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Censorship Books Businesses Your Rights Online

Amazon Censorship Expands 764

Posted by samzenpus
from the seven-words-you-can-never-read dept.
Nom du Keyboard writes "Recently word leaked out about Amazon removing titles containing fictional incest. Surprisingly that ban didn't extend to the 10 titles of Science Fiction Grand Master Robert A. Heinlein that incorporate various themes of incest and pedophilia. Now, it seems that the censorship is expanding to m/m gay fiction if it contains the magic word 'rape' in the title. Just how far is this going to be allowed to proceed in relative silence, and who is pushing these sudden decisions on Amazon's part?"
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Amazon Censorship Expands

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  • Just wait. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Seumas (6865) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:05AM (#34709514)

    If they think books with any one of these things in them are "bad", just wait until they find out about that "bible" thing that contains pretty much *everything*.

    • Re:Just wait. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Aqualung812 (959532) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:38AM (#34709774)

      Great point. I remember the congregation's reaction when our pastor pointed out that the Bible would be rated NC-17 if accurately portrayed in a movie, and no movie studio would dare produce it not on religious grounds, but because the content would be so explicit.

      Incest, rape, murder, mutilation of corpses, etc...it is all there. Even King David, a man after God's heart, had a man murdered so he could add that man's wife to his harem.

      So, I'm curious if the same people calling for these books to be banned will support a Bible ban?

      • Re:Just wait. (Score:5, Informative)

        by dogmatixpsych (786818) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:55AM (#34709926) Homepage Journal
        That's incorrect about King David. He was called a man after the Lord's heart when he was a young man; however, that does not mean that David remained so. It also doesn't mean that what he did was sanctioned by God (it wasn't). Because David had Uriah murdered and sinned with Bathsheba, he fell from God's favor. He tried to get back in God's favor but was unable to completely.

        Anyway, yes the Bible does contain a lot of stuff in it.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 30, 2010 @09:29AM (#34710272)

        "the Bible would be rated NC-17 "

        Thats nothing, during the late 60's there was a show on TV that had the first interracial kiss. It was rated NCC-1701

    • Re:Just wait. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sonny Yatsen (603655) * on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:40AM (#34709790) Journal

      30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”

        33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

        34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

        36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab[g]; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi[h]; he is the father of the Ammonites[i] of today.

      -- Genesis 19:30-36

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:48AM (#34709860) Journal
        It's too bad: If Lot's daughters had had access to the valuable moral contained in the Dead Kennedy's classic Too Drunk to Fuck none of this would have ever happened...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        It was pretty common in Ancient cultures for relatives to not just have sex, but also marry. Even amongst the Romans who were advanced enough to know the negative consequences.

        • Maybe, but even the ancient Hebrews didn't think much of incest - remember, Leviticus 18:6 strictly prohibited the practice: "6 “‘No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD. "

          Then, it goes on to list about a dozen different specific examples of incest that's prohibited.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Empiric (675968)
        Because, describing any event means you fully advocate that event happening. No need for any actual advocacy of the event to appear anywhere at all in the text, even--just like how we know all World War 2 historians are Nazis whenever they describe the 1940's.
    • by Toe, The (545098) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:55AM (#34709930)

      This is an interesting (if not really new) phenomenon that seems to be on the rise.

      The threat of censorship in liberal democracies isn't as much from governments as it is from corporations which have a monopoly on their market. In addition to Amazon, look to Apple, Google, Walmart, Comcast, Facebook and... I'm sure y'all can think of some others. These companies have a kind of power we haven't seen since the days when there were only three TV networks. Probably even more.

      The one really, really bright star in all of this? I'd say: Wikipedia. It can be manipulated by these megacorps to some extent, but such manipulations usually can be rectified by singular individuals.

      Well, that is until net neutrality goes away and then perhaps opens the door for traffic shaping... Then perhaps Comcast, bizarrely, will bring on the new totalitarianism.

      • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @09:08AM (#34710056) Journal

        >>>The threat of censorship in liberal democracies isn't as much from governments as it is from corporations which have a monopoly on their market.

