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Is Amazon.com Guilty of Censorship?

As an author, I understand the power of words, both as protest and as artistic tool. For this reason and also because I am an American, I am an ardent supporter of our constitutional right to free speech. However, part of the support of the First Amendment requires that I recognize when something is not a matter of free speech.

Take the latest Amazon.com uproar. The giant e-tailer carried a self-published e-book titled The Pedophile's Guide to Love & Pleasure that, according to author Phillip R. Greaves II, is a how-to manual. Once the title was discovered among Amazon.com's vast list of goods for sale (I have to wonder how, but that's another story), the product page became a protest site that extended to Facebook and beyond, and the story was picked up by the media Wednesday. Although the title has since been removed from Amazon.com, an official e-mail from the company initially claimed, "Amazon.com believes it is censorship not to sell certain titles because we believe their message is objectionable."

Censorship? Really? To invoke the First Amendment in this case is disingenuous at best.


Read the rest of this op-ed on AOL News.

Thanks to Red Room and Executive Editor Gina Misiroglu for putting me in touch with the people at AOL.  This kind of support for Red Room authors is exactly why this site is so relevant for writers and readers.

2 Comment count
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People following the story

People following the story have posted links (which I found through Twitter) to other books about pedophilia (specifically, "Man-Boy" love) that are still available on Amazon. It does feel a bit like censorship to remove a book from the virtual shelves because there's been an uproar. It's a veritable virtual book-burning, really. And while I in no way support the book by itself, it does make me uncomfortable that the book was removed. It seems like it could help set a precedent.

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I agree with you that

I agree with you that pulling one book, without removing other similar titles, does feel like it is purely a response to unfavorable media coverage. I take issue, however, with how Amazon explained its initial decision to leave the book on the site. If they had said that they carry all books, self-published and not, regardless of content, then I would have agreed with them. It was the "censorship" comment that I disliked so much. They decide what they carry, and they have to take responsibility for those decisions, even if they are unpopular.

Debbie Lee Wesselmann
Author of Captivity, Trutor & the Balloonist, and The Earth and the Sky