The ‘Amazon-Fail’

Anyone with their fingers on the pulse of the blogosphere will already know about the event that has become known as the ‘Amazon-Fail’. For those of us who have spent the Easter Bank Holiday camping/sleeping/gardening/or otherwise not plugged into the internet, here’s what happened. Amazon has accidentally re-classified all gay and lesbian as ‘adult’. This means it no longer shows up in certain searches. It also means that any books falling into this category no longer receive sales rankings, and so no longer appear in the site’s best sellers lists – one way that books sold by Amazon are advertised. In case you’re wondering, this affects ALL books containing gay and lesbian material – discussions of queer politics, romance, and everything else. Hetero literature appears to be unaffected. The Playboy Complete Centrefolds, e.g., has not been classified as ‘adult’ and still has a sales ranking. As do Jackie Collins’ racy, romantic novels. This author has more on the story here.

Edited to add: apparently, it’s not just queer material that has been stripped of its sales rankings. Amazon has also re-classified some feminist books, and saucy old literary classics like Lady Chatterley’s Lover as ‘adult’. Jezebel has more info, including a list of books affected so far.

Edited again to add: Amazon is in the process of fixing this. They’re blaming it on an employee inputting the wrong data in a form. Here’s an article.

12 thoughts on “The ‘Amazon-Fail’

  1. As either Mark Twain or Andrew Carnegie said “put all your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket.” But what did they know about virtual reality baskets?

    Information is too precious to give one super-pervasive organisation unfettered control.

    Come the day we all have compulsory ID cards, what’s to stop the govt of the day deciding that all lesbians and gay men are henceforth non-citizens and don’t qualify to see GPs, travel abroad (or, indeed anywhere), own property, log on to the www, etc.

    If Amazon can do it anyone else can and already there are Govts that are trying to make this come true.

  2. o hadn’t heard the ‘glitch’ claim. fingers crossed they ‘fix’ it. moirae: too true; but apparently so inevitable. freaky stuff.

  3. Well, not so much a glitch, it seems an author who complained got an official reply from Amazon “”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.” (from Broadsheet on Salon).
    So apparently it’s some policy thing and can hardly be called a glitch. Broadsheet seems quite on top of it, they have two posts on it today already. I don’t think it was the work of a hacker either as is suggested in the second post

  4. Hi Hippocampa,
    The author of the first blog post I linked to said they received the response you quote. However, the same author says that an Amazon spokesperson has since claimed the whole thing was the result of a glitch. There’s an article about it here.

  5. Glitch how, though?
    Amazon is staying remarkably silent about the whole thing, haven’t been able to find the Amazon spokesperson from an official amazon source, although you see that bit of line copied over and over on all kinds of websites, it’s like a wildfire.
    I am really curious about their explanation, and particularly, WHEN they are going to come out with it.

  6. i still don’t know how to make fancy links in comments. blah. but anyway, here–http://gawker.com/5210142/–is a somewhat convincing article that explains how and why the hacking was supposed to have been done, and why we should believe that it was the work of a hacker. i’m not sure i would buy it myself, except that my computer programmer brother and his techie friends are all having nice chit-chats on facebook about what would be the best way to do this, and that it would be really easy to do, etc. (one of them has also mentioned having experience of working for internet companies that need ‘adult content’ filters, and the difficulty of writing adequate code for capturing all and only what one wants to capture as ‘adult’. so, they seem to think that it *could* just as easily be glitch.) it honestly sounds like it would be possible–and indeed easy–for a hacker to do it (via the ‘report as inappropriate’ function on individual title pages). also, this article claims that the problem is in fact already corrected; that it was so (i think?) before the blogging about it really even began.

    dunno. but i must say i don’t feel sure enough to call bullshit.

  7. but btw even if it is a glitch or a hack, i think moirae’s point about putting all eggs in one basket still stands. we all know this already about wal-mart and music, right?

  8. **off topic: lp, I use this site, the “Link – Anchor tag” option, to make the fancy links for me :P **

  9. Apparently the problem is not yet fixed – the first blog post I linked to is an author, and his books were stripped of their sales ranking, and remain so.

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