        What cave have you been living in? Almost every day slashdot posts a new story about the Australian or French or British or US or EU trying to censor the internet. And they have the power to enforce that censorship by throwing your body into jail, or sucking money out of your wallet (fines). Neither amazon nor any other corporation has that kind of power.

        Also to claim amazon or google or whoever has some kind of monopoly is ridiculous. There are tons of other bookstores where I can shop, and during this last month I gradually excised google from my browsers to use other search engines (like bing, yahoo, hotbot, lycos, etc). Even the mighty Microsoft which was sued for its monopolistic practices has seen its share of the webbrowser dwindle from ~90% downto ~50% as other competitors steal away market share.

        Bottom Line: Corporations have power but it must be shared with other competitors. Consumers hold the power of choice to make a corporation succeed or go bankrupt (Circuit city, wards, GM). In contrast the government holds the monopoly on the power to jail, take, or kill. That is far, far, far more dangerous than pissant little amazon.

        • Also to claim amazon or google or whoever has some kind of monopoly is ridiculous.

          Amazon has an estimated international 90% market share of e-books and google has over 86% of search market share. Although you are right this is not 'exclusive control' as the word monopoly implies, the fact that a company has the power to censor 90% of any market is troubling. The good news is that both companies hold on the market are declining, sometimes fast as seen in both links below.

          http://chitika.com/research/2010/search-market-share-microhoo-making-headway/

          http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-18438_7-2

  • Their choice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser (49529)

    It's their choice as to what they sell. It is also not censorship. They are a private company and are free to sell whatever legal products they wish, or not sell them as the case may be. The summary makes it sound like Amazon is the only place one can buy a book.

    All they'll do is open the door for alternative online book sale sites catering to specific tastes.

    • by MrLint (519792)

      I'm going to ask you to look up the word censorship again. While they may choose to sell what they want. They can in fact censor things from their channel. Just because its not a government doing it does not make its not censorship.

      • Re:Their choice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by msauve (701917) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:57AM (#34709946)
        So, is it only censorship if they carried a title, then dropped it? Or is it also censorship if they never carried the title at all? Is Borders guilty of censorship because they don't carry the "Big Busted Shemales" magazine holiday edition? How about your local library? Is it censorship if your local grocery store doesn't carry the Oxford English Dictionary?
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Is Borders guilty of censorship because they don't carry the "Big Busted Shemales" magazine holiday edition?

          It's censorship, but they're not guilty. HTH.

        • by meerling (1487879)
          It's censorship because they are REMOVING something that people already have legally obtained, not because they refuse to carry it in the first place. These people have bought and downloaded these legal and available books that they wanted, and then remotely deleting it from peoples libraries. (Kindle libraries, but so what, it belongs to the owners, not Amazon.)

          And yes, removing it from the store (in addition but without regards to the Kindle) for reasons other than economic (product not selling would be
    • Re:Their choice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @09:33AM (#34710326)

      It is also not censorship.

      Why do corporate apologists keep saying this crap? Censorship does not mean "action by the government," it just means that materials deemed inappropriate are not allowed to be published.

      All they'll do is open the door for alternative online book sale sites catering to specific tastes.

      You are assuming that such a website would make economic sense; this is not necessarily true. Part of what makes Amazon so successful is that they can cater to a lot of unusual interests -- the economics of catering to a single interest are entirely different. It may very well be the case that there are just not enough people interested in these books for a store that caters to their interests to remain in business; it may take a business that can compete with Amazon, but does not censor its store, to cater to those interests.

    • Re:Their choice (Score:5, Informative)

      by computational super (740265) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @09:38AM (#34710384)
      Sigh... for the millionth time, yes, it is censorship, it's just not government censorship and therefore not illegal censorship (in the US). It's still censorship. That's what the fucking word means, for Christ's sake.
      • by cdrguru (88047)

        What you are implying is there is no difference between censorship and any other sort of discrimination or selection.

        You see, discrimination isn't necessarily a bad word. Calling the action censorship certainly makes it into one. A person discriminates when they choose between McDonalds and a deli for lunch. A company discriminates when they remove something from being sold when it doesn't sell well.

