Amazonfail: Day Two
Amazon still insisting it was a glitch but hasn’t released any sort of detailed statement, just “we’re working on it”. Not exactly what the internets want to hear right now. The amazonfail hashtag search is just as hopping as it was last night. As of this post, wthashtag is showing almost 130,000 twitters tagged with amazonfail (over 30,000 already this morning), the petition goal post has been moved again and lists over 13,000 names, and more of the media has picked up the story including CBC, The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, boingboing, The New York Times, The Advocate, and The Huffington Post.
Gawker wants you to know why they don’t buy the glitch line, and neither does most of the internet. Queerty is not impressed by excuses. Change.org has started a petition-like letter-writing campaign over on their site as well.
For people who don’t get why the internet exploded. After Ellen has a even better article about why this matters, the over-sexing of GLTB people, and what the larger problem is that everyone should read.
I looked up over 40 books that had been deranked and filtered out of search engines. It appears that all the content that was filtered out had either “gay”, ”lesbian”, ”transgender”, “erotic” or “sex” metadata categories. Playboy Centerfold books were categorized as “nude” and “erotic photography”, both categories that apparently weren’t included in the filter. According to one source, the category metadata is filled in part by the publisher and in part by Amazon.
Top Google news result for search term “amazon” gives you amazonfail topics by major news outlets. Unsurprisingly, searching for “amazonfail” gets even more hits, though last night both search terms only elicited a handful of top results on the issue. The Amazon Rank Googlebomb is now the top search result for term other than the news about amazonfail. A blog search shows over 6,000 results for the term amazonfail.
Over 1,000 affected books have been tagged on Amazon with amazonfail (at least it will be easy for Amazon to find the affected books).
Social media experts are starting to take note and document the amazonfail case study.
And if you think this is a quick fix and are wondering why everything’s still de-ranked, explains why it isn’t.
At the very least, the “glitch” line suggests that this wasn’t supposed to happen, and Amazon recognizes it’s a highly undesirable situation for the company. Whether that means, “We had no intention of discriminating against anyone” or “We had no intention of so many people figuring this out at once and dragging our brand name through the mud” is an open question.
Getting back to my point, it’s dumbfounding that Amazon would let this controversy grow unchecked for a whole weekend. For such a giant in the online space, they certainly seem to be behaving like a brick and mortar company from two decades ago. The fact that this past weekend was a holiday for many people doesn’t stop the flow of information on the internet. Someone at Amazon HQ is going to have a very bad Monday, and deservedly so.
ETA2: Affected author Heather Corinna blogs about amazonfail on her Amazon blog. Meanwhile, wonders about the pre-canned nature of customer service responses that may be complicating the way Amazon responds.
ETA4: Apparently people will try to make money off of anything.
And Reunifygally wants to remind us it’s not just GLTB books that are affected, but also books about sexuality and disabilities. I recently saw a performance of the Vagina Monologues that added a section on the disabled and how they are “protected” by their guardians and caretakers from their sexuality. It profoundly disturbed me.
ETA6: Getting reports that amazonfail is breaking on Channel 4 TV news. I don’t have TV, but it’s all over twitter. (ETA: Report has been posted online here. Fast-forward to the 8 minute mark to see the amazonfail report.) It’s also starting to gain momentum on digg. There is an amazonfail tag on social bookmarking site delicious. And from Amazon’s own twitter feed? Business as usual.
ETA7: Affected author Jessica Valenti calls her editor who contacts her Amazon rep, who notes that this is no glitch.
ETA8: GLTB books seem to be re-appearing in the bestseller listings as of around 1:15pm MST today. And more conversation about the PR disaster side of the story.
ETA9: Reports of an anonymous Amazon coder insisting it was a “real person” who mass-changed the tags of over 58,000 books, though anon. qualifies that they can’t verify if it was intentional or accidental. Other reports indicate it may have been some sort of wacky translation error or an employee user error.
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 future.