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Recode Daily: Some Amazon sellers pay up to $10,000 a month to buy their way to the top of the marketplace

Plus: Joe Biden’s quiet Silicon Valley network revs into gear and Facebook broke privacy laws in Canada.

The Amazon sign with the company’s trademark smile beneath it. David Ryder / Getty

Amazon sellers are finding pricey new ways to cheat the marketplace and mislead customers, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. The intense competition on Amazon’s marketplace has led to “the emergence of a secretive, lucrative black market where agents peddle ‘black hat’ services,” BuzzFeed found. These black hat services provide information that is sometimes procured through bribing Amazon employees to leak internal communications or business reports and help sellers manipulate Amazon’s ranking system to promote their products and protect accounts from disciplinary actions, all for the low, low price of $10,000 a month. Leticia Miranda writes that “other tactics to promote sellers’ products include removing negative reviews from product pages and exploiting technical loopholes on Amazon’s site to lift products’ overall sales rankings.”
[Leticia Miranda / BuzzFeed]

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Joe Biden’s quiet Silicon Valley network revs into gear: Silicon Valley high-dollar donors have so far been primarily drawn to the likes of Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and increasingly Pete Buttigieg, says Recode’s Teddy Schleifer. But one person with a quiet high-dollar donor network here is Joe Biden, whose announcement on Thursday that he was entering the 2020 race will introduce a new competitor for Silicon Valley money. Unlike Harris or Booker, Biden’s support comes less from tech billionaires and more from older, institutional, Obama-aligned moneyed corridors of the Bay Area: people like Tom McInerney, a San Francisco lawyer who is raising money for the former vice president. Last week — even before Biden announced he was running — McInerney sent a note out to possible supporters asking them to mail a check to back Biden early and “make a splash when he announces,” according to a note seen by Recode.
[Teddy Schleifer / Recode]

Facebook broke privacy laws in Canada, according to a new investigation. Canadian and British Columbia privacy commissioners have released the results of an investigation into Facebook’s privacy policies and the misuse of user data inspired by the Cambridge Analytica scandal last year. They found that Facebook “committed serious contraventions of local laws and failed generally to take responsibility for protecting the personal information of Canadians,” TechCrunch reports. This news comes on the heels of reporting that Facebook expects a $5 billion fine from the FTC, though it’s pretty clear the money won’t be enough to change its behavior. Meanwhile, Wall Street is unfazed: Facebook’s stock was up 8 percent in after-hours trading following the company’s earnings report on Wednesday
[Natasha Lomas / TechCrunch]

Microsoft joins the $1 trillion company club. Population: 3. Microsoft briefly became the third US company to pass a market cap of $1 trillion on Thursday after the company reported Q3 earnings. Microsoft’s stock price opened at $130 per share, up from the $125 closing price the day before. Microsoft has pushed its cloud products in recent years and its stock price has been pushed up thanks to that. Azure is now second behind Amazon for cloud services; the company is aiming to catch up to AWS’s dominance. The Verge notes that “while the $1 trillion valuation is something that investors pay close attention to, it’s not something that Microsoft cares about.”
[Tom Warren / The Verge]

Top Stories from Recode

A $5 billion fine from the FTC is huge — unless you’re Facebook. The $3 billion to $5 billion fine Facebook says it expects from the FTC probably won’t be enough to change its behavior.
[Emily Stewart]

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