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Amazon Is Reviewing an Algorithm That Grouped Bomb Ingredients Together

The website's "frequently bought together" feature directed customers to items that can be combined to produce crude explosives.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
September 20, 2017, 7:45pm
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Amazon announced Wednesday that it would launch a review after a report found users could get various ingredients used to make a homemade bomb through the website's "frequently bought together" tab, the New York Times reports.

On Monday, the UK's Channel 4 News uncovered that the Amazon feature was inadvertently guiding shoppers to combinations of chemicals, detonators, makeshift shrapnel, and other materials that can be combined to create a homemade bomb. For example, components needed to make thermite, used in incendiary bombs, were paired with steel ball bearings (DIY shrapnel), push button switches, and battery cables—all through Amazon's "customers who bought this item also bought" feature.

It's a particular troublesome find in the UK, which was rocked last week by a bombing on the London Underground that injured at least 30 people, though it's not clear how that "bucket bomb" was made or if its materials were purchased from the website.

"In light of recent events, we are reviewing our website to ensure that all these products are presented in an appropriate manner," Amazon wrote in a statement obtained by the Times. "We also continue to work closely with police and law enforcement agencies when circumstances arise where we can assist their investigations."

Amazon's suggested purchases—which the Times reports are also found in the US—were generated by an algorithm. The website didn't indicate that it would remove the ingredients Channel 4 found that could be used to make an explosive, writing in a statement that products on the site "must adhere to our selling guidelines and we only sell products that comply with UK laws."

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