Thousands of gay and lesbian themed books – including Ellen DeGeneres’ autobiography and the romance False Colours by Alex Beecroft – were labelled as “adult” and removed from Amazon.com’s sales rankings over the Easter weekend.
When author Mark Probst wrote to the company, the response was: “In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude ‘adult’ material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.”
Children’s titles such as My Two Mommies and tame romance novels which can’t be considered ‘adult’ material were however removed from the sales rankings.
Author Kassia Krozser wrote in an open letter to Amazon: ” In your zeal to protect me from myself, of course, you managed to leave content that I find singularly repulsive online (really, exploring the human condition is bad, but Mein Kampf is just fine?).”
To add to the controversy, a hacker going by the name of “Weev” claimed in a LiveJournal discussion group on Monday morning that he was in fact the culprit.
According to PC World, “Weev” says he was able to spark the sales rank strippings by exploiting an Amazon.com feature for reporting inappropriate content. A small number of reports on any given title would cause it to lose its ranking, he says __ so he created a script to find all gay- and lesbian-themed books, then worked with owners of some (unnamed) popular Web sites to send in scores of complaints.”
However, an Amazon spokesperson has now denied this and said that the matter was actually due to a “glitch” in their sales ranking system and that it was in the process of being fixed.
“This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection. It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles __ in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica,” said the company in a statement.
“Many books have now been fixed and we’re in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.”