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Amazon randomly censoring incest books

Erratic policy on specialist smut

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Confusion over the censorship policy at Amazon continues to mount, with news this week that the company now appears to be removing incest-themed material from its Kindle.

Evidence that not all was well in the world of Amazon first surfaced in a discussion thread on Amazon’s own Kindle Community forum. Author Jess C Scott asked if any other authors had had their books deleted by Amazon "without warning/ explanation", and then went on to detail the somewhat hazy explanations given by Amazon for their deletion of her title, Wicked Lovely.

It seems likely that this was related to the fact that her work included both under-age and incest themes – though not at one and the same time.

The response from Amazon appeared to be that her book breached the content guidelines. Jess queried this: "Amazon do not have clear guidelines as to what is considered as "acceptable" in the erotica genre."

She went on: "I see other similarly-themed books still available for purchase, and see books with the subjects of rape, bestiality, etc, available for purchase (books that have not been deleted from Amazon's catalog). If underage sex is illegal, why is Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita still available for purchase?"

The reply from Amazon, according to Jess, boiled down to a simple statement that they would judge each case on its merit, and they would act as their own judge and jury in cases such as these. They told her: "As stated in our content guidelines, we reserve the right to determine what content we consider to be appropriate. This content includes both the cover art image and the content within the book."

Since then, it appears that other books have been disappearing. According to erotic writer Amanda Young: "Selena Kitt and Esmerelda Green have also had books with an incest theme recently banned from the site. All of them, incidentally, were high in the rankings and in visibility. Selena even reports a print book missing, a title which she published through Amazon-owned Createspace".

What is going on remains unclear. It may be that this is the somewhat predictable consequence of last month’s fuss over a book, The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure that Amazon first defended on grounds of free speech – and then pulled from its Kindle list under immense public pressure.

It seems likely that the same groups and individuals that objected to the publication of that title have been sharpening their knives ever since – and going over Amazon’s Kindle catalogue with a fine-toothed comb, looking for "unacceptable" content.

Still, it leaves Amazon looking confused and inconsistent, and open to charges that its policy is mostly to give in whenever the moral majority comes calling in sufficient numbers. Thus, last year, there was an outcry after Amazon decided to remove pro-LGBT material from its search facility – on the grounds that titles that dared to consider such themes in anything but a wholly condemnatory fashion must be "adult" in nature.

We did ask Amazon to comment officially on these matters. Sadly, they appear to have nothing to say. ®

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