In what some initially speculated to be a homophobic new expurgation policy, Amazon.com removed hundreds of gay and lesbian themed books from its sales rating system, effectively concealing these books from online shoppers. Some titles were completely delisted from Amazon’s search engine. The controversy may never have provoked such widespread media attention — or an official company response — if the story hadn’t contagiously spread around the Twittersphere under the hashtag, #amazonfail.
As it turns out, the removal was a result of a mere programming error. Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener explained in a statement:
“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. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally.”
The statement is thoughtful and well-crafted but lacked both punctuality and contrition. Sam Machkovech at Slog observes, “[Amazon’s] proper, human response was run through the corporate PR wringer for a full day before finally landing.” And Kate Harding over at Salon.com notes, “It’s still not a real apology to all the authors and publishers affected, or the customers who had pretty good reason to wonder if Amazon had indeed instated a homophobic and misogynistic corporate policy.”
I remain unconvinced. There is still the matter of explaining Amazon-dot-crap’s written explanations for the de-ranking to folks such as writer Mark Probst. No one was talking “glitch” then,
Count me, for the time being, in the #glitchmyass camp.