Is Amazon Responsible for Publishing ‘Fake News’?

Is a bookstore responsible for the words written in the books it sells? What if that bookstore lists tens of millions of different titles? Can it possibly read and verify all of that? Well, clearly no. But what about when someone else spots a major, dangerous problem, and points it out? Should the bookstore pull that book from its shelves? BEH co-editor Chris MacDonald is quoted in the item below.

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LINK: Amazon is grappling with the same problem that plagues Facebook: Fake news (by Meera Jagannathan for MarketWatch)

…Amazon’s learning about and removing individual books that promote false and dangerous messages is one thing, but expecting the company to be a general arbiter of accuracy is quite another, said Chris MacDonald, an associate professor of ethics at Ryerson University in Toronto.

“While there’s clearly an obligation for companies to respond in cases where there’s a specific risk to public health or the health of individuals, it’s much harder to claim that they have a general obligation to ensure the truth of every word in every book they sell,” MacDonald told MarketWatch.

For starters, lots of science-related content is likely to fall on the borderline, MacDonald said. And there’s no guarantee Amazon would have the scientific capacity to evaluate such content in controversial areas, he said, nor that the company would use that wisdom to discern between “something that’s plainly false versus something that is a minority view scientifically, but still interesting and worthy of being published.”

“I get it’s maddening, as someone who teaches critical thinking in addition to ethics, to see them selling outright rubbish,” he said. “But I do worry about giving them the power to decide what shouldn’t be sold.”….

What do you think?


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