View Full Version : Internet a'splode!
04-12-2009, 08:28 PM
So this (http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/04/12/amazon-rank/#more-11470) has blown up all over twitter, livejournal, et al. I'm sure that's not the original link, but it does have a nice summary and an email address to complain to.
The summary is that amazon.com has made it more difficult to search for a number of titles that are glbt themed. Responses to inquiring authors range from "technical error" (and at least one site has some back and forth about how true that may be) to "adult content" restrictions.
Even IF it's the latter, these restrictions are clearly being unfairly enforced: things like "playboy" are still searchable and still have sales rankings, whereas "Heather Has Two Mommies" does not. My best guess is a combination of discrimination and technical problems (maybe they didn't discriminate as well as they meant to), but I'm hoping everyone will take the time to send an email, make a phone call, or write a letter (or all three?). Also feel free to post more relevant links here: I've been all over the internet and just can't remember where to even find the ones I've seen already, much less other useful ones I haven't come across tonight.
04-12-2009, 09:36 PM
I googled "Heather Has Two Mommies" on Amazon and it popped up immediately. No problem here.
04-12-2009, 09:40 PM
Towleroad has a good summation of recent events.
My guess? There is a someone doing data entry in a foreign country equates the word gay with crimes against nature. The issue here is that 'gay' or 'homosexual' does not equal 'porn'.
It seems that author's rankings have been stripped. This means that they have no 'value'.
I've used Amazon from time to time, but not anymore. Not until they change their policy.
04-12-2009, 10:25 PM
And I can find any book that I want, if it is about women, or order anything in print.
And they specialize in everything LGBT themed.
04-13-2009, 06:18 AM
Latest update: Amazon blames a glitch for the recent change of rating.
04-13-2009, 05:32 PM
I use Barnes and Nobels website. You can get just about anything under the sun on it for LGBT persons. Also, they have a 'gently used' section you can order from. I have saved lots of money that way. I won't and never have used Amazon, way to big of an animal for me! :D
04-15-2009, 08:53 AM
This explanation makes the most sense.
A Rational Explanation of #AmazonFail and the So-Called 'Glitch'
Dabble.com founder and "veteran Silicon Valley technologist" Mary Hodder offers the most rational explanation I've heard to date for what happened with regard to gay and lesbian book sales de-rankings on Amazon, in a post at TechCrunch. She expands on a report that a French employee was behind the "ham-fisted," as Amazon called it, mistake:
The issue with #AmazonFail isn’t that a French Employee pressed the wrong button or could affect the system by changing “false” to “true” in filtering certain “adult” classified items, it’s that Amazon’s system has assumptions such as: sexual orientation is part of “adult”. And “gay” is part of “adult.” In other words, #AmazonFail is about the subconscious assumptions of people built into algorithms and classification that contain discriminatory ideas. When other employees use the system, whether they themselves agree with the underlying assumptions of the algorithms and classification system, or even realize the system has these point’s of view built in, they can put those assumptions into force, as the Amazon France Employee apparently did according to Amazon.
This of course doesn’t explain how the problem arose two months ago, and why when Amazon was notified, they didn’t look into it then. I would suggest that the same underlying assumptions that drove their classification and algorithm system to be built to filter “gay” into “adult” also led their investigations in February and March to lead to nothing. It was only public outrage this past weekend that caused them to look harder, beyond their own assumptions, to find the underlying problem.
I would suspect that subconscious discriminatory assumptions are built into plenty of algorithms as similarly as they're built into the human mind.
So, discrimination - whether done consciously or not- is built into computer systems. And it takes a high degree of self-awareness to change matters. An outcry even. Keep the pressure on! That's what I think.
I'd love to see what would happen if an algorithm equating 'hetersexual' with 'adult' (as in porn) was let loose.
04-15-2009, 04:39 PM
I'm waiting for the full explanation, but I'm convinced that there was some HUGE policy mistake that was compounded by someone with ill intentions (either at the company, or a paid attack a la the livejournal nonsense awhile back). Like, people have posited that if enough people flag a product, then it will have its rankings removed. Even without that being used in an overtly discriminatory fashion, that policy is stupid and unfair. Add possible exploitation of that feature, and you'd get something like this mess.
I also wanted to throw in this link (http://rnash.com/article/amazonfail-a-straight-white-male-publisher-on-glitches-and-ham-fisted-error/) which gets to the heart of the problem here. If it HAD been "heterosexual", first of all no one uses that word unless they're contrasting with "non-heterosexual", so it might've been a lot of the same books targeted. Secondly, even if that weren't the case, if it was just all hetero authors: I think people would be much more likely to believe that it was an innocent "glitch", and rightly so.
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