Amazon faces questions over book deletion from conservative author

A group of Republican senators demand

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to explain why he recently deleted a book on transgender issues that had been for sale on the platform for about three years.

In a letter to the CEO of Amazon

Jeff Bezos

As of Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Braun of Indiana and Josh Hawley of Missouri said that a book by conservative scholar Ryan T. Anderson, “When Harry Became Sally : responding to the transgender moment ”, was no longer available on Amazon nor on its Kindle and Audible platforms.

Amazon, they wrote, was “unable to provide a sufficient explanation” for how the book “allegedly violated a vague and undefined standard of” offensive content. “

An Amazon spokesperson did not comment on the letter. The company declined to provide details of its decision, saying in a statement earlier Wednesday that it reserved the right not to sell certain content based on its content guidelines for books.

“All retailers make decisions about which selection they choose to offer and we don’t take selection decisions lightly,” the statement said.

In their letter, the senators wrote that Amazon’s decision “was an open signal to conservative Americans that their views were not welcome on its platforms.” They asked the company to provide documents explaining its decision, including whether the book violated an Amazon policy.

Amazon is the nation’s leading book retailer, accounting for 53% of all books sold in the United States and 80% of all e-books, according to recent 30-day sales data from Codex Group LLC, a research company in the United States. ‘audience of books. Amazon’s dominance means that any decision to remove a title can have a disproportionate effect on the sales of the book.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr Anderson said that because of his professional status – he is chairman of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank based in Washington, DC – he was able to draw attention to the treatment. of his book by Amazon. . Other writers, he said, might not be so lucky. “I can make lemonade,” he says. “But how many more have had their books written off that we’ve never heard of?”

A spokesperson for Encounter Books, a New York-based nonprofit organization that publishes “When Harry Became Sally,” said on Wednesday that he was informed by its distributor that the book had been taken down for violating the content guidelines. ‘Amazon.

Under the “Offensive Content” category, Amazon’s content guidelines include a sentence that reads: “We do not sell certain content, including content that we consider to be hate speech, promotes abuse, or sexual exploitation of children, contains pornography, glorifies rape or pedophilia, advocates terrorism or any other material that we deem inappropriate or offensive. “

Mr Anderson said he first learned that his book was no longer on sale Sunday afternoon after a potential book buyer called him to tell him he couldn’t find the book on Amazon. Mr. Anderson then searched and could not find him.

“It’s hard to understand,” Anderson said. “As far as I know, I didn’t do anything. The book has been saying the same thing for three years. The book, which focuses on a variety of issues including gender identity, was originally published in February 2018.

In a tweet wednesdayMr. Anderson thanked the Republican Senators group for their support.

Major tech platforms have come under fire for implementing bans or suspensions of conservative figures.

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earlier this year permanently banned personal account of former President Trump in his service, while

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moved to deactivate Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely.

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Amazon and

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Google also recently took steps to start Talking, a social media app and website that has gained popularity among conservatives. The actions against Mr. Trump and Parler vividly illustrate the influence of companies on online conversations and the political nature of their decisions. Although hailed by many, the expulsion of the president and some of his supporters also exasperated the others who said it amounted to censorship.

Amazon has already been pushed back on the books it allows on its platforms. In June, journalist and author Alex Berenson said booklet he wrote on the coronavirus pandemic was rejected by Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon’s self-publishing arm. In the booklet, Mr Berenson argued that disease mortality estimates had been overestimated and the lockouts had been counterproductive.

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criticized Amazon’s decision on Twitter at the time, and Amazon later said in a statement that “the book was deleted in error.” A day later, the self-published booklet was # 2 on Amazon’s Kindle Store bestseller list.

A long-standing truism in the book business is that the only bad publicity is the lack of publicity, and this seems to be true of Mr. Anderson as well. The print edition is now sold out on BarnesandNoble.com, but late Wednesday afternoon the ebook ranked No. 3 on the bookseller’s list of the bookseller’s top 100 digital books.

A spokesperson for Encounter Books said Wednesday that the publisher had revamped 5,000 paperback copies.

Write to Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg at [email protected]

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