jinjifore: (Default)
Okay. As I read through the AmazonFail news today, I find that I am willing to believe, for now, that the widespread de-rankings and de-listings that occured over the weekend were an accident. Even if the accident didn't happen the way Amazon claims, even if it was another kind of screw-up or outside malice, I can accept that Amazon did not consciously intend to target gay and lesbian books, or books on sexuality and feminism. They screwed up, and they are fixing the problem. Fair enough.

This does not, however, resolve the issue of why this could happen in the first place. If Amazon did not already have their adult filter in place, this would not have happened. This debacle has, at least, called attention to the fact that, for months, Amazon has apparently been quietly filtering searches without the knowledge or consent of its customers. It has also brought to light the fact that the filters aren't even working properly, that when books fall onto the "adult" list there appear to be few checks and balances to prevent books from being improperly categorized and de-ranked.

So, while I'm currently willing to accept that the widespread de-ranking was a genuine error, I am still infuriated by the very existence of the de-ranking policy. I'm outraged that Amazon has been shunting me away from material that they, and not I, feel is too "adult" for me to read. I am an adult. I should be able to browse their store unfiltered, and more to the point, Amazon should have told me.

Today, I spoke to an Amazon customer service representative, and asked about the adult filter. I explained that my issue was not primarily with the blanket de-ranking, that I accepted that it was an unintended outcome, but that I was extremely concerned that Amazon was filtering adult content in the first place. Even worse, that they were filtering without telling me, as a customer, that they were filtering my searches. I said that I was very angry that I wasn't getting all the available material and that Amazon has been making reading choice for me without my knowledge. I also told her that I understand why Amazon felt the need to filter searches, but I was very upset that there was no way for me, as an adult, to not be subject to that filtering, to be considered an adult. I asked if the filtering policy was going to continue, and she couldn't really answer that, but my impression was that there were, at least, no plans to discontinue the policy. I then said that I wanted an opt-out (or opt-in) button for the filtering, or for the filtering to stop, otherwise I would not be able to continue as a customer.

She said that there appears to be no way to turn said filter on or off, but she also said that she would research the issue and get back to me via e-mail in a couple of days. We'll see what happens once Amazon has figured out the party line on the adult searches.

AmazonFAIL

Apr. 13th, 2009 02:18 pm
jinjifore: (Default)
I'm sure that some of you have already been bombarded with information about Amazon.com's new dickwad policy of removing sales rankings and search results for gay- and lesbian-themed material. If you are among that number, please feel free to move along. :)

For the rest of you, here's what's been happening.

The policy of removing ranks and limiting searches for "adult" materials has, apparently, been implemented on a small--and secret--scale for several months. It was only recently, when several high-ranking gay and lesbian themed novels disappeared from said rankings, that author Mark Probst inquired about why his novel, The Filly, had disappeared. Here is the text of the reply he received:

Amazon's Reply to Mark Probst )

Now, I have, in fact, read The Filly. It's a young adult novel. There is no explicit sex, no violence. It's about a young man discovering and exploring his first love, and coming to terms with his own sexuality. That's it. And just because the young man happens to be gay, Amazon.com has decided that young men who are, perhaps, trying to find materials to help them deal with their own sexuality shouldn't be allowed to read this book. (In a dose of truly bitter irony, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality is now at the top of the search for "homosexuality" on Amazon. How nice.)

Yesterday, I wrote to Amazon using the "Contact Us" button on the Help page. Here's the letter I sent:

My first letter to Amazon )

I wasn't the only one who sent a letter, and today I, and the others who had e-mailed, received this letter in return, claiming that the issue was a "glitch":

Amazon's automated reply )

Considering that they had just told Mark Probst outright that The Filly's exclusion was a new policy, my immediate response, echoed by most everyone else who'd received this letter, was "Glitch, my ass." I clicked the "No" link, and sent the following:

My second letter to Amazon )

Some links )

Some final thoughts:

Why the heck, if Amazon was so keen to "protect" their shoppers, did it not occur to them to give their customers an opt-out for this? I can buy that the wholesale eradication of anything gay and lesbian wasn't what they had in mind--though I'm also pretty sure that they're way more sorry for getting caught than for doing it. But it's clear that they have been--and probably intend to continue--filtering the searches for all their customers whether they want it or not. Even if they implement this policy in an even-handed manner to filter only material that is sexually explicit or violent (though, frankly, violence doesn't seem to be bothering them much), I do not want this. I'd still be pissed about singling out the gay and lesbian books, but I would be a lot less angry if I had the option to choose for myself whether I wanted to be "protected" by Amazon's search filters.

Oh, yeah: Amazon Rank

ETA: If you're looking for an alternative to Amazon, Indie Bound is a site where you can search for books and then order them from an independant bookseller in your area. Very nifty.

ETA 2: Amazon's second reply )

Okay. I am willing to grant that Amazon did not deliberately set out to eradicate gay and lesbian-themed works, that the "error" was widespread enough to suggest that it wasn't targeted.

This doesn't, however, answer any of my above concerns about the fact that they've started filtering content in the first place, without the knowledge or permission of their users. I suppose, really, that it's almost a good thing this happened, because otherwise I wouldn't have known that they were filtering. Also, the fact that Amazon admitted to filtering The Filly shows that they have no clue what they're doing with said filtering process. I'm also not convinced that the process isn't somewhat biased against gay and lesbian content, if an Amazon rep could blithely presume that The Filly was adult. I guess I'll be waiting to see Amazon's next move.

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jinjifore

February 2012

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