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Amazon de-lists gay literature


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From me to Amazon:

Regarding your classification of gay and lesbian material as "ADULT", I would remind you that many of us gay people have been some of your most loyal customers from the very beginning.

Putting our lives in the "brown paper wrapper" section next to the porno and condoms is distressing and feels a lot like betrayal.

Et tu, Brute?

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Guest Fritz

As it turns out, the de-listing is the result of a software glitch, not a change in policy. To quote for the article, "On Sunday evening, however, an Amazon spokesperson said that a glitch had occurred in its sales ranking feature that was in the process of being fixed. The spokesperson added that there was no new adult policy."

The article may be read here.

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This situation demands vigilance. Amazon must be watched very closely to ensure that the delisting is fully reversed.

Actions such as the delisting are the vanguard warnings of not only the subversion of sexual freedom, but also freedom of expression and the eventual dismissal of human rights.

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Guest Fritz

Des wrote,

This situation demands vigilance. Amazon must be watched very closely to ensure that the delisting is fully reversed.

Actions such as the delisting are the vanguard warnings of not only the subversion of sexual freedom, but also freedom of expression and the eventual dismissal of human rights.

I fully agree that we need to be vigilant of companies like Amazon. I would add that we also need to be vigilant of our respective governments, perhaps even more so than companies. For example, the CyberSecurity act of 2009, introduced by Jay Rockefeller and co-sponsored by Olympia Snowe, is one that anyone who values freedom should be watching. I'm not a lawyer so I can't say for certain, but it appears to grant the government unlimited power over the internet with no means for citizen redress. To quote from an article on it,

The Secretary of Commerce? shall have access to all relevant data concerning (critical infrastructure) networks without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule, or policy restricting such access?

I've read a number of conflicting statements about the act, with some claiming that the act would allow the government the right to read any internet communication without respect to current laws regarding search and seizure as set forth in the Fourth Amendment, and others denying that possibility.

Anyhow, the article I quoted from can be found here . At present I think it is something that we need to investigate before blindly accepting the need to enact it.

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There is little doubt in my mind that governments fear the freedom of communication available via the Internet.

Professor Lessig in his book Free culture, maintains that the blog is the last true freedom of expression and if we lose the blog, we lose our independence to express ourselves freely.

While there is a lot of misinformation on the Net, there is also much freedom for people to express themselves, hopefully in a rational manner. Removing that freedom is very dangerous.

One of my unfinished stories touches on these matters.

But more importantly, there is a real need to fight the oppression of so many humanitarian issues.

The old 1970's sign on the highway of life used to read "Turn back You Are Going the Wrong Way."

It now reads, "Keep your lights on, Beware -Dark Ages Ahead."

Unfortunately too many people do not realise you cannot defend Human Rights by using its enemy's weapons and methods.

The enemies of Human Rights know this and encourage liberal and free peoples to react in ways that defeat the cause of goodness.

Of course it is difficult to rush out and kiss the enemy while he is wielding his sword, but that doesn't mean we can't kiss each other, and truth be known, despite the detractors, there really are more decent good people than the psychopaths who want things their way at any cost, particularly our cost and that is the price of our freedom.

Vigilance to preserve humanity and all human rights is clearly needed on a constant and continuing basis.

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When Stalin was told about the newly invented telephone, he said, "I can't imagine a more powerful weapon for counter reveloution."

I should imagine Stalin would crap his pants at the thought of the internet.

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Only in the interest of fairness, I would suggest people read this link. Yes, it's only a theory, but it's certainly a possibility. As the author of the blog says, it's interesting that this happened over a holiday weekend. The IT specialists around here know that you don't upgrade software or make configuration changes just before you go to a skeleton staff. If Amazon had introduced changes, they would have had the staff on hand to fix any problems that may have arisen as a consequence. Since they didn't, I think the cause is more likely to be elsewhere.

If that blog entry is on the right track, the 'glitch' was insufficient controls over the objectional content reporting functionality. We should know in the next couple of days, because if it's true, then Amazon will be smart to detail what happened. However, they won't do that until after they've put something place to stop someone else from doing the same.

If it was a targeted attack, I suspect it was automated, looking for a flag for GLBT content, because that's the only way I can see for it to be so hit and miss, and to have targeted books that make it more obvious that it wasn't being done intelligently. Again, if this is true, Amazon should be able to provide information to support that theory -- though it's possible that they can't if they've reported it to the authorities.

The part that doesn't match this theory is where authors have received messages saying that their books have been deliberately removed. However, again, that could be a low level employee following company policy and simply observing that the books were removed because of the objectional content reporting functionality.

Overall, I'm inclined to believe it's either a targeted attack from outside Amazon, or the malicious actions of one or a handful of employees, and not company policy.

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The links provided by Wibby and Graeme (thanks guys), are worrying in the comments that have been sent to both of those sites.

Particularly disturbing are the commentators who fail to see the danger of the situation and dismiss it as unnewsworthy.

I have seen this downplaying of serious issues before on local news sites and there is always a concern that apathy and complacency or just plain ignorance can succeed in trivialising situations that should be more carefully examined.

Whatever happened at Amazon, and I really don't know the causes, it seems that there is certainly a need to be ever alert on issues that affect freedom of speech and expression, (and human rights) while being mindful of conspiracy theories.

