I was tired and outraged last night, and I didn’t say that the removal of Women En Large and Familiar Men, along with thousands of other titles with erotic or GLBT content from amazon.com’s indirect search functions was unlike their overall corporate policies and could have been something that was done too them.
Thanks to one of our commenters, I now see that it could have been a hack. I’m not qualified to judge the tech in this link, but a friend who is says she finds the post at the link highly plausible in some ways and dubious in others. If it is true, the motive was “let’s watch everyone scurry around and get incensed,” rather than “let’s keep those filthy gays out of children’s eyes.”
In any event, even if Amazon is eventually shown to have been hacked, I’m not about to let Amazon off the hook for leaving itself open for malicious users to do this so easily. And I note that it has not yet been fixed.
User content is one of the best things about Amazon. However, letting users flag content as “inappropriate” for the whole customer base, rather than for themselves, is probably a mistake. It’s certainly a mistake to let a few flags like that control the entire search apparatus for a gigantic operation. Perhaps more to the point, where did that customer service email come from?
Like it or not, understand it or not (and I’m working hard to understand it), the big-picture high-profile Internet prank is here to stay for a long time. The big commercial sites need to take the real world into account, try to think like the pranksters, and, most important, make public statements if they get caught out. I’d feel a lot better about Amazon if the issue was fixed by now, and if their front page, or their front books page, had a public statement describing the issue and repudiating the pranksters.