Jieun Shin Co-Authors Article on Amazon Algorithms and Vaccine Health Misinformation
Jieun Shin, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Telecommunication assistant professor, is the co-author of “Algorithms and Health Misinformation: A Case Study of Vaccine Books on Amazon” published in Journal of Health Communication on June 14.
Shin and Thomas Valente examined how vaccine-related books appear on Amazon, focusing on search and recommendation algorithms. They found that the number of “vaccine-hesitant” books outnumbered “vaccine-supported” books by two to one, the algorithm did not systematically favor a particular type of book, and books sharing similar views of vaccines were recommended together.
According to the authors, “Platform companies argue that their algorithms are neutral with respect to content that they are displaying and recommending. Our findings suggest that pre-programmed algorithms may unintentionally channel users’ exposure into opinions that are not supported by the science and medical community. This may create the illusion for users that a misinformed minority view is accepted widely in the public. Amazon may also need to take a more proactive approach to combating misinformation. In this endeavor, it is essential to raise public awareness about algorithmic filtering and to have a thorough discussion about the role of algorithms in disseminating public health issues.”