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Last Week Online #63 – Products used to commit suicide recommended by Amazon algorithm

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
2 min read

Platforms increasingly intervene in the content displayed online. But who should decide where we draw the line?

Trigger warning: Suicide

A food preservative sold by Amazon and other e-commerce sites is used as a poison to die by suicide. In July 2019, people begged Amazon to stop selling the product after relatives had used it to kill themselves. The company declined to act, and since then, suicides linked to sales of the preservative through Amazon have continued. The New York Times identified 10 people who had killed themselves using the chemical compound after buying it through the site in the past two years – many of them minors.

This week, seven members of the United States Congress have sent a letter to Andy Jassy, Amazon's president and chief executive, saying that the ease and swiftness with which vulnerable people could buy the product was a "grave concern."

While other e-commerce sites also sell the compound, Amazon is most prevalent when purchasing the product and getting it quickly delivered. Additionally, there are claims by parents and others that product reviews on Amazon warning about the danger of the substance were removed.

Many countries allow the chemical compound to be sold as a food preservative, which is regulated for that purpose. However, other e-commerce sites, such as eBay and Etsy, have restricted selling the product.

GoFundMe removed viral fundraiser campaign for Canadian trucker occupation

GoFundMe has removed a viral Canadian crowdfunding campaign protesting COVID-19 measures in Ottawa. After increasing tensions over the last weeks, the crowdfunding platform claimed that the trucker protest campaign violated its rules on violence. The vast majority of the more than $10 million raised by demonstrators will be reimbursed or redirected to charities.

GoFundMe said on Friday that the campaign was "still compliant" with its rules on vaccine misinformation and funding travel to political events that could incite violence. The company further said that it supports peaceful protest and believes this was the initial intention of the Ottawa event. But since it now has evidence from law enforcement that the demonstration "has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity," they are closing down the fundraiser.

The campaign started last January in response to the Canadian government's vaccine mandates for truck drivers crossing into the country. It quickly evolved into a global movement against what protesters describe as "authoritarian governments taking away their freedoms".

Facebook reported a decline in daily users - putting their bet on the Metaverse at risk

On Wednesday, Meta reported its first-ever quarterly decline of daily users globally. User growth across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp was essentially flat last quarter. But the main Facebook app lost 1 million daily users, to 1.929 billion daily users compared to 1.93 billion the previous quarter, in North America - its key advertising market.

Making nearly $40 billion in profit last year alone, mainly from advertising, Meta is still very profitable. But simultaneously, the company is losing billions on Reality Labs, the division responsible for its work on VR, AR and other metaverse-related initiatives.

Although Facebook's corporate rebrand to Meta is an attempt to distract investors from the problems in its core social media business, this shows it won't be enough. The decreasing amount of daily users on Facebook, together with lower-than-expected ad growth, sent the Meta stock plunging roughly 20% - instantly wiping out approximately $200 billion in market value.

A somewhat technical article worth a read:

We Found The Real Names Of Bored Ape Yacht Club's Pseudonymous Founders

Buzzfeed – A hyped NFT collection has raked in millions and the support of dozens of celebrities. But its founders' anonymity raises questions about accountability and privilege in the age of crypto.

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

Thinker and doer. Loves running, wine, and human behaviour.


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