When Amazon Flexes Its Power

When Amazon Flexes Its Power

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It’s one of the elemental questions about big technology companies: Do they have so much sway that what would be normal behavior for typical companies is no longer innocuous?

ProPublica recently wrote the latest in a string of articles about Amazon and the products it makes to sell on its site. You probably know about AmazonBasics for batteries or cleaning rags, but there are several hundred thousand Amazon products under dozens of brand names. The company is finding ways to subtly nudge people to buy the in-house merchandise.

This isn’t so different from what stores like Walmart and Target do to get you to buy their own brands of cereal or T-shirts. The question is whether internet powerhouses are so different from retail stores that when they play by the old rules, it’s not OK anymore.

The difference between Amazon and Walmart, which sells far more merchandise, is how much more Amazon knows about what happens on its digital shelves than its competitors do.

We need to figure out how to thread the needle between demanding that companies use their power, and being worried when they do.

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