In this file:
· Amazon gets an edge with its secret squad of PhD economists
... Amazon is upending the traditional role of economists within companies, as well as the field of economics...
· Amazon reportedly nixes its price parity requirement for third-party sellers in the US
· Amazon removes books promoting autism cures and vaccine misinformation
Amazon gets an edge with its secret squad of PhD economists
By Lydia DePillis, CNN Business
March 13, 2019
Estimating inflation is a tricky and complex task. In the United States, the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics sends testers to stores to record the price of everything from cheese to tires, and surveys consumers over the phone about what they spent on gas and funeral services.
Amazon thinks it could do it better.
With help from outside researchers, the company's economists are working on a way to measure inflation using thousands of transactions across its own platform. Automatically analyzing product descriptions allows them to better assess the quality of a dress or a juicer or a bathmat, theoretically creating a more accurate, up-to-date index of how much things cost.
That's just one way Amazon is using the squad of economists it has recruited in recent years. The company has turned so many businesses, from retailing to cloud computing, inside out. Now Amazon is upending the traditional role of economists within companies, as well as the field of economics.
Amazon is now a large draw from the relatively small talent pool of PhD economists, which in the United States grows by about only 1,000 new graduates every year. Although the definition of "economist" is fuzzy, the discipline is generally understood as the study of how people use resources and respond to incentives.
In the past few years, Amazon has hired more than 150 PhD economists, making it probably the largest employer in the field behind institutions like the Federal Reserve, which has hundreds of economists on staff. It was the only company with a recruiting booth at the American Economics Association's annual conference in January, handing out free pens and logoed stress balls.
Unlike economists in academia or government, the work of Amazon's economists is almost entirely secret, and staff are required to sign non-disclosure agreements to keep it that way. But according to background interviews and Amazon itself, integrating economists has been critical to the company's mounting dominance in e-commerce.
Amazon's economists game out real estate decisions, set the lowest prices that will deliver a profit, precisely determine what customers care about and whether advertisements are working — all using machine-learning algorithms that automate decisionmaking on a massive scale. It's the kind of asset that smaller companies can't always pay for, allowing Amazon to pull further and further away from the competition...
Amazon reportedly nixes its price parity requirement for third-party sellers in the US
Catherine Shu, TechCrunch
Mar 11, 2019
Amazon will stop forbidding third-party merchants who list on its e-commerce platform in the United States from selling the same products on other sites for lower prices, reports Axios.
The company’s decision to end its price parity provision comes three months after Sen. Richard Blumenthal urged the Department of Justice to open an antitrust investigation into Amazon’s policies and a few days after Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced she would make breaking up Amazon, Google and Facebook a big part of her campaign platform.
Also called “most favored nation” (MFN) requirements, Amazon’s price parity provisions gave it a competitive edge, but because of its size, also led to concerns about its impact on competition and fair pricing for consumers. Amazon stopped requiring price parity of its European Union sellers in 2013 after it was the subject of investigations by the United Kingdom’s Office of Fair Trading and Germany’s Federal Cartel Office.
In a statement, Blumenthal said Amazon’s “wise and welcome decision comes only after aggressive advocacy and attention that compelled Amazon to abandon its abusive contract clause.” He added that...
more, including links
Amazon removes books promoting autism cures and vaccine misinformation
The titles suggested pseudoscientific methods such as ingesting and bathing in a potentially toxic form of bleach and taking medication meant to treat arsenic and lead poisoning.
By Brandy Zadrozny, NBC News
March 12, 2019
Amazon is removing from its online marketplace “autism cure” books that unscientifically claim children can be cured of autism with pseudoscientific methods such as ingesting and bathing in a potentially toxic form of bleach and taking medication meant to treat arsenic and lead poisoning.
Amazon confirmed Tuesday that the books “Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism” and “Fight Autism and Win” are no longer available, but declined to answer specific questions about why it had removed them or whether they were part of a larger cleanup effort, citing a policy of not commenting on individual accounts.
The move by Amazon comes on the heels of a report in Wired published Monday that criticized the retail giant for offering medically dubious books and dangerous methods for reversing autism spectrum disorder. For years, news organizations have pointed out Amazon’s practice of hosting books that promote vaccine and other health-related misinformation, but the pressure has intensified in recent weeks.
Online platforms have been reacting to increased scrutiny from lawmakers and public health advocates over the health misinformation hosted on their websites. Last week, Facebook announced it would “downrank” vaccine misinformation shared on its platform and reject advertising that spread “vaccine hoaxes.” Pinterest has opted to block all vaccine-related search results, and YouTube disabled advertising on anti-vaccination videos last month. In February, Amazon pulled anti-vaccination documentaries from its Prime Video service...