Amazon Says Error, Not Hacker, De-Ranked Gay Books

Amazon released a statement late today offering more explanation of an error they say caused the removal of sales rankings for hundreds of books, many of them gay and lesbian themed, over the weekend.

Amazon Said the company 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. It affected not just sales rank but also
had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.
Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the
remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new
measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the

Earlier on Monday, a known hacker claimed responsibility for the event, saying he exploited a vulnerability in the tools visitors use to rate products.

The hacker's confession. Is it plausible? Perhaps.

The entire event was notable for Twitter's role in it. As Sam Machkovech at Slog notes: "Twitter's the closest thing consumers and average users have gotten to
creating an online riot in a long time. Yesterday, after typing
#amazonfail into the search, packed lists filled the screen with posts
all seconds apart, and screen refreshes kept 'em
coming. This was before any mainstream media had jumped on the story.
no less. Twitter's combination of brevity, semi-anonymity, and topic
tracking is ripe for social tidal waves like yesterday's."

Posted April 13, 2009 at 9:38pm ETC by Andy Towle
in Books, censorship, News