Online retail giant Amazon is recently under fire for swiping the best-selling novel “When Harry Became Sally,” a book criticizing transgender ideology, and quietly invoking a new policy banning books that promote “hate speech.” According to internet archives, the content guidelines contained no mention of hate speech or banning books that “promote hatred” since August last year. At the time, they only stated that they reserved the right to not sell certain content, such as pornography or other inappropriate content.
In a contradiction on Amazon’s “Seller Central” page about offensive and controversial materials, they also issued a statement that currently exempts books from bans on other products that “promote hatred.” When asked how Amazon combs through the material, they said they use a combination of machine learning, automation, and human reviewers. If this is true, then there could be a point where books are automatically scanned and removed based on certain keywords, similar to algorithms utilized by Twitter.
“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,” Amazon said.
“When Harry Became Sally” author and political philosopher Ryan Anderson said his publisher Encounter Books was not contacted by Amazon and their repeated requests for an explanation have gone unanswered. He said he only found out the book had been removed when a prospective buyer alerted him.
Anderson argues that the book does not “endorse hate speech” but rather draws on years of scientific research and data to criticize the prevailing approach to transgender issues in modern medicine. His book exposes the contrast between the media’s cheerful depiction of gender fluidity and the often horrifying and sad realities of living with gender dysphoria.
He points to a passage in the book, “First and foremost, as we advocate for the truth, we must be careful not to stigmatize those who are suffering,” as proof he defends the human dignity of people who think they are transgender and does not endorse hate speech.
He noted that the book also received widespread praise from credentialed experts, including “the former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, a longtime psychology professor at NYU, a professor of medical ethics at Columbia Medical School, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Boston University, [and] a professor of neurobiology at the University of Utah.”
Sen. Marco Rubio even tweeted out against the accelerating tech censorship. “American oligarchs, cheered on by leftist politicians, are conducting digital book burnings @Amazon banned a thoughtful & well-researched book on a complicated issue. We reached out to Amazon yesterday for an explanation. So far they feel no need to respond,” he wrote.
Amazon declined to provide any explanation on when the policy had been changed, and why.
If one of the nation’s leading booksellers can dictate how people write and publish content, then the voices of so many Americans are long gone. So much for free speech.