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Is Amazon Cancelling Debate?

Two months ago on January 17, I noted on Twitter that Amazon was no longer offering commenting for reviews and that comments for old reviews were no longer showing up. Now I’ve had lots of issues with Amazon before and I’ve written about many of them in a sparsely posted Blogger blog I’ve had since 2015 called Canman Canned Comments. These usually turn out to be squirrel problems — updates and such on the inner workings of the site. And Amazon is a huge site. There are literally millions of books and many can have thousands of reviews. They also allow reviews on other products besides books. So it does seem possible that this could just be a major rework or evaluation of the review comment feature. The whole feature may have just become too unwieldy.

Of course Amazon has lately been making the news because of wokeness. They’re getting a lot of attention for no longer carrying some Dr. Suess titles. My latest Canned Comments post is about how Amazon is cracking down on snarky reviews. The Cliscep banner post is about how Jeff Bezos’ $10 billion environmental fund has just doled out hundreds of millions to a bunch of green activist groups. I’d like to note that Alex Epstein and Steve Milloy have on interesting discussion about this at 38 minutes into one of Alex’s podcasts.

I’ve always enjoyed commenting on Amazon’s reviews and will really miss the feature. It’s really a shame that these threads have disappeared. A lot of informal discussion between authors and readers took place there. I’ve never been able to get Amazon review comments to show up in the Wayback Machine until doing some research for this post. I usually find that comments just don’t show up, such as when I wrote this post about locating a disappeared parody review of a Michael Mann book. I’ve found that book reviews weren’t often saved in the Wayback Machine. Here’s a Brad Keyes review that was saved 42 times. I can’t get the comments to show up although I haven’t tried all 42 captures.

While playing around with the Wayback Machine for this post I actually did come across a review of a Michael Mann book that I commented on where I could read the comments in a Wayback capture. I don’t know all the rules to how the Wayback machine works. I’m sure there are ways people can keep their own stuff off it for perfectly legitimate reasons. It’s undoubtedly a good idea to save any links to interesting threads.

12 thoughts on “Is Amazon Cancelling Debate?

  1. We are in the age of Corporate/ruling party “cooperation.” It happens to align with the most anti-scientific nonsense and openly racist bilge since just about forever. So the safe bet is on Amazon ending debate on any and every issue that the reactionaries in control find offensive.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazon is such a massive and wealthy organisation that it’s difficult to believe that monitoring online reviews of books has become an overwhelmingly difficult or expensive issue for them. If that thought is correct, then the next thought is that they’re no longer allowing reviews (and no longer allowing access to old reviews) for a different reason, and the obvious reason seems to me to be that some comments conflict with the Amazon corporate agenda.

    It’s their website, of course, so they can do what they like. Personally, though, my belief in freedom of speech leads me to believe that so long as a comment is not libellous or transgresses some law or other, then it should be permitted. Still, I suppose preventing all reviews is better than selectively allowing only those that support the narrative.

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  3. When Amazon booted Parlor off their servers, I never heard anything about Net neutrality. I wonder if that would’ve applied. I suppose that will no longer be one of the left’s favorite tech topics now that they’re in control.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve tried a few more of the captures in Brad’s review and have not been able to get the comments to show up. It’s interesting that the review on which I did get the comments to show up was from a Mann fann. I suppose it could just be from where or how the site was captured but I suspect woke bias on the part of Amazon.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reading the comment you mention at
    https://canmancannedcomments.blogspot.com/2021/01/amazon-cracks-down-on-snarky-reviews.html
    I can see why Amazon censored it. Their moderator is not going to check whether you’re correct about the convicted fraudster; the mere mention of something potentially libellous will get you wiped. This happened to me at both the Guardian and the Conversation when I mentioned Berlusconi’s Mafia connections, which are well known in Italy but never mentioned in the English language press.

    It occurs to me that this may be explain in part the rise of wokefulness. Constructing detailed factual criticism is tedious, and what’s the point if your facts get censored because they’d be defamatory if untrue, and nobody can be bothered to check if you’re right or wrong? Much easier to make accusations of wrong attitudes based on a few words quoted out of context. And precisely the same line of argument is used against climate scepticism – not that a carefully worded sceptical argument is false, but that it doesn’t demonstrate the right degree of concern.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. The Times (of London) has an odd comment moderation process. Last year you could not get non-woke Trans comments published & suddenly they remembered their audience and some of their writers eg Janice Turner took a stand; now not a problem.

