Amazon Purging Reviews Again

Timothy’s favourite author Declan Finn has had a large number of his reviews (i..e.ones written by him) deleted from Amazon: He also notes that others in the “Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance” has suffered from a similar issue. Perhaps not without reason for once, he suspects political interference.

However, the answer seems to be simpler than that. This post from 2016 explains some of the housekeeping Amazon does with reviews:

“Since then, Amazon have gone through phases where they ramp up their culling of “inappropriate” reviews.  Their review policy states that reviews written by anyone with a personal relationship to the author are inappropriate.  So reviews by my mother or my sister-in-law should be rightfully deleted.

But lately, Amazon have applied that “relationship” ruling to anyone who appears to know the author in any familiar way at all, including being friends with them on social networks like Facebook.”

It’s easy to see how the ecosystem of authors around Superversive and the CLFA may fall afoul of Amazon as a consequence. The mutual support aspect of these groups of writers includes promoting each other’s books. Putting their politics aside and the question of gaming awards aside, this seems unfair on balance – they like each other’s books because they are writing the kinds of books they like.

However, they are all stuck within Amazon and have little choice but to live with Amazon’s arbitrary enforcement policies. In this case, Amazon doesn’t want reviews to be a form of cheerleading or mutual encouragement but rather a piece of advice to prospective buyers.




  1. Space Oddity

    I await Beale announcing it’s time for an alt-right Amazon. Which, if it ever gets off the ground, will probably suffer the fate of his alt-right wikipedia, and be taken over by paranoid cranks.

    I mean, even in comparison to Beale and his usual crowd.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Lurkertype

      Someone kinda tried that, minus the racism and doxxing.

      They started up an ebook service where you could get censored versions minus all the “bad” words but leaving in all the good wholesome violence. Of course their substitutions made no sense in context and a few of them made things even filthier.

      It lasted about a week after authors and publishers said HELL NO and whatever source they were using for the files cut them off.


      • Lurkertype

        And, their content provider went out of business not too long after that.

        I was reading Chuck Wendig’s old blog post on this (guess what he said… aw, you guessed!) and someone had a great comment from when it was still up and running:

        And they’re advertising that you can purchase Game of Thrones, specifically, on the app and “avoid the swear words!”

        What about the pages and pages of brothel settings, the incest scenes, the disembowelments and beheadings? I’m a giant fan of all of the gritty things that make Westeros so colorful and crazy.

        But the irony that they’re only removing the swear words! Hilarious!


        Also the fundie parents wrote this app so their speshul snowflake wouldn’t have to see bad words. Rather than, y’know, supervise her reading or talk to her or parent. I do hope she read GoT with “damn” taken out but with the attempted murder of a small child for catching twincest. After the beheading and with that nice Jon Snow called “the jerk son”, the mass murder and eldritch creatures, and nekkid 13 year old Dany being sold to a guy by her brother.


  2. lenorarose

    While the mutual authorial aid societies suffer for this, so do readers who are friends on facebook with a person BECAUSE they are a favourite author. Not all of whom want to just gush, either: I try to write perceptive and useful-to-readers reviews even when I am writing about a friend’s work.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Mark Hepworth

    Not long ago I saw Mark Lawrence complaining that an Amazon review of his had been removed.

    I’ve no idea of Lawrence’s politics but I doubt they’re relevant here.

    This sounds similar to the right wing conviction that “shadow banning” on twitter was a thing.

    Liked by 4 people

      • Kat Goodwin

        They weren’t disproportionately targeted by the IRS — that was a propaganda lie. The IRS targeted all the groups, right and left, to see if they were gaming their non-profit status if they had one, were violating tax regulations, etc. — the stuff that the IRS is supposed to do. And the right claimed it was only targeted at their groups and was a persecution. But the stats showed otherwise. They just ignored the stats, knowing people wouldn’t check or would ignore the media when it pointed out that it wasn’t focused just on rightward groups.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Guess

      Mark Lawrence is the reason why large numbers of people have hears of Senlin Ascends. He slobbered about the book all over the Fantasy subreddit. He is the primary reason the book got a book contract. It was self published. Mark does alot promoting indy books he likes,

      Amazin is going too far with this.


