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Amazon Blames “Internal Errors” for the Gay Censorship Incident

Amazon made the headlines last weekend after it was discovered that the multinational electronic commerce company had removed thousands of gay and lesbian book titles from its online ranking list, making them almost invisible to customers.

But the company issued an official apology on Monday, calling this a “ham-fisted cataloging error”.

The statement was issued after Amazon was bombarded over the weekend with hundreds of complaints made by worldwide users who accused the company of discriminating against homosexuals.

In the official statement, Patty Smith, Amazon’s director of corporate communications, said that the incident had been misinterpreted and that the company prided itself on offering a complete selection, and promised to ensure immediate correction of the “error”.

“The issue was not limited to gay and lesbian themed titles. It impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as health, mind and body, reproductive and sexual medicine, and erotica,” she said.

Smith, however, did not explain the reason why books such as Playboy: The Complete Centrefolds, which includes hundreds of pictures of naked women, remained untouched, whereas, Annie Proulx’s legendary Brokeback Mountain was effected by the error.

Smith’s statement was issued only a short while after a self-declared hacker had claimed on his blog that he had caused the problem by manipulating Amazon’s online ranking system.

The hacker, who calls himself Weev and is based in the Middle East, claimed it only took him a few simple lines of code to cause the “moral outrage” on the web.

While Amazon blames the incident on “internal errors”, many angry customers and writers believe it is the result of Amazon’s decision to make the website more of a “family friendly” space backfired, lowering its sales to a great extent.

Gore Vidal, the gay American novelist whose masterpiece The City and the Pillar was among the unranked titles, said on Monday: “What kind of a childish game is this? Why don't they just burn the books? They’d be better off and it's very visual on television.”

Most of the delisted book titles have so far been added back to Amazon’s ranking list, and the restoration process is expected to continue.

“We intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future,” Smith said.

Words: Chandler Cline

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