A Rational Explanation of #AmazonFail and the So-Called ‘Glitch’

Dabble.com founder and "veteran Silicon Valley technologist" Mary Hodder offers the most rational explanation I've heard to date for what happened with regard to gay and lesbian book sales de-rankings on Amazon, in a post at TechCrunch. She expands on a report that a French employee was behind the "ham-fisted," as Amazon called it, mistake:

Amazonfail The issue with #AmazonFail isn’t that a French Employee pressed the wrong button or could affect the system by changing “false” to “true” in filtering certain “adult” classified items, it’s that Amazon’s system has assumptions such as: sexual orientation is part of “adult”. And “gay” is part of “adult.” In other words, #AmazonFail is about the subconscious assumptions of people built into algorithms and classification that contain discriminatory ideas. When other employees use the system, whether they themselves agree with the underlying assumptions of the algorithms and classification system, or even realize the system has these point’s of view built in, they can put those assumptions into force, as the Amazon France Employee apparently did according to Amazon.

This of course doesn’t explain how the problem arose two months ago, and why when Amazon was notified, they didn’t look into it then. I would suggest that the same underlying assumptions that drove their classification and algorithm system to be built to filter “gay” into “adult” also led their investigations in February and March to lead to nothing. It was only public outrage this past weekend that caused them to look harder, beyond their own assumptions, to find the underlying problem.

I would suspect that subconscious discriminatory assumptions are built into plenty of  algorithms as similarly as they're built into the human mind.

Why Amazon Didn't Just Have a Glitch [techcrunch]

Amazon Says Error, Not Hacker, De-Ranked Gay Books [tr]
Amazon Says Gay Book 'Adult' Label, Stripped Sales Rankings a 'Glitch' [tr]