Amazon Points to New 'Hate Speech' Policy to Justify Book Ban

E-commerce giant remains silent in the face of blowback

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February 24, 2021

Under fire for yanking a conservative book from its online store, Amazon is invoking a new policy banning books that promote "hate speech."

The existing content guidelines for books policy was updated in the last few months with the line, "We don't sell certain content including content that we determine is hate speech."

The new policy, which was first reported by Just the News, marks a shift in Amazon's approach. The company's content guidelines previously contained no mention of hate speech. In an apparent contradiction, Amazon's "Seller Central" page on "offensive and controversial materials" currently exempts books from bans on other products that "promote hatred." 

The policy could seemingly be invoked to bar sales of a wide variety of books previously deemed permissible on the platform. Amazon sells between 50 and 80 percent of all physical books in the United States.

Amazon removed Ryan T. Anderson's When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment sometime before Monday, Feb. 22. Amazon's removal of the book means that, in addition to not providing the ebook or audiobook, other booksellers on the platform are also banned from selling it.

Amazon says it moderates book content using "a combination of machine learning, automation, and dedicated teams of human reviewers. We'll remove content that does not adhere to these guidelines and promptly investigate any book when notified of potential noncompliance. If we remove a title, we let the author, publisher, or selling partner know and they can appeal our decision."

Anderson said he repeatedly defends the human dignity of people who think they are transgender in the book and pointed to passages such as, "First and foremost, as we advocate for the truth, we must be careful not to stigmatize those who are suffering."

Both the author and the publisher Encounter Books claimed they had not been contacted by Amazon, and that repeated requests for an explanation had gone unanswered. Anderson said he only found out the book had been removed when a prospective buyer alerted him.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) said the ban constituted "digital book burning" and that Amazon had also not responded to a request for more information from his office. Reached for comment by the Washington Free Beacon, Amazon directed this reporter to the new book policy.

Online activist Zack Ford, whose campaign against Anderson's book in 2018 led to the Washington Post publishing and then stealth-editing critiques of the book, claimed victory following news of the book’s ban. "It's almost like there's no way you can dress up bigotry to be acceptable!" he tweeted.

Adolf Hitler's tract Mein Kampf can currently be ordered on Prime for single-day shipping.

Published under: Amazon , Feature