  4. Cora

    Amazon’s current review purge is hitting all sorts of authors, regardless of political affiliation. According to Amazon, any reviews written by someone who has a relationship with the author, even if it is just following them on Facebook or Twitter, are considered inappropriate. Authors are not supposed to write any reviews at all on any book in the same genre, because books in the same genre are considered competitors (there were a few cases where authors slammed other books in their genre with negative reviews). Is this a ridiculous overreaction to genuine problems with fake or defaming reviews? Of course. But that’s Amazon for you.

    And considering that Superversive SF, Pulp Revolution, the Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance, the Castalia House bunch, Richard Paolinelli’s new guild and so on are a bunch of overlapping and interconnected mini-movements, I’m not surprised that they are loosing reviews, because these people all know each other and review each other.

    I also wonder why so many people put so much stock in Amazon reader reviews in general, especially since I rarely pay attention to Amazon reader reviews at all, when deciding whether to buy a book. I do pay attention to reviews and recommendations from trusted genre sources, but I don’t particularly care what a random person thinks about a given book. And if I do want reviews by random readers, Goodreads is usually a better source.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Guess

      Authors use twitter and facebook for publicity. Fans follow them because they are amusing. So if I follow an author my review gets deleted. I use a different email for twitter than I use for amazon! So suck it, Bezos! I follow Mark Lawrence on twitter. I plan on reading his books soon. Ill do a review on the down low.

      Amazon should be more concerned with fake reviews on some of the shitty knockoff products they have on their site.


  5. Kat Goodwin

    “Authors are not supposed to write any reviews at all on any book in the same genre, because books in the same genre are considered competitors”

    That’s daft. Authors in the same fictional genre aren’t competitors — they help each other sell. If they were competitors, then authors would be up in arms about Amazon pulling its if you like this book, try these other ones by other authors ads they do on the author’s selling page. Authors help each other out by calling attention of their readers to another author’s work. That’s why Scalzi does a Big Idea feature on his blog where authors can promote their stuff and authors do cover copy blurbs, for free and often for authors who are not with their publisher. And if a fan of an author gets to talk to the author on Twitter — a fun part of promotion in the modern age for fans — and then tells everybody how much they like the author’s new book on Amazon, that’s absolutely important to author word of mouth and there’s nothing inappropriate about that. It’s how it’s supposed to work.

    I think unfortunately this is spill over from the hate mob stuff where people rushed in to do 1 star reviews of authors to tank their ratings, without realizing that Amazon counts the number of reviews for rankings, not the type of review, and other than that, nobody much pays attention to the actual Amazon reviews.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Cora

      Of course, it’s daft, because authors aren’t really in competition with each other. Though I have met authors who believe that other authors are in competition with each other, which I find just sad. The “no reviews of competing products” also applies to everything sold at Amazon, not just books. But while it may make sense for e.g. washing machines or vacuum cleaners, where different manufacturers really are in competition with each other (since I usually won’t buy more than one at a time). But no one buys just one book.

      But then, so-called “hate mob” reviews were a problem and Amazon often overreacts to problems on its site by implementing measures which also target completely harmless behaviour.


  6. Lurkertype

    I’m glad to hear it; I came across a book yesterday where all the 5 star reviews were from friends and relations (not just FB) and all the 1-star were from unrelated people. And one where the writer had 1) friends and family 2) sock puppeted reviews from himself and 3) angry comments about the bad reviews, written by himself and friends under a variety of pseudonyms.

    If they want to play in Amazon’s sandbox, they have to live by the rules. I’m not a writer and I heard about the thing in the link. I’m pretty sure they delete reviews of left-wing screeds by friends — the Scrappy Pups just don’t know any to check on. Or probably any authors outside their little subgenre.

    Their circle-jerk reviews do seem to be the sort of thing the rule is designed to stop — reviews not influenced by actual book quality, just purity tests of politics and cliqueishness. Is it the case that, as per usual, they’re whining the loudest because they ARE guilty of what they’re accused of?

    I do have author friends but I generally don’t review their books. Like @Lenora Rose, when I do, I don’t go all gushy!!11! and try to have a thoughtful talk about the plot, characters, etc. And my Amazon review name isn’t my real name, or this one, or the other one, so I could get away with it. (An IP trace might work. Or put me in Aberdeen) Also I don’t even have FB.

