Feeds

Conspiracy theories aplenty as Amazon delists gay books

Right wingers blamed

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Gay and lesbian advocates took umbrage at Amazon.com on Monday after the online seller removed sales rankings for hundreds of books that contained homosexual themes.

The delisting, which affected books including James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown, and Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx, has been taken as an affront by many because sales rankings are often used to promote specific titles. Higher scores frequently lead to better placement on Amazon and third-party sites. Some critics have called for a boycott of Amazon to protest what they say was bias by the online seller.

Amazon officials blamed the delisting on an error that they said affected more than 57,000 titles that touched on a variety of topics, including Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica.

"This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection," Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith wrote in an email. "This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon’s main product search."

But that didn't stop critics from advancing conspiracy theories that the move was the result of people inside Amazon bending to the will of right-wingers trying to censor books they don't like.

"This doesn't strike me as a glitch," author Kevin Sessums, whose paperback version of Mississippi Sissy was affected by the delisting, told The Wall Street Journal. "Maybe a right-wing troll got into their system, or they have a right wing troll working for them. But the gay blogosphere is afire."

Indeed, it was, with many calling for a boycott on the online seller. They pointed to Amazon's search results for "homosexuality," which prominently offers titles including A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality and You Don't Have to Be Gay: Hope and Freedom for Males Struggling With Homosexuality or for Those Who Know of Someone Who Is. (Interestingly, the same search conducted on Amazon.ca yields vastly different results.)

"By removing gay-related content from its rankings, Amazon has made it so that they do not appear easily in searches and do not appear in book suggestions throughout the site," a blogger for gay rights blog Queerty wrote.

A separate account by a blogger calling himself Weev claimed the delisting was the result of a CSRF, cross-site request forgery, vulnerability on the Amazon website that forced people to unwittingly flag gay- and lesbian-themed books as inappropriate. We seriously doubt this account, however, as there was little to support the hacker's contentions, and we're still trying to locate a feature on the site that allows users to report inappropriate merchandise to administrators. ®

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Banking apps: Handy, can grab all your money... and RIDDLED with coding flaws
Yep, that one place you'd hoped you wouldn't find 'em
TROLL SLAYER Google grabs $1.3 MEEELLION in patent counter-suit
Chocolate Factory hits back at firm for suing customers
Kaspersky backpedals on 'done nothing wrong, nothing to fear' blather
Founder (and internet passport fan) now says privacy is precious
Primetime precrime? Minority Report TV series 'being developed'
I have to know. I have to find out what happened to my life
Ex-IBM CEO John Akers dies at 79
An era disrupted by the advent of the PC
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.