        Calling either action censorship is an offensive notion.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Yeah, but in this case Amazon was removing titles people bought from their customers online backup.

    • Re:Their choice (Score:5, Informative)

      by hedwards (940851) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @10:02AM (#34710650)
      I'd recommend reading up on Walmart and the effect that their music buying preferences have had on popular music. They're a huge retailer of music and refuse to carry music which has a warning label on it. It gets bizarre at times like when they refused to carry Nirvana until they changed the names of some of the songs. Didn't actually change the songs, just the names, dropped the warning and were able to be carried. Most artists aren't that lucky and have to compromise their artistic integrity in order to live up to Walmart's rules or release an alternate version.

      Check out the second paragraph http://www.pbs.org/itvs/storewars/stores3_2.html [pbs.org]
    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @10:06AM (#34710680) Journal

      No, it isn't banned. We the state don't ban anything. You just won't be doing business in this town.

      I much rather have state censorship. The state can be voted out. Amazon can not.

      So, you are free to publish a book that upsets the powers that be, you just won't be finding a publisher or bookstore to sell it. But freedom is ensured as long as you don't try to exercise it.

      This guy would also defend "No jews allowed" or "Whites only" on private businesses. The dream he chases? I want none of it.

  • by decipher_saint (72686) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:09AM (#34709530) Homepage

    This is exactly why libraries shouldn't die right here. A company is not beholden to freedom of speech issues the same way an institution like a library is.

    I really wish the library had a online book store like Amazon.

    • Some libraries do have online options. My local library has online search of their physical and digital offerings. I can also borrow digital items (movies, audio books, ebooks) online with my valid library card. The Sony Reader store actually links you to a national website that helps you find your local library.
  • fahrenheit ??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by uncanny (954868) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:09AM (#34709538)
    At what temperature does a kindle burn?
  • Go Amazon! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:09AM (#34709542) Journal
    First off, it's their store, and it should be their decision to sell or not sell any particular book.

    Secondly, if they are indeed pulling titles off people's Kindles like last time, I say: "Go Amazon, and by all means extend the scope of your ban". All the sooner, people will wake up to the fact that they don't really "own" that DRM-ridden content after all.
    • by Zumbs (1241138)
      So, what you are saying is: The more you tighten your censorship, Amazon, the more customers will slip through your fingers? I hope you are correct!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sal Zeta (929250)

      First off, it's their store, and it should be their decision to sell or not sell any particular book.

      Well, by this logic I could say that Pre WW2 Nazi-affiliated Libraries in Germany were entirely in their right to burn every book they didn't like. Their nation (their leaders were legally elected by their country) ,their rules. The same happened in Spain during Franco's regime, or with Mussolini in Italy.

      You could say that there's a distinction between a Library and a bookstore, but from a social and cultural standpoint Amazon is the modern equivalent of Library of Alexandria. It could be fine from a an ec

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:10AM (#34709544)
  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:10AM (#34709552) Homepage

    Religious extremists aren't limited to the muslim world, it just takes other forms and actions and a lot of the effects seen in the US of that is that anything related to sex is banned but it's OK to sell weapons, show how to abuse someone (as long as it isn't sexually) and glorify war.

    So I'm just waiting for the Heinlein books to disappear too along with any books critical of religions - especially the books critical of christianity and the scientology movement.

    In the final stages even books related to science will disappear and only creationism books will be permitted to remain.

  • I'm pretty sure it's not the atheists...

  • by Mark19960 (539856) <Mark@freequ[ ].net ['est' in gap]> on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:12AM (#34709558) Homepage Journal

    Seriously.. if they don't want to sell something they don't have to sell it.
    We don't 'make' stores carry product do we?
    If they don't sell the product you want then buy it from someone that does!

    • Exactly. Or better yet, seize this business opportunity and serve the market segment Amazon is rejecting. Don't just speak up for the underserved pedophilia and gay rape market, be an entrepreneur and serve them yourself. Publish DRM-free PDFs and accept all submissions for sale. Link to a print-on-demand service for those that prefer physical media.

