Amazon’s PR nightmare – a Kindle book “to make pedophile situations safer”

A headline from the Guardian 'Amazon removes peadophile's guide ebook after protests
In: Crisis communications, Crisis communications in practice, What we think

What a concept freedom of speech is, particularly in the States where an employee’s comments about their company on Facebook have recently been given the ‘all clear’ and Amazon finds itself selling a Kindle book called “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure”.When it comes to crisis communications I’d expect them to screen for keywords like this. Whether they do or do not, I just don’t know.Of all the checks and balances you’d expect to have in place, did they not spot the obvious offence selling this would cause, or is their defence the “we’re just the broker” one?I expect this will be cleared up overnight UK time – I’ll post up Amazon’s response tomorrow, but in the meantime if you do want to check out the comments to the book then here they are.  [Amazon killed the link] [suggestion – make sure you’re not logged into Amazon first otherwise you never know the sorts of ‘We saw you were looking at this and thought you might like this… emails you’ll invariably get].The book is here [Amazon killed the link] , if you want to see if it’s still being sold. In the meantime, here’s a few screengrabs from earlier today…Update: 11 Nov. So, last night (UK time) Techcrunch (amongst others) wrote the story up and badgered Amazon for a response: which they gave as:

Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable.  Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.

At that point it looked like the book was still for sale. By this morning, however, it appears  to be gone. In the meantime it made the bestseller list, and plenty of digital ink, much of it venomous and vitriolic (as you’d expect given the subject matter). But amongst all that – some words of wisdom from Paul Carr

Despite what some (including Amazon) have suggested, the company’s decision to pull Greaves’ “book” from their virtual shelves (if that’s what they’ve done) was neither censorship nor a curb on free speech, but rather a perfectly rational economic decision by a public company in response to a threatened boycott. And perhaps that alone is worth celebrating: however indirectly, Amazon was profiting from this vile little book (much as they do when they sell copies of Mein Kampf) – and now, it seems, they’re not.

Exactly. It’s a commercial world Amazon live in, not a moralistic one.

But what really interests me about this story is whether Amazon did or didn’t have the processes in place to flag the title and content for someone to eyeball it before they sold it, and if so, what what were the internal processes they followed (or didn’t)?

If anything should have got a red flag against it before it went live, this should have done. If it didn’t, then Amazon need to sort some new processes out imho – this won’t be a one off. If I was Amazon’s PRs I’d be nervous…just watch out for a spate of people trying to ‘game’ Amazon now, just because they can…

Written by
Chris Reed
I set up Restless Communications in 2011 to create strategic and integrated campaigns for brands I believe in. Away from work I shout at Arsenal, listen to loud music, and walk my dog.
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