Amazons Gay books ‘glitch’ shows a desperate lack of reputation management

Please note, this post created by Claire Stokoe prior to leaving the company.

Over the Bank holiday a pink storm raged against Amazon when all their books on the topic of Gay lifestyles, Health and Sexual reproduction disappeared from the listings. Gay authors and activists instantly thought that this was a stealthy extension of the company’s policy concerning adult content.

And they weren’t alone. Within hours the Twitter community headed up by Author Neil Gaiman had taken up the baton, and the hashtag #Amazonfail was being swamped with those angry at what they considered to be a breach of online freedom.

Neil Gaiman #amazonfail weekend

#amazonfail thread on twitter

Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, says in a statement: “GLAAD has reached out to and they indicate this was an error, so we expect to start seeing evidence of its correction immediately.”

The issue impacted around 57,310 books globally and has been blamed on both a hacker and a glitch. Former Amazonian Mike Daisey has stated on the Seattlepi blog that “Someone was editing the category systems inside of, made an error, and that system is global, so it propagated everywhere. I have no insight as to anyone’s nationality, or whether it was a language gap, or anything of that nature”.

What is more interesting to come out of this is “that everyone in publishing entrusts their rankings and status to a single provider. That’s the story no one likes thinking about in publishing” and also that this provider isn’t managing its reputation properly online, which for a web business of its magnitude is unforgivable and should now be on Amazons “seriously to do” list for 2009.

It is kind of amusing that Amazon called their action “ham fisted”, surely that shouldn’t be allowed?

2 Responses to Amazons Gay books ‘glitch’ shows a desperate lack of reputation management

  1. Thanks for the comment dave. I wasnt aware that their political contributions went to the blues? thats interesting. I also belive this was a mess-up in the French office, would be an easy mistake if the tags were deleted or the products tagged up wrongly. I can see why it was looked on as targeting the Gay population.. but i don’t (in this case) think it was.

    What i found more astonishing is that Amazon werent able to nip this in the bud quicker than they did, given that some staff are on Twitter. also conversation monitors like and Netvibes are all free…? it is bizarre..

    Lets see what happens next huh? hopefully they have learned a lesson

  2. It is not unlike the Websense filters that many companies put in place to block gay content. The connotation is that gay content = pornography. It is a cruel twist that one of the tags meant to reach out to an underserved gay audience is turned on its head to block the useful “safe” content that has been targeted for them. I do believe that this was an honest error on Amazon’s part since any loss in rankings is sure to result in a drop in sales.

    (Footnote: Amazon’s political contributions have traditionally gone to the conservative party)

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