      Amazon is not the only book vendor, and nothing prevents a competing company from also selling books.
    • I don't care if they stop selling titles because they don't sell well. I do care if they stop carrying titles because the corporation objects to them on moral grounds, for two reasons:
      1) A corporation doesn't have morals. The morals it objects to are therefore the morals of a particular group of customers, which can be anything. I'd rather a corporation have exactly no morals in all situations, rather than espouse them on a case by case basis.
      2) When corporations become large enough, their censorship is jus

  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:14AM (#34709578) Homepage

    It seems that not even Slashdot is safe from censorship.

    Comments seems to dissapear, and a test gives the message "This exact comment has already been posted. Try to be more original...".

  • I might want to buy an ebook fairly soon. Can anybody recommend a good ebook reader where this kind of crap isn't possible?

    I'd like: no DRM, standard USB connector, possibility of uploading anything I want from USB, and open source firmware.

  • It is curious... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:17AM (#34709600) Journal
    A fairly large part of Amazon's business practice, aside from efficient JIT inventory/shipping, is customer profiling and recommendation(an extension of the classic retail upsell, only every recommendation isn't for a magazine or service plan, and beaten over your head!). Given their fair expertise in this area, and generally commanding lead in online bookselling, it seems unlikely that this is a case of "poor, poor, Amazon, haunted by the lawsuits of angry parents whose offspring's attempt to search for sparkle-ponies dumped them into the M/M Rape BDSM section". Surely they can trivially keep team pathologically sensitive from finding anything they don't search for, and wave the free speech flag to cover the rest.

    Thus, one is inclined to suspect that(since books about incest, rape, or whatever are presumably sold for a profit just like any other book) somebody inside or outside the company is being pushy for reasons ideological rather than financial, and that they are being surprisingly quiet about it(unlike say, the tremulous morons at the Parent's Television Council, who are explicitly ideological; but ontologically incapable of being quiet). Who exactly that might be is rather puzzling...
  • Bible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by antifoidulus (807088) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:17AM (#34709602) Homepage Journal
    Will they be removing the Christian Bible as well for ITS fictional incest? I mean, if you want to talk about books that harm kids minds, the bible is right up there with the Koran and Torah as the most harmful books out there.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      Why do you assume the incest in The Bible is fictional? Most modern scholars who do not seem bugshit crazy seem to regard the bible as a mixture of history, parable, propaganda, and back-edited, politically motivated bullshit.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Which contains stories of rape and incest.

  • by toriver (11308) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:17AM (#34709606)

    Or is that not considered fictional?

    The best known example from there is the story of Lot, his stupid wife who turned into salt by looking back on the devastation, and his daughters who got him drunk and had sex with him to bring him male heirs.

  • Amazon has made a good call here by protecting its brand and not associating itself with illegal and immoral activities like pedophilia.
  • by Elbowgeek (633324) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:20AM (#34709626) Journal

    And after expunging all un-Germ^H^H^H^HAmerican art from society we can move on to getting rid of those people who we find to be untermensch.

    Thank you Amazon for getting the ball rolling :-)

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:24AM (#34709648)

    Well, actually first they came for George Orwell. [rightpundits.com]

    And lots of people spoke up, so they promised not to do it again.

    I guess this time they decided to pick on an easier target.

  • Honestly, it is scary, how most of the people would not react to this in any way.

    Vote with your dollar my ass. Mine is one dollar in 3 billion others. =7

  • Will the Bible be next? It contains stories of incest.
  • by Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:31AM (#34709722)

    they start censoring things people can defend without sounding like perverts. People generally don't want to be known for defending these things, it hurts their chances of achieving high positions.

    I can just imagine how the defenders would be described in the news - defenders of (fictional) incest and gay rapists. They won't mention the fictional part, of course.

  • by Haedrian (1676506) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @08:31AM (#34709724)

    "Cooking with Rapeseed oil"

    • by scorp1us (235526)

      They have obsoleted the rapeseed name. It is now Canola oil.

