Amazon’s inconsistent censorship

My little book of twisted puns, Cruel and Unusual Punnishments, has been selling well and a few kind people have submitted positive reviews to Amazon. Five of these have been posted, though the site counts them as four, or sometimes as three – it depends which link you click. This suggests that arithmetic is not the Amazon administrators’ forte. A more interesting (and puzzling) characteristic of the administrators is the basis on which they choose which reviews to post – and choose not to post.

I’m aware of two reviews that have been submitted and haven’t appeared. Obviously I don’t know what either of these reviews said, since I haven’t had an opportunity to read them, but I’m led to believe they’re both positive. I sent a polite message to Amazon asking why neither of them had appeared, and was told that Amazon’s policy is not to post reviews written by friends or relatives of the author.

Well, that seems fair, in principle. Biased reviews don’t help potential readers, so I accept that censorship on this basis is – or would be – in the public interest. However, in times past I’ve submitted reviews of several books written by personal friends, and they’ve been posted by Amazon. More to the point, all five of the reviews of my little book that have been accepted and are now in the public domain were written by people who’re acquainted with me in one way or another. I met one of these reviewers once at an open mic session, two I know through e-mail correspondence, and two are fellow-authors and personal friends. It therefore appears that the principle Amazon claims to apply isn’t being applied consistently.

Shortly after Amazon’s short (though courteous) reply to my inquiry there followed a series of e-mails that were very far from courteous. I won’t repeat what these people wrote; suffice it to say that they more or less accused me of submitting reviews of my own book under fictitious names. The tone these individuals adopted and the language they used did them no credit, and the least said about their groundless accusations the better. I didn’t pass the messages on to the authors of the two missing reviews because I’m of a generation that doesn’t consider it acceptable to confront women with revolting verbal abuse.

I would suggest to the Amazon administrators that rather than applying or not applying (seemingly at random) a sound principle for censorship of reviews, they should turn their attention to censoring the trolls who, apparently in their name, have the impertinence to hurl gratuitous insults at the authors of books they’re marketing.

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