vax shirts and shady supplements.
Researchers at the University of Washington proved Amazon’s algorithm ranks misinformation higher than useful information. It’s a lot like YouTube; one only needs to view an anti-vaccine book to be bombarded with similar products. It’s easy to see how this can drag people seeking truth into a hole.
Amazon isn’t responsible for its users selecting these charities, but it is making that possible. Time will tell if Amazon feels the need to change anything.
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