Build your own bomb: How Amazon's algorithm helps suggest explosive recipes

Rachael Revesz
Home-made device contained ingredients to make 'mother of Satan' bomb

Amazon is linking potential bomb-making components under the “frequently bought together” tab, guiding its users to all the ingredients required to make an incendiary device.

The simple products are widely available in shops too, but Amazon’s algorithm recommends product combinations.

As reported by Channel 4 News, the online retail platform’s algorithm pairs items that customers tend to buy in one shopping basket. Chemical ingredients which can be combined to make explosives and volatile mixtures for pyrotechnics were also grouped together in this way.

Shoppers are therefore guided towards a common chemical compound used in food production can make explosive black powder. The chemical is recommended by al-Qaeda in a bomb-making manual that has been used in a series of attacks including the Boston Marathon bombings.

These results appear if users search for specific chemicals, like steel ball bearings, push button switches and battery connectors and cables, said Channel 4.

If users click on Thermite, for example, which is a pyrotechnic composition of metal powder, the website links to two other items, which constitute the basic bomb-making materials.

All three come to just over £20. When combined, the hazardous reaction is strong enough to cut through steel.

Channel 4 News also found that ignition systems and remote detonators were also “readily available”, promoted under the “Customers also bought” tab.

Amazon could not be reached immediately for comment by The Independent.

The company told Channel 4: “All products sold on Amazon must adhere to our selling guidelines which also adhere to all UK laws. We will work closely with the police and law enforcement agencies should circumstances arise where we can assist investigations.”

Amazon has already come under fire for selling bomb-making manuals that were available after the Manchester bombings, but have since been removed.

The news comes shortly after a suspect walked onto a London tube train with a bucket containing a home-made bomb, which injured 30 people even though it failed to fully explode.

A European Commission report this month found that European laws meant to stop terrorists from obtaining the ingredients to make bombs are too lax.

The Parsons Green bomb, currently being analysed by Ministry of Defense scientists, is expected to have had a main triacetone and triperoxide (TATP) charge, with the chemicals boiled down to a purer solution. They are they key ingredients to make a so-called “mother of Satan” bomb.

All 28 EU countries prohibit the public from buying pure forms of controlled substances without a licence, yet recent bomb attacks in the UK and abroad show that terrorist groups and members of the public are managing to acquire raw ingredients for bombs, in purer forms than are legally permitted.