features items used in making bombs, review ordered

Cornelia Mascio
Settembre 21, 2017

A British TV station said Amazon's website was prompting customers to buy all the ingredients to make a bomb.

Though the "frequently bought together" items on Amazon aren't illegal on their own, the Channel 4 News report noted that there have been successful prosecutions in the United Kingdom against people who buy chemicals that can be combined to make a bomb.

Channel 4 dug deeper after noticing the algorithm's suggestions - black powder (gunpowder) and thermite together - and the broadcaster easily tossed 45 kilograms of black powder into a basket despite United Kingdom laws that place restrictions on any private citizen purchasing more than 100 grams of the stuff in one sitting.

Pictures on social media after the attack showed what appeared to be a device contained in a white plastic bucket. Algorithms, of course, have come under fire recently regarding online ad-buying tools (including those of Facebook, Google, and Twitter) that allow anyone to target racists and anti-Semites, and Amazon's apparent algorithm oopsie is a big one.

The U.K.'s Channel 4 News on Monday reported that Amazon's "frequently bought together" algorithm revealed to shoppers ingredients used to assemble explosives, such as ball bearings, remote detonators and chemicals to make black powder.

Bought on their own, the items are not illegal, but there are examples of British government charging people with possession of explosive material in the past.

Taking a cue from the news report, the Amazon has ordered internal probe in the matter and assured that all products selling on the website "must adhere to our selling guidelines and comply with United Kingdom laws".

"In light of recent events, we are reviewing our website to ensure that all these products are presented in an appropriate manner", the statement added.

Amazon told Channel 4 that all products adhere to legal guidelines, and that the company works closely with law enforcement agencies if they need assistance.

Amazon has declined to comment further on the issue.

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