    The worst place seems to be the Scottish section with multiple articles being not allowed to be commented on. Key words are “Alex Salmond”, there are others. Curiously since Alex has gone UK wide more or less the same article in the two different parts of the paper (UK & Scotland) would be moderated differently. Needless to say many migrated from the latter and started commenting on the former. Lately the newspaper has taken the view that an automatic delay for pending should be used at random and any comment by certain people on certain articles is promptly put into “pending approval”.

    Of course the system is subject to the personal foibles of those with their finger on the official “Delete, goes again policy” key. But luckily Alex Salmond articles have become less ham fistedly moderated as there is a chance he could be King again ….

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  7. I contradict myself. I said last month that I wouldn’t comment on Cliscep until UK Covid restrictions are lifted – hopefully in late June. But after Mike mentioned in an email this apparent change of policy by Amazon – and the effective deletion of all replies to reviews it seems to entail – I suggested he did a post about it and said I would comment if he did. So, as a man of my word (but not always the other word), here I am. Probably just on this thread. Maybe just in this comment.

    I just checked out Donna Laframboise’s The Delinquent Teenager from October 2011 on Amazon.co.uk to try to verify Mike’s claim. Lots of Customer reviews but none of them now seem to have replies. I’m sure that wasn’t true before. My own rather glowing This book should be read by every UK voter has ’52 people found this helpful’ at the bottom (thanks Mum) but no replies, pro or con. Shame, shame on the Bezos money machine.

    How do I feel about this? I remember reading those replies, and replies to replies, on a number of occasions, on a number of topics, and being truly enlightened. Of course not every time. But it was a great place of debate. To shut it down is an act of vandalism.

    How do I feel about it? Sorry for the repeat but I was finding it hard to do justice to my feelings once this post went up. Then this morning, in a local park, the one closest to where my mother used to live, when she was still with us, I saw this, in tribute to someone else departed:

    I feel as if Jeff Bezos and his minions have personally ripped up the card and thrown the flowers in the bin. There’d be no law against doing so, I assume. But that doesn’t make it a public good. To put it mildly.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Private sellers are also upset about the loss of this feature, which means they cannot reply to * reviews, even obnoxious ones.

    Richard, if you’re still reading this: I took a photograph of benches at my local park last weekend. Alas I have no easy way of putting it here (it is anyway rather off topic). There is an area surrounding a formal water feature, albeit one that is singularly unpleasant. This area is lined by about 20 long benches, wooden, each with 5 steel supports. Strolling past I happened to notice that the wooden slats had been removed from every bench. Every single bench. This puzzled me for a moment. Then I understood: it was to prevent people from sitting next to each other.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Weird Amazon note. I scrolled through the reviews of Donna Laframboise’s book and couldn’t find Richard’s. Then I figured out that Richard’s comment had the link so I went to it. Apparently there is a separate Amazon UK site. It has 218 global ratings, while the regular Amazon site says 270 ratings. I checked on some of my own reviews on books with low review counts. Mine do not show up on the UK site while some reviews do show up on both sites.

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  10. GEOFF

    That’s an interesting point I hadn’t considered. The Richard Short saga is sort of local to Michigan, but it is well documented. They didn’t tell me why they rejected my review. they just directed me to the vague guidelines. Would they have accepted it without Richard Short? We’ll never know because they don’t take resubmissions. I’ll have to find another book to pan with a snarky review.

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  11. Mike: I had similar problems finding it, although I was on the amazon.co.uk, not amazon.com, side of the pond the whole time. I didn’t want to major on that point today. Tomorrow, maybe πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Jit: That’s interesting about vendors being unhappy about it. I can well imagine. Hopefully some pressure from that quarter will bring change. Also interesting about the synchronicity of our taking photos in local parks. I hope normal service is resumed in your area as soon as possible. The tranquil place I snapped is actually beautifully unchanged, its memories for me thus preserved.

    But on the many general points raised here, I’ve decided I can’t go further, at least for a month or two – except for learning lessons for my role as a Cliscep admin. I’m really grateful to Mike for drawing this to my attention and I’m glad it’s here on Cliscep now as some kind of warning beacon. I stand by what I’ve already said, which was about other people whose name and words have it seems been unfeelingly evaporated. As for not getting the attention I feel I deserve, I’m reminded of this passage – a screenshot of Amazon Look Inside! – which I read a few days after taking a break from the blog:

    That was after a tip-off from a professor in California from whom I’d been surprised to receive a reply a week or two before. Those deprived of a name. Much to ponder.

    Liked by 1 person

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