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 Outrage as Amazon “deranks” gay books
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 04/13/2009 :  08:33:22  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
From CNET:
Amazon.com recently delisted from its sales ranking system gay and lesbian book titles that it deemed "adult," raising the ire of some who characterize the move as online censorship.

Author Mark R. Probst wrote on his blog Sunday that he noticed the change a few days ago:

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?

. . .

An Amazon representative characterized the move as a mistake but declined to elaborate.

. . .

Here's a sampling of books titles that the petition's backers noted are still ranked in the listing system (all notes and descriptions on the titles are supplied by the petition supporters):

"Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds" by Chronicle Books (pictures of over 600 naked women)
Rosemary Rogers' "Sweet Savage Love" (explicit heterosexual romance)
Kathleen Woodiwiss' "The Wolf and the Dove" (explicit heterosexual romance)
Bertrice Smal's "Skye o'Malley," (which are all explicit heterosexual romances)
Alan Moore's "Lost Girls" (which is a very explicit sexual graphic novel)

The petition supporters note that the following titles with gay and lesbian themes are no longer ranked on Amazon:

Radclyffe Hill's classic novel about lesbians in Victorian times, The Well of Loneliness, and which contains not one sentence of sexual description;
Mark R. Probst's YA novel "The Filly" about a young man in the wild West discovering that he's gay (gay romance, no sex);
Charlie Cochrane's "Lessons in Love" (gay romance with no sex)
"The Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay & Lesbian Experience," edited by Louis-George Tin (non-fiction, history and social issues)
"Homophobia: A History" by Bryan Fone (nonfiction, focus on history and the forms prejudice against homosexuality has taken over the years)



Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.

Edited by - HalfMooner on 04/13/2009 09:00:37

Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13463 Posts

Posted - 04/13/2009 :  09:07:10   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm take a wait and see position. Amazon says it's mistake. (Maybe someone at Amazon made an executive decision that that person wasn't authorized to make?) Why would Amazon call it a mistake if they planned to leave it that way?

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 04/13/2009 :  19:04:20   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I suspect that they were pressured by someone on the Religious Right, and made a deliberate decision to do this. And now, due to a reaction they should have clearly seen coming, they're using the catch-all phrase "mistake" as they scramble to reverse themselves.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 04/13/2009 :  20:27:19   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
A reasonable discussion about what may be happening is offered here by Almost Diamonds. (The two sections below are disjointed by my editing, so the "In other words..." in the second section doesn't make much sense. Read the original, for better sense!):
Okay, there's no certain information there, but the idea does make it a little easier to comprehend a WTF situation. Combine concerted action by an outside party with a naive (but fairly standard) and probably automated offensive content policy from the company in question, and you've got instant censorship with no action on the part of the company. In fact, Amazon would even almost be right to consider this a glitch.

. . .

In other words, the censors are messing with Amazon's money, which changes the game. YouTube has had very little to lose by removing videos tagged as offensive. Flickr has had very little to lose by deleting entire portfolios when someone complains that one picture should have been labeled adult but wasn't. Same with WordPress delisting adult content. With a free service, someone gaming offensive content policies generally only costs the person whose material is removed.

This is different. Amazon has a huge incentive not to be gamed. They need to fix this and quickly. Considering the sales figures of some of the books affected, like Brokeback Mountain and Ellen DeGeneres's autobiography, they have an incentive to fix it by telling the censors to piss off. They can't sell books no one can find.



Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Randy
SFN Regular

USA
1990 Posts

Posted - 04/13/2009 :  20:57:32   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Randy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It was a "glitch".

"We are all connected; to each other biologically, to the earth chemically, to the rest of the universe atomically."

"So you're made of detritus [from exploded stars]. Get over it. Or better yet, celebrate it. After all, what nobler thought can one cherish than that the universe lives within us all?"
-Neil DeGrasse Tyson
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Machi4velli
SFN Regular

USA
854 Posts

Posted - 04/13/2009 :  20:59:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Machi4velli a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I guess we don't know for sure, but that is a very possible scenario. Gaming is a very important thing to police on sites with automated user-driven content management, and I assume Amazon has people to do that. I actually used to work on a venture capital site where users helped choose ventures, and we spent lots of time trying to find ways to game the system (money was on the line for the company there as well) and ways to detect it before it causes problems, but it really is tough to completely prevent it if you rely on user feedback.

"Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people."
-Giordano Bruno

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge."
-Stephen Hawking

"Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable"
-Albert Camus
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Machi4velli
SFN Regular

USA
854 Posts

Posted - 04/13/2009 :  21:05:01   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Machi4velli a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Randy

It was a "glitch".


Amazon would also probably not want to admit if users did actually game the system or if they did cave to some pressure from some group, so I'm guessing they would say that same thing whether or not it was actually the problem.

"Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people."
-Giordano Bruno

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge."
-Stephen Hawking

"Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable"
-Albert Camus
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Dr. Mabuse
Septic Fiend

Sweden
9677 Posts

Posted - 04/13/2009 :  21:21:32   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Dr. Mabuse an ICQ Message Send Dr. Mabuse a Private Message  Reply with Quote
An indicator that there's more to it that a simple error, (from LA-Times...)

Herdener did not respond to requests to clarify the cause of the error, nor about why works such as the "Milk" pictorial -- which did not appear to be listed in any of the categories mentioned by Amazon -- may have been removed from the search listings.

Emphasis mine.


Dr. Mabuse - "When the going gets tough, the tough get Duct-tape..."
Dr. Mabuse whisper.mp3

"Equivocation is not just a job, for a creationist it's a way of life..." Dr. Mabuse

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BigPapaSmurf
SFN Die Hard

3192 Posts

Posted - 04/14/2009 :  10:38:45   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send BigPapaSmurf a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I fail to see how only books which are pro GLBT get axed and books which are overtly anti GLBT stay on, could be an accident. I'll never use them again. Their BS excuses are the reason I am upset, clearly it was intentional.

P.S. I dont actually read any of this crap but hey I'd like the option.

"...things I have neither seen nor experienced nor heard tell of from anybody else; things, what is more, that do not in fact exist and could not ever exist at all. So my readers must not believe a word I say." -Lucian on his book True History

"...They accept such things on faith alone, without any evidence. So if a fraudulent and cunning person who knows how to take advantage of a situation comes among them, he can make himself rich in a short time." -Lucian critical of early Christians c.166 AD From his book, De Morte Peregrini
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Simon
SFN Regular

USA
1992 Posts

Posted - 04/14/2009 :  10:51:08   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Simon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
But, while I agree it was intentional, it might not have been Amazon's doing. Somebody may have launch a concerted effort to abuse the system. Now that Amazon realized what was going on, they are working to fix it. Not necessarily their fault.

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Carl Sagan - 1996
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 04/14/2009 :  11:18:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Simon

But, while I agree it was intentional, it might not have been Amazon's doing. Somebody may have launch a concerted effort to abuse the system. Now that Amazon realized what was going on, they are working to fix it. Not necessarily their fault.
I've been reading that they got hacked. I find it, not impossible, but highly unlikely due to the staggering number of titles that were involved.

I think a goodly number of our fundie friends got together and sent a series of bitch mails and Amazon backed down. That's what happened to my review of Ray Comfort's silly, little banana book. It wasn't the language, which was pretty clean for me, but the whiners.

And now they've recieved an avalanch of even bitchier mailings including one of mine, and they're crawfishing again. Wussies!




"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


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Valiant Dancer
Forum Goalie

USA
4826 Posts

Posted - 04/14/2009 :  18:31:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Valiant Dancer's Homepage Send Valiant Dancer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by BigPapaSmurf

I fail to see how only books which are pro GLBT get axed and books which are overtly anti GLBT stay on, could be an accident. I'll never use them again. Their BS excuses are the reason I am upset, clearly it was intentional.

P.S. I dont actually read any of this crap but hey I'd like the option.


It's quite simple.

Amazon, like most online services, has a "report offensive or inappropiate content" option. A concerted effort by a small group to single out all books in this vein could reach an internal threshhold where the system would take an automated action of moving it to the "adult" portion of the business and de-listed. No overt action by an employee, but instead a design weakness implemented to attempt to have an automated process of database management. Saves someone from having to manually review each report and possibly having a PR nightmare over adult material not listed as such.

Some group (probably from the Religious Reich) exploited this design flaw. Much the same way as some topics on Wikipedia are "defaced" by others. These topics tend to be minority religions, unpopular stances, minority political parties, political rivals, controversial subjects, etc.

Cthulhu/Asmodeus when you're tired of voting for the lesser of two evils

Brother Cutlass of Reasoned Discussion
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Simon
SFN Regular

USA
1992 Posts

Posted - 04/14/2009 :  18:45:35   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Simon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
That's also my opinion.

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Carl Sagan - 1996
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