NEW: Amazon placed items from its house brands and exclusives ahead of competitors with better customer ratings and more sales, @adrjeffries and @leonyin found after examining the results of nearly 3,500 popular product searches.…
Take Amazon’s Happy Belly Cinnamon Crunch cereal, for example.

It had four stars and 1,010 reviews, but Amazon gave it the number one search result spot, ahead of Cap’n Crunch, which had five stars and 14,069 reviews.
We found that knowing only whether a product was an Amazon brand or exclusive could predict in seven out of 10 cases whether the company would rank the item first in search results.

You read that right. Seven out of 10.
When we looked at products’ star ratings and number of reviews, neither could predict much better than a coin toss which product Amazon placed first in search results.
This isn’t what shoppers expect. We commissioned a national survey and only 17% of respondents assumed Amazon put its own products first.
An Amazon spokesperson said the company doesn’t favor its brands in search results and declined to answer any of the dozens of specific questions we posed.
We were unable to find a public database of Amazon brands and exclusives, so we built our own.

We ultimately identified more than 150 Amazon house brands and 137,000 unique house brand and exclusive products.

Even then, we know this list isn’t complete.
Amazon’s inconsistent labeling leaves consumers in the dark.

We commissioned a national survey and found that nine in 10 respondents didn’t know that Amazon’s highest-selling house brands, apart from Amazon Basics, were owned by the company. Screenshot of a chart that reads "Which, if any, of the
Amazon told us it identifies merchandise from its brands by adding the words “Amazon brand” to the title or to a list of details on the product page.

We only found this to be the case in 23% of Amazon brand products in our sample.
We also found that in 87% of cases, Amazon brands and exclusives listed first said “sponsored” in the source code.

Amazon publicly labeled the products “featured from our brands,” not “sponsored.”

The company told us these weren’t ads but “merchandising.” Screenshot of a browser inspecting source code of an Amazon
A former associate director at the Federal Trade Commission said that what Amazon is calling “merchandising” are advertisements. Quote graphics that reads "Amazon's placement of its ow
By giving its brands and exclusives top billing, Amazon is also giving itself a significant leg up in sales.

The first three items on the search results page get 64% of clicks, according to one ex-Amazon employee-turned-consultant.…
Smaller sellers have felt the impact.

One, Robert Gomez, told us he spent months working to rank well in search results, but when Amazon introduced competitor products, those “ranked well right away.” Portrait of a man wearing a white collared shirt. He has shoQuote graphic that reads "Their search ranking is high
At The Markup we show our work. Dig into how we came to these conclusions in our methodology.…
Then read the full investigation from @adrjeffries and @leonyin here.…

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More from @themarkup

27 Aug
In 2019, Crystal Marie and Eskias McDaniels were set to close on their dream home in Charlotte, N.C.

They were excellent applicants: good jobs, plenty of savings, and great credit.

Then, their mortgage application was denied.…
The reason? Crystal Marie was a contractor, not a full-time employee—even though her boss told the lender she wasn’t at risk of losing her job.

Her co-workers, also contractors, had mortgages. They are White. She is Black.
Crystal Marie’s lender, loanDepot, denied that race had anything to do with the decision. Screenshot of article that reads: "The company’s vice
Read 7 tweets
25 Aug
We found racial disparities in home loan denial rates throughout the mortgage industry.

But among large lenders, those owned by our nation’s largest home builders had some of the widest gaps, report @MalenaCarollo and @eh_mah_nwel. Thread. 🧵…
Have you heard of D.R. Horton, Lennar Corporation, or PulteGroup Inc.? These are our nation’s largest home builders.

They have some things in common beyond new construction: owning mortgage companies that denied applicants of color at higher rates than their White counterparts.
Let’s start with the widest disparity: DHI Mortgage, which finances homes built by parent company D.R. Horton, the nation’s largest home builder.

It was 160% more likely to deny Black applicants and 100% more likely to deny Latinos than similar White applicants.
Read 7 tweets
25 Aug
#NEW: Lenders are more likely to deny home loans to people of color than White people with similar financial backgrounds.

Black people were 80% more likely to be denied, @eh_mah_nwel and @lkirchner reveal in their latest investigation.…
Nationally, our analysis found, the mortgage industry was 40% to 80% more likely in 2019 to deny home loans to people of color than to White people with similar financial characteristics. Applicants of color denied ...
We also found significant disparities in 89 metropolitan areas, spanning every region of the country, from Boston, Mass., to Riverside, Calif. Map of the US that has two ...
Read 15 tweets
12 Feb
🧵 Our #Blacklight project was created because we wanted to give our readers a sense of agency about their relationship to technology.
Our tool is a real-time privacy inspector that visits user-requested websites, scans for known types of privacy violations, and returns an instant privacy analysis of the inspected site.
Today, #Blacklight scanned its one-millionth website, a milestone for us personally and for you, our readers.
Read 14 tweets
30 Nov 20
🧵 We think that the Van Buren v. United States case before the Supreme Court today is a threat to data journalism. So much so that we filed an amicus brief. This is why:
The case deals with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and its definition of "exceeds authorized access" in relation to one’s intentionally accessing a computer system they have authorization to access.
Van Buren was a police officer arrested by the FBI and convicted of computer fraud in Georgia after he used his access to work databases for personal financial gain.
Read 17 tweets
8 Oct 20
1/ The House Judiciary Committee released a report Tuesday urging the breakup of Big Tech. It caps a 16-month investigation. A short thread with some context from our previous reporting, including one of our investigations cited in the report.
2/ In July, the heads of Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook testified before the committee together for the first time. Lawmakers grilled the CEOs, alleging the companies have abused their monopoly power.…
3/ A day before the hearing, we published a months-long investigation into Google Search. @leonyin and @adrjeffries found Google gave 41 percent of the first page of search results to the company’s own properties and products—a lot of it at the top.…
Read 7 tweets

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