      From Snopes:
      "The Canadian seed oil industry rechristened the product "canola oil" (Canadian oil) in 1978 in an attempt to distance the product from negative associations with the word "rape." Canola was introduced to American consumers in 1986"

      • by compro01 (777531)

        Rapeseed and canola are not the same thing. Canola is a specific type of rapeseed which was bred to contain less erucic acid and glucosinolates.

  • I'm no fan of censorship, but Amazon.com is a private company capable of making there own business decisions whether or not I agree with them. It's not as if these books are not available in other places, perhaps a local business that you could feel good about supporting. Calling a company's decision to stop selling a product censorship is at best an over reaction in my view. Amazon must feel that they will sell more books if they stop selling certain others. Otherwise the leadership at Amazon is making th
  • A couple of generations ago, you needed a bonfire in the middle of the street to get rid of books full of unpopular ideas.
    Today, that can be accomplished very quietly with a few inode updates.
    The Internet and DRMed information is like Alexandria written on gunpowder-impregnated flash paper.
    Information is easily linked and too rarely duplicated. Unplug a server, and it goes away.
    We can stand around and shrug when some paedo gets his dirty book pulled from his tablet.
    Nobody will be there - or care - when it'

  • Last time I checked Amazon was a company that can choose to sell what they want to sell. They can even choose to not sell things they used to sell, especially if they've hired new people who might be opposed to such books.

    Or, the most likely explanation is that the Chinese government is pressuring the Saudi Arabian government, which is pressuring the U.S. government to pressure Amazon to not sell those books.
  • http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/amazon-removes-pedophilia-book-store/story?id=12119035 [go.com]

    After defending sales of a self-published book on pedophilia, online retail giant Amazon last night reversed course and pulled the book from its Kindle store.

    The electronic book, "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct," by Philip R. Greaves II, went on sale on Oct. 28 and cost $4.79 to download.

    that was november 11. to amazon's credit, it initially defended the selling of this book. but it caved under pressure and bad publicity, and now the internal politics of amazon seems to have shifted course, and amazon has proactively started cutting other books that amazon doesn't want to be associated with, for whatever reason. it's a sea change. before october 28, amazon's policy seemed to have been "publish whatever". now, it's "publish whatever doesn't make amazon a target for bad pr"

  • by tekrat (242117) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @09:44AM (#34710446) Homepage Journal

    Particularly "1984" and "Fahrenheit 451" and has confused them with the corporate policy manual.

    It's only a matter of time before "Catcher in the Rye" is banned from Kindles -- after all, only serial killers/terrorists read that.

    I can't wait until they expand the ban to "anything" the Christian Taliban finds objectionable.... which is pretty much everything. I predict mass kindle burnings as people rebel against it all. Which is bad news for Apple as well, as their closed system pretty much is following Amazon's model of banning anything they don't like.

    Ironically, this will be good news for open-source-based tablets with real usb ports and no "app store" that limits what you can and can't load into your tablet.

    Either that, or America isn't what it claims to be, and everyone is perfectly happy being oppressed. Hurrah for Big Brother, we love you! I'm moving elsewhere where there really *is* freedom, like, Chad.

  • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @10:11AM (#34710730)

    I see a lot of posts pointing out that Amazon is a privately-owned company and free to carry (or not carry) whatever books they like.

    This is certainly true.

    But this issue is more than just some random retailer deciding not to carry a book they don't like.

    Amazon is removing these titles from Kindles. They carried a book, you bought it legally, you owned it, and now Amazon has gone and deleted it. Imagine if you bought a paper book at Barnes & Noble, and they decided to stop carrying it, so they sent somebody around to your house to collect that book and destroy it. This is troubling on a number of levels. It raises plenty of questions about ownership of digital property.

    Amazon is also absolutely ginormous. They're one of the (if not the) largest on-line retailers. What they do affects more than just their own business and their own customers. Just like Wal-Mart refusing to carry AO video game titles has basically rendered them non-existant.

    I'm not claiming that Amazon does not have the right to do what they did. Nor am I necessarily going to condemn it as a bad thing. But all the folks claiming it isn't a big deal because Amazon is well-within its rights are kind of missing the bigger picture.

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