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Conspiracy theories, amateur productions get noticed on Amazon Prime Video


A report in today's Wall Street Journal about Amazon Prime Videos includes a list showing how many U.S. subscribers top streaming services had during the fourth quarter of 2019. The data, from Ampere Analysis, shows that Netflix, with 61.3 million subscribers, lead the way followed by the 42.2 million consumers who pay for Amazon Prime Video. Apple TV+ was next with 33.6 million subscribers followed by Hulu's 31.8 million and the 23.2 million who have signed up for Disney+.
With 65,504 distinct titles on its service as of last month, Amazon far and away had the most viewable content for subscribers in December. To put that number in perspective, Netflix was next with 7,177 and Apple TV+ had only 11. But when you breakdown the December figures from Amazon, it turns out that 66% of the total number of available videos had been uploaded by subscribers; remove those titles and it still left an impressive 22,271 choices for subscribers last month. But some Amazon Prime Video subscribers are complaining about uploaded homemade videos offering conspiracy theories and videos using unprofessional production techniques. An Amazon spokeswoman said, "We continuously review and monitor titles to ensure that they are in accordance with our policies and guidelines. If content is identified as not meeting those standards, it is immediately removed."

Amazon Prime Video is chock full of instructional videos and content espousing conspiracy theories

Amazon, whose subscribers pay $119 a year for free access to the service along with expedited shipping on some purchases, did remove two titles from Alex Jones. Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist behind Infowars, had three videos taken down off the site after inquiries from the Wall Street Journal. One documentary called "Endgame" was apparently mistaken for the Disney hit "Avengers: Endgame" by some subscribers. Amazon says that in foreign countries it encourages those with the rights to videos to upload them to save the company from long drawn-out negotiations with studios and distributors. Amazon says that it was able to obtain some older movies like "Thelma and Louise" and "Silence of the Lambs" this way. Rival streamers like Netflix and Hulu do not allow subscribers to upload content.

The problem with some of this customer-uploaded fare is that the titles are often misrepresented to attract viewers. An example listed in the WSJ noted that one video uploaded by a customer showing a 12-minute clip of a video game, was called "Clip: Elsa from Frozen Cooking Show Game" using the name of the popular Disney heroine from its hit Frozen films. To find content that violates its terms of service, like videos with porn or those infringing on copyrights, Amazon turns to AI. Comments are also read by humans to find any discussions that might indicate that a video should be tossed.

The WSJ examined the videos on Amazon Prime Video and found that after the 8,695 videos listed without a genre, documentaries make up the platform's largest category of available videos with 6,452. Among the titles in this group is one called "A Noble Lie: Oklahoma City 1995" that tries to show that government-sponsored mind control led Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to commit his dastardly act.

A film in the Special Interest section called "Dreams from My Real Father" wrongly accuses Barack Obama's dad of being a CIA agent and a communist spy." This video received the eighth-largest number of comments in that genre. And the 10th most commented on video in that same Special Interest category is one called "The Enemies Within." This video claims that certain Democrats in Congress work together with the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations deemed to be radical. In comparison, "Dreams from My Real Father" and "The Enemies Within" received about the same number of comments as legitimate historical documentaries prepared by Ken Burns.

Amazon believes that by opening up its inventory to subscriber uploads, it is generating more demand for its streaming service. With the membership data we mentioned at the beginning of this article, we can't agree or disagree with this theory.


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