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April 12, 2009

Amazon Anti-gay?

Update 10:39pm PDT: tells Publishers Weekly the de-ranking of gay and lesbian books on its site was a "glitch."  Is this PR backpeddling, or a perfect storm of technological error and inept customer service, or could it be that, as a Facebook friend humorously surmised, "a homophobic programmer just got fired"?

Amazon received a flurry of online protests and became the subject of today's biggest Twitter trending topics #amazonfail and #glitchmyass after writer Mark Probst blogged that Amazon had indiscriminately stopped ranking gay and lesbian books because of their "adult" content.  (See below.)


1:32pm PDT: is apparently removing gay and lesbian books from bestseller lists, some searches, and sales rankings:

Amazon also swept former NAJP fellow Minal Hajratwala's book Leaving India into its "gay-and-lesbian-and-therefore-adult-and-inappropiate" net.  Hajratwala is gay and alludes to her sexual orientation in her writing, but her book primarily chronicles the Indian diaspora and includes no explicit sexual material.  She recently logged on to Amazon only to discover that her book had disappeared from searches both for her name and the title of her book:

As if it weren't enough that Amazon has taken over how we buy books, now it's censoring what we buy as well. 

That leaves this infuriated writer and reader only one choice: Buy independent...and sign the petition.

(Entry updated thanks to Minal Hajratwala's comment.)

April 12, 2009 1:32 PM | | Comments (2)



Thanks for posting, Lily.

My book, which is about the Indian diaspora through the lens of my family, and includes "Gay & Lesbian" as one of several content descriptors, was disappeared by Amazon. Here's a fuller explanation of how Amazon has created second-class status for books with gay/lesbian content, as well as info on how to take action:

NAJP fellow 2000-01

It sounds like a genuine glitch to me, probably a porn filter that was just installed or adjusted and it blocked merchandise based on keywords found in the book title or item description, rather than content. Unfortunately, filters by their very nature are uptight programs unless carefully handled. Some programmer just got fired indeed, whether he/she's homophobic or just dim and lazy (which is equally plausible).

Considering how queer-friendly Amazon has always been, I'd be stunned if this were suddenly company policy.

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