Chicago (IL) – Late yesterday a hacker, identifying himself as “Weev”, is now claiming responsibility for the “glitch” on Amazon.com, which caused a multitude of gay and lesbian themed books to lose their sales ranks over the Easter holiday weekend. Weev posted his “confession” on a LiveJournal discussion board on Monday morning.
Over the weekend, the blogosphere was abuzz with individuals disheartened by the sales rank removal of books ranging from Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, to Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx, which are themed “adult” the discovery of the removal was discovered by Mark R. Probsts, who found that his own personal gay romance novel The Filly was one of the affected items. Rankings effect how author’s titles are listed in search results.
“Weev” is claiming that he was able to remove the sales ranks by exploiting a feature that allows individuals to report content they consider inappropriate. If a minimal number of reports were made on any given book title, it would then cause the title to lose its sales rank.
“Weev” claims he designed a script that searched and returned all gay and lesbian themed books and then worked closely with popular Web sites to deliver complaints, which resulted in the removal of the ranks. “They put … invisible iFrame(s) in their Web sites to refer people to the complaint URLs, which caused huge numbers of visitors to report gay and lesbian items as inappropriate without their knowledge,” he wrote. The inappropriate content reporting feature no longer works on the site. “Weev” maintains that the option to report content was removed Sunday, after he launched his attack on the website.
Amazon claims the glitch was in fact “an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloguing error,” which led to the removal of tens of thousands of the sales ranks of gay and lesbian and other adult themed titles.
The company said it will fix the de-rankings glitch. The company also claims that the de-ranking did not only hit gay and lesbian titles. Patty Smith, director of corporate communications for Amazon issued a written statement: “This is an embarrassing and hamfisted cataloguing error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection. It has been misreported that the issue was limited to gay and lesbian themed titles.”
“In fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as health, mind and body, reproductive and 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.”
Many writers are upset with the statement, Craig Seymour’s memoir, All I could Bare: My Life in the Strip Clubs of Gay Washington, DC was removed in February and then later restored. He wrote in his blog, “It does not explain why writers, like myself, were told by Amazon reps that our books were being classified as ‘adult products,” he then continued, “And exactly what does a ‘cataloguing error’ mean? Was the error that they ever had an ‘adult’ category or was the category simply overused? And if Amazon is going to maintain an ‘adult’ category, who is going to determine what is ‘adult’? How will the criteria be applied to ensure that it’s not prejudiced toward books with GLBT content; and will there be any way to appeal the process once the determination has been made? All of these questions need to be answered.”