    I mostly read only the 1 and 2 star reviews — as long as there hasn’t been a hate mob like Teddy’s at them, they’re very honest and get into nitpicky things like grammar, which I want to know. Or they’re illiterate, which means they were too dumb to understand it. Or they’re screaming FAKE NOOZ MAGA!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Cora

      You’ve forgotten the “OMG, there was sex in this book and incredibly filthy language. Won’t someone think of the children?” one star reviews. Which can be safely discounted.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lurkertype

        I try to forget those on purpose. I wish we could get those eliminated, plus all the sycophantic holier than thou agree-ers.

        Too often, those people are shocked! when a book about a serial killer has bad language. Buh wut? It’s not like Jesus would approve of you reading that kind of thing. And they’re shocked! when romances have sex in them. Someone needs to tell them where babies come from.

        Liked by 2 people

    • lampwick

      Then there are the “One star because the reader of the audio book was whiny and didn’t match my idea of the character,” or “One star because there’s no ebook” reviews. I sure wouldn’t mind if all of those were deleted.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lurkertype

        Now I’m conflicted. I might be able to be less annoyed if LC’s more annoyed.

        TBF, I don’t mind if there’s criticism of the audiobook reader for valid reasons, like they can’t pronounce words, or they have a dull droning voice,, or they try to do accents and can’t or they pick the most offensive/stereotypical speech pattern for characters even if it doesn’t fit. That’s ok.

        The only “ebook is too expensive!” complaint that would be valid is if some self-publisher did that, but I’ve never seen any of them go more than Big 5 prices. Don’t think Amazon lets them. With the Big 5, they’re multinational corporations and they’re gonna charge more. Either pay it, wait, or buy it in paper. Amazon had the last Scalzi book I bought new for 4c less in hardback than Kindle, so I bought dead tree. Kindle price was still way less than MSRP of hardback.


  7. Regular Commenter

    So, this weekend I read that Jeff Bezos is making $230,000 PER MINUTE. I thus register my vote to purge the unholy alliance of the (non)regulatory state and late-stage monopoly techno-capitalism instead.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 3/12/18 Dammit, Jim, I’m A Filer, Not A Pixel-Scroller! | File 770
  9. steve davidson

    Yet another case of being victimized by our own electronic success. Used to be there were three ways you heard from one author about another’s work: a named blurb on the back cover, maybe a review in one of the magazines (though more likely in a fanzine and even then thin on the ground) or in person, at a convention.
    And other than lettercols and snapshots of who was sitting in the bar with whom, no one knew who was or wasn’t “friends” with whom.
    I do wonder though: if Amazon, Goodreads &c went to “reviews” that only allowed for tick boxes (plot 1-5, characterization 1-5, innovation 1-5…)…

    Liked by 3 people

  10. JJ

    Out of curiosity, I checked, and they do not appear to have deleted any of my reviews. My reviews are done under a nym; however, they’re posted under an account which has my real name on it, and which was created in 1998 with my first purchase. (holy shit! that was 20 years ago! where did the time go???)

    I am friends on Facebook with a number of the authors whose books I’ve reviewed (but am not personally friends with most of them). However, I’m not an author, so of course none of them have posted reviews on my nonexistent works. So I wonder if they’re deleting reviews based on reciprocity — removing the reviews where people have reviewed each other’s work.

    Liked by 1 person

      • JJ

        camestrosfelapton: I think the latter seems likely but DF said he had lost more reviews than that I think.

        It’s possible that the deletion is a two-stage process: 1) identify accounts where reciprocity exists, 2) delete reviews for that account which meet certain criteria (including, but not limited to, reciprocal reviews).

        Liked by 3 people

      • KasaObake

        That’s if even Amazon fully understand the way whatever algos they’re using are working to identify this stuff. I literally *just* listened to an episode of IRL about algorithms and their risks (entitled Algorisky, appropriately enough) although it focused more on our over-reliance on algorithms that we think of as objective but aren’t (eg Google search, and tangentially how their algos are a blackbox that even the devs who work on it don’t have a complete picture of) and abuse of other algorithms (eg how people can get dubious content listed alongside innocuous things such as Paw Patrol on YouTube).

        I have some small amount of sympathy for Declan and the Pups on this; just because they’re a tiny niche circle jerk doesn’t mean their enthusiasm for each others’ work isn’t genuine.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Paul Weimer

    if they are using algorithms for this purging of reviews, I’ve got to imagine there is some level of false positives they are going to get.

    And I’ve started following authors after reading and liking their book. (and some authors I’ve met/liked first). How do you disentangle the two?

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Pingback: The CLFA and other groups | Camestros Felapton

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