Analysing NBA star Kyrie Irving’s yearslong descent into conspiratorial thinking, MSNBC’s reporter Ja’han Jones looks at how Irving became exposed to extreme-right conspiracies in the first place. Jones, draws on ISD’s report on how Amazon searches can steer users toward racist and other extremist material.
Irving was recently suspended for the promotion of antisemitic conspiracies and fake Hitler quotes. The NBA star has previously gone on the record pushing flat Earth claims and COVID-denialism. However, his most recent dabbles with holocaust denialism and conspiracies like the ‘New World Order‘, began when he supposedly typed a Hebrew translation of his name into Amazon. He would proceed to share on Twitter a movie and book full of antisemitic tropes.
As stated by Jones, Irving’s behaviour is sadly “familiar to anyone who has seen friends or family consumed by insidious lies spread online.” A process in which private companies, including Amazon, play a role. As noted in our investigation, users browsing a book about one conspiracy on the book-selling platform were likely to get further suggestions for more books on that topic and about other conspiracy theories.
Jones highlights the ‘foreseeable’ nature of this issue quoting our report, “At the core of this issue is the failure to consider what a system designed to upsell customers on tote bags or fitness equipment or gardening tools (and which has proven to be one of the most successful systems in the world for doing so) would do when unleashed on products espousing conspiracy theories, disinformation or extreme views. The entirely foreseeable outcome is that Amazon’s platform is, in effect, inadvertently but actively promoting these ideas to their customers.”
He also references our feature in USA Today on these findings.