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March 13, 2019

Amazon avoids the 'misinformation pipeline' by removing books touting autism cures

The online retailer has removed two pseudoscientific books so far

Children's Health Autism
Amazon Contributed image/Amazon

An Amazon Prime delivery truck.

Amazon is cracking down on books claiming to teach parents how to “cure” autism.

The effort comes after a Wired story revealed Monday that the e-retailer sells dozens of books boasting pseudoscientific — and often dangerous — autism "cures.” The next day, Amazon halted sales of at least two of those books, Futurism reported. This is a welcome example of the powerhouse using its power to take a stand against the spread of misinformation. 

News organizations have reported for years that Amazon hosts books that promote vaccine and other health-related misinformation, but the pressure has grown in recent weeks.

RELATED READ: Facebook takes first steps to combat anti-vax movement

Amazon confirmed to NBC News that the books “Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism” and “Fight Autism and Win” are no longer available, but would not answer specific questions about the removals.

The books recommend pseudoscientific methods – ingesting and bathing in a potentially toxic form of bleach and taking medication meant to treat arsenic and lead poisoning.

Of course, Amazon's action comes after several social media platforms made a push to limit vaccine misinformation. Pinterest has opted to block all vaccine-related search results, and YouTube disabled advertising on anti-vaccination videos last month. Additionally, Facebook pledged to take action against any vaccine hoaxes identified by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While this is a great first step on behalf of Amazon, dozens of similar books remain on for sale on the site. The company would not tell NBC if the removal of those two books was part of a larger crackdown. 

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