Recently I searched for Steve Deace’s No. 1 bestseller on Amazon. I plugged the words “Faucian Bargain” into the search field, in the category of Books.
What the search engine returned to me was many pages of other products, but Deace’s book was nowhere among them. I looked through all seven pages of results. Amazon took the words in my search bar and converted them into something I was not looking for, “faustian bargain”:
I tried the search again, typing in “faucian” and letting the search field autofill as “faucian bargain by Steve Deace.” What showed up was exactly two items: two pieces of furniture.
You may notice that Amazon offers the search term that I typed as an option in very small blue print beneath what Amazon initially directed me to. I repeated this search in multiple browsers and in “ghost” mode. Same thing happened.
Clarence Thomas, in his concurring opinion today in the case of President Joe Biden v. Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, casts a skeptical eye on the overwhelming influence of Twitter, Amazon, and Google. Referring to the latter, he writes. “Google . . . can suppress content by deindexing or downlisting a search result or by steering users away from certain content by manually altering autocomplete results.”
Sounds all too familiar.