Amazon’s Algorithm Directing Readers to Ivermectin and COVID-19 Misinformation Sites
User reviews on some Amazon listings appear to be pushing for false claims that the pest control drug ivermectin is a treatment for COVID-19, with a notice linked to a coronavirus misinformation website, CNBC reported Aug 31.
Ivermectin prescriptions had climbed to more than 88,000 per week by mid-August, from 3,600 per week on average before the pandemic, according to CDC data. The drug is most often used to treat parasitic worms in animals, but some doctors have prescribed it to treat COVID-19.
The FDA recently cautioned against using the drug, which is only approved in very specific doses for humans to treat certain parasitic worms, as well as certain topical formulations for head lice and skin conditions.
After searching for the term “iv” on Amazon, CNBC found that the website’s autocomplete feature suggests a range of ivermectin products, including “ivermectin pills”, “ivermectin paste” and “injectable ivermectin”. The research results indicate that enough people searched for “ivermectin” that Amazon’s search algorithm was automatically trained to place it at the top of suggested results, according to the report.
On an ivermectin list, one reviewer shared dosing instructions and linked to a website that promotes misinformation about COVID-19, including the false claim that ivermectin is “safe and effective” for treating COVID- 19.
An Amazon spokesperson said CNBC in a statement that “Amazon’s autocomplete responses are determined by customer activity. We are blocking certain autocomplete responses to address these concerns.”
A few hours later CNBCAfter the release of the Amazon report, Amazon added a research advisory on “Ivermectin and Humans,” which says the FDA is not recommending the use of ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19. The notice also invites users to visit the FDA website for more information and also appears in searches for “ivermectin covid”.