Private, Automated and Apparently Unfair – The “Law” of the Amazon Marketplace and
Weekend reading led to an interesting, long form story on the private, automated and apparently arbitrary and capricious world of “law” in the Amazon marketplace; see this December 19, 2018 article in the Verge. If one assumes the article is accurate, it seems Amazon is yet another company that disregards existing law (e.g. Uber, Lyft) and just plunges ahead until someone stops it. That conclusion is reinforced by thinking back to Amazon’s many years of refusing to collect sales tax.
Two paragraphs are pasted below to whet the appetite for more:
“Amazon is far from the only tech company that, having annexed a vast sphere of human activity, finds itself in the position of having to govern it. But Amazon is the only platform that has a $175 billion prize pool tempting people to game it, and the company must constantly implement new rules and penalties, which in turn, become tools for new abuses, which require yet more rules to police. The evolution of its moderation system has been hyper-charged. While Mark Zuckerberg mused recently that Facebook might need an analog to the Supreme Court to adjudicate disputes and hear appeals, Amazon already has something like a judicial system — one that is secretive, volatile, and often terrifying.
And what’s a seller to do when they end up in Amazon court? They can turn to someone like Cynthia Stine, who is part of a growing industry of consultants who help sellers navigate the ruthless world of Marketplace and the byzantine rules by which Amazon governs it. They are like lawyers, only their legal code is the Amazon Terms of Service, their court is a secretive and semiautomated corporate bureaucracy, and their jurisdiction is an algorithmically policed global bazaar rife with devious plots to hijack listings for novelty socks and plastic watches. People like Stine are fixers, guides to the cutthroat land of Amazon, who are willing to give their assistance to the desperate — for a price, of course.”
Interesting times ahead. Presumably some group with litigation funding will take on Amazon using due process and antitrust law. Or, maybe not.