Amazon FAIL

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, April 13, 2009 1:34 EDT
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Another update: I’m increasingly convinced that this was just a mistake. I’m extremely convinced that this wasn’t an internal decision of Amazon’s, because frankly, they probably make more money off queer people and feminists than they do off wingnuts.

Update: This theory seems plausible to me.

If you haven’t seen this story yet, it’s truly despicable. Amazon.com has been quietly deranking certain books they have deemed “adult”, which is a term they use to mean “offensive to the patriarchy”. (Apparently, sexists are children, an assessment I can deal with.) Amazon still sells the books, but they aren’t listed in sales ranking, aren’t coming up when you do subject searches, aren’t being generated by the recommendations widget, and often don’t even come up when you search for them. And when I say that the barometer is how much the book buys into the assumption, “Women are equal to men and gays are equal to straight” and not the actual sexual content, I’m not joking. People are tallying up who is and isn’t victimizedfeminists are dinged but pornographers aren’t; books about lesbian parenting and other non-sexual aspects of gay life are dinged, but books about how to “cure” homosexuality aren’t; Anais Nin is dinged, but Henry Miller isn’t. By removing these “adult” books, conservative books get more than their fair share of the searches, and now if you search for “homosexuality”, the first book you get is a guide on preventing your kids from being gay. (My advice: Don’t have kids and you don’t run that risk, homobigots.)

The offenses are being chronicled on Twitter, using the tag #amazonfail. It’s the number one trending topic on Twitter right now, with seemingly hundreds of tweets per minute speaking out about the censorship and chronicling the victims. You can read it here.

Many friends of Pandagon are victims. So far, Jessica Valenti’s seen a couple of books get deranked (you can’t even pull up Full Frontal Feminism on a search for exactly that term), and Heather Corinna’s inclusive approach to adolescent sexuality has been deranked, while more homophobic titles on the same subject are up. Trish Wilson has also been a casualty of the censorship. Anti-rape book Yes Means Yes is gone, and there’s even a book about preventing teen suicide that’s been de-listed. Here’s a list of the books. Playboy centerfolds and Girls Gone Wild are safe, even if depressed teens are less so.

I smell a right wing letter-writing campaign. I checked the websites of the usual suspects—AFA, Focus on Family, and CWA—but haven’t seen anything. But I would be shocked if Amazon weren’t reacting to an organized campaign from some right wing organization. If you have any ideas or tips about who could be behind this, please leave them in comments. Amazon’s never been an especially censor-happy or conservative organization (the CEO is a big time Democratic donor, which doesn’t mean “not a bigot”, but also makes this policy more surprising), so I would bet a good amount of money they’re getting pressured on this.

Daily Kos has more.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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