The (gay) nature of the material affected in the delisting would indicate some deliberate action at work.

"Just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean that someone isn't out to get you." I have no idea who said that, but it seems apt. Certainly at the moment the Amazon issue appears likely to be corrected; whether we get an explanation is another matter, but one we should demand.

A quick search on the Aussie ABC site and the UK BBC site, did not reveal any reference to the Amazon issue.

That there is a widespread conservative backlash against the freedom of the Internet seems apparent to me.

Dissemination of information is always regarded as hostile to authoritarian regimes.

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I sent a message to Amazon.com from their contact page complaining about their new "policy" and asking what they were going to do about it. Here's the response I got:


Thanks for contacting us. We recently discovered a glitch in our systems and it's being fixed.

Thanks again for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.

Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:


Best regards,

Sathiya Sri P.


We're Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company

I replied that their response did not resolve my issue:

Unfortunately, saying there was a "glitch" seems to be disingenuous. The following was posted on Mark R. Probst's blog:

"On Amazon.com two days ago, mysteriously, the sales rankings disappeared from two newly-released high profile gay romance books: ?Transgressions? by Erastes and ?False Colors? by Alex Beecroft. Everybody was perplexed. Was it a glitch of some sort? The very next day HUNDREDS of gay and lesbian books simultaneously lost their sales rankings, including my book ?The Filly.? There was buzz, What?s going on? Does Amazon have some sort of campaign to suppress the visibility of gay books? Is it just a major glitch in the system? Many of us decided to write to Amazon questioning why our rankings had disappeared. Most received evasive replies from customer service reps not versed in what was happening. As I am a publisher and have an Amazon Advantage account through which I supply Amazon with my books, I had a special way to contact them. 24 hours later I had a response:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D

Member Services

Amazon.com Advantage

Yes, it is true. Amazon admits they are indeed stripping the sales ranking indicators for what they deem to be ?adult? material. Of course they are being hypocritical because there is a multitude of ?adult? literature out there that is still being ranked ? Harold Robbins, Jackie Collins, come on! They are using categories THEY set up (gay and lesbian) to now target these books as somehow offensive."

You have to agree that this does not sound like a "glitch" in your systems, but a purposeful policy by Amazon.com.

If this was a policy of Amazon.com you should admit it. If you're rescinding the policy you should state that as well. Companies make mistakes; those who admit their mistakes and take action to resolve them show that they are honest. Those who don't show that they aren't.

I'm looking forward to your response.

In return I got this message back from Amazon.com; anyone sending a reply to their original response is getting this canned message:


This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles - in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Thanks for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.

Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:


Best regards,



We're Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company

I wonder what kind of reply I'd get if I replied that this second response did not resolve my question. :wacko:

I checked my purchases from Amazon.com to calculate the use tax I owed on my 2008 California income tax. The total was $980.60. About 1/3 was electronics, the rest was mostly books (including textbooks) and some music. I know that this is small potatoes compared to all of Amazon.com's sales for 2008, but if 1,000 people with sales at this level stopped buying from them, that's almost one million dollars. That's something they would notice. The biggest thing that will hurt Amazon.com is the negative publicity.

I wrote a letter to Jeff Bazos and mailed it Monday morning 4/13.

I'll be watching to see just how "Customer-Centric" Amazon.com and Jeff Bazos turn out to be.

Colin :hug:

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from Colin's post:

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Fixed? Fixed? They are going to "fix" the books? What does that mean? Are they going to remove pages with offending words and phrases? Are they going to make staff wear condoms while they read the books to know where they need fixing? How will they know what will offend whom?

I take the cat to the vet to be "fixed", I hope they don't think that gay authors will be happy about their books being castrated.

And what do they mean by "implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely..."

Is that some kind of creativity birth control, social engineering, or maybe just some kind of double speak gobbledygook for, "Sorry it is beneath our corporate image to apologize for not having succeeded to implement the old measures of discrimination, we thought no one would notice."

Accidents do happen, all they have to do is correct the system, fix it, with apologies.

Yeah Right! :hug:

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A quick search on the Aussie ABC site and the UK BBC site, did not reveal any reference to the Amazon issue.

I found it on the various Australian newspaper sites. Indeed, when I did a google search at one point, The Age newspaper article came up first!

The second email Colin got contains essentially the same information as in the newspaper article, which makes me believe that he got another form response, rather than an individualised response.

One thing, though, is that even though it was an apparent gay discrimination that brought it to everyone's attention, Amazon are saying that it was a lot more widespread than that, affecting a number of other areas as well. If that is true, then I'm inclined to believe it was an error and not discrimination.

But I agree that they have to be very open about what happened and how, or there will continue to be suspicion as to whether this was deliberate.

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I checked a couple of books I own that had their sales rankings "delisted". They now have their sales rankings "relisted". So, without admitting that this wasn't a "glitch", Amazon.com seems to be "fixing" the problem. I think they are hoping that by restoring the missing rankings and sweeping the rationale behind this deliberate policy under the rug, they have resolved their PR fiasco. Maybe yes, maybe no. Regardless, what is most important is that the policy has been rescinded or the "glitch" fixed or whatever and Amazon.com is providing sales rankings for all books as usual.

Colin :icon_twisted:

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