Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Does Amazon.Com Censor Negative Reviews?

There is a customer discussion board at Amazon.Com on Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health forum. A commenter named Brent left this message in April 2008:

About a week ago a wrote a two starred review of the Dianetics book with the main gist being that the book might contain a smattering of useful information and that if people found comfort in it that that's fine but that the upper echelon that coordinates the Church of Scientology should not to be trusted because they are more concerned with emptying people's bank accounts than clearing the world. The review was not abusive or hateful and expressed my opinions, which is what a review is supposed to be except when it comes to books about Scientology.

This is not the Church of Scientology, which means that negative reviews have just as much of a right to exist as do the glowing reviews obviously written by biased Scientologists. Censorship is censorship regardless of how you justify it and it is wrong and morally repugnant. All religions have their detractors but few of them are as pernicious as Scientology when it comes to silencing those who disagree.

And let me make this clear: I don't have a problem with dianetics or people who desire to practice it, which means I am not a religious bigot or bashing your beliefs. I do have a problem with the hierarchical structure of the Church of Scientology, which is manipulative (such as telling people with chemically based depression or schizophrenia that they don't need to take their medications and should instead take vitamins and be audited, which has resulted in more than a few deaths and ruined lives), deceitful (watch the video where David M. implies corporate partnerships with CoS including Dell and 7-11 that have all denied any connections with the Church), and against the concept of freedom of speech when that speech is against them but will frantically claim their freedom of speech must be protected.

If you don't like a person's critique you can open a discussion like this one and produce your rebuttal but it is disgusting to have the reviews taken down by having your people repeatedly report all the 1, 2, and even 3 star reviews as offensive because they critique your beliefs. The 1, 2, and 3 star reviews keep disappearing and I can guarantee that is not doing that on their own accord. If your church leaders are trying to hide negative reviews from you what else are they hiding from you for your supposed benefit? ...

And here is what Amazon says cannot be listed in a review:

* Spoilers! Please don't reveal crucial plot elements.
* Other people's material. Your thoughts and opinions are what matters.
* Time-sensitive material (i.e., promotional tours, seminars, lectures, etc.).
* Commenting on other reviews visible on the page. Other reviews and their position on the page are subject to change without notice.
* Profanity or spiteful remarks.
* Obscene or distasteful content.
* Single-word reviews. We want to know why you liked or disliked the item.
* Phone numbers, mail addresses, URLs.
* Advertisements, watermarks on videos, or promotional material.
* Availability, price, or alternative ordering/shipping information.
* Solicitations for helpful votes.

Nowhere does it say you cannot include relevant information regarding a book's pedigree or the associations connected to a book. Following your logic any pro-Scientology person who writes a negative review of a book about psychiatry that strays from the book's topic and bad mouths psychiatry should also be removed. Which part of the listed rules are people violating because I don't see anything other than the rules you are making up in your head. In fact it clearly states "your thoughts and OPINIONS are what matter" so yes you are indeed a censor.

Read the discussion here and here.

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