Thursday, March 29, 2018

Insidious Censorship

Books, whatever form they take (print, digital, audio) are under attack. At the moment, the focus seems to be romance books, but there are rumblings about other genres taking the same hit. And what form might this attack be? Rankings on Amazon.

Now, I'll be the first writer to raise my hand and confess that rankings were never something I've been too concerned about because my books are so low in the rankings as to be invisible. However, the rankings are now truly invisible. Amazon has arbitrarily decided certain books are offensive. In order to make it harder for readers to be exposed to such books, they've stripped all rankings so those title don't appear in a reader query.

Censorship is a slippery slope--especially censorship based on some nebulous individual's idea of what is offensive. In this case, apparently, reading romance will lead to sex-trafficking. Yep, romance authors are in the forefront of world wide sex-trafficking because their books dare, I say dare to mention the S word...and I'm not talking about snow.

On another front, I read a couple pieces today stating Microsoft was going to take a greater interest in how their products are used (including Word) and to that end they will start searching out offensive material. There's that word again--offensive. Who decides what is--or is not--offensive? And again, recent legislation related to sex-trafficking has been cited for the reason for this sudden intrusion.

So, I just wonder how the Bible would stand up to this form of censorship...considering all those stories about sexual slavery, incest, rape, stoning...not to mention child marriage, etc. I have nothing against the Bible. I was reared in a Bible reading home. But it's strange how censorship is in the eye of the beholder. Folks out there cheering the current wave of changes might want to consider how those same standards could be used to censor almost all sacred texts (Bible, Koran, etc.) because they all contain passages that would apply.

I've always found it interesting how people don't understand how laws that restrict rights of others can be used to restrict their own, with the right government in power. I say, be careful how you rejoice in your victory. When all the writers are silenced, who will they come for next?


  1. I believe the freak out by everyone was premature. All rankings were restored yesterday.

    As for attributing this to FOSTA, there does not seem to be a a correlation. Amazon rlstripping ranks from a book would do absolutely nothing to absolve it from criminal liability if that book violated the law (ie. promoted sex trafficking). If the book or any content was violative, Amazon would have to remove that content completely to guard against potential criminal fines and penalties. This is why Craigslist and Reddit removed sections of their platform completely, it was already known to contain potentially violative content.

    As for Microsoft, they have explicitly stated that their new TOS are geared toward XBox Live (where adults and children often commingle in game play). They stated that they do not have the ability or desire to monitor everyone's data and account, but that they only may investigate in response to a report that someone is violating their TOS. While this could tangentially be related to FOSTA, it's more likely a result of complaints they have received about offensive language and bullying over Xbox Live (people on there can go way overboard).

    Anywho, that's my .02 from a legal standpoint. I'm not staying the big corporations are blameless, but I think all the drama spiraled out of control way fast.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts. As of now, most of my rankings have not been restored. I'm not too worried about this particular instance. BUT I think many folks are not really thinking about their dependence on a few corporations. Too many eggs in a couple of baskets.