We all know that the anonymity of the internet brings out the worst in some people. They cower in the shadows spewing hate because either they are too miserable in their own lives to understand the concept of civility, or they are psychopaths unable to function in society. Yes, this is an emotional issue with me. I certainly have no issues with cogent, well thought out criticism of any author’s work. Any author who is unable to take honest criticism probably shouldn’t be in the business. Unfortunately, comments on Amazon have really gotten out of control. Because of this, Rocky Wood, President of the Horror Writers Association, recently sent an open letter to the CEO of Amazon asking them monitor what is put on their website. Below is a copy of the letter from the HWA website:
A Public Letter to:
Jeff Bezos, CEO,
The Horror Writers Association (HWA) (www.horror.org) is a nonprofit organization of more than 1100 writers and publishing professionals around the world, dedicated to promoting horror literature and the interests of those who write it.
We are writing to bring to your attention the fact that Amazon’s customer review policy does not go far enough to protect authors and publishers from bullying, harassment and inappropriate reviews. Currently, the Amazon policy protects authors and publishers from “profanity or spiteful remarks,”
though it’s not clear what would be considered “spiteful,” and this rule appears not to be strictly enforced. In our view, beyond profanity and spitefulness, an inappropriate review would be one that:
• indicates the customer has not read the book, but only a small portion of it, such as a free electronic sample;
• includes spoilers which, once revealed, could significantly reduce interest in the work;
• includes negative personal remarks about the author; and/or
• is focused on the work’s price rather than its content.
In other words, a review should be about the content of the work, which was read by the customer, and not ruin the experience for other readers.
When authors complain about remarks that cross the line, they are often told by Amazon to engage the customer directly. The author never wins these confrontations; instead, engaging with anonymous people who are exhibiting trolling behavior only hurts the author him/herself. The end result is they can do nothing.
We recommend that Amazon strengthen its customer review policy to address the above issues and also require customers reveal their actual identity, which removes the cover of anonymity that enables trolling and the ability to simple re-enter the system under a new identity once banned.
To be clear, we are not asking for a policy that ensures only positive reviews. We are asking for a policy that focuses reviews on content and helps to eliminate public harassment of Amazon’s partners.
Enacting a stronger policy to ensure greater fairness in customer views would deliver significant benefits to Amazon. Publishers and authors will be more supportive of Amazon. Amazon’s customers will appreciate more useful reviews. Amazon itself will convey a more positive shopping experience and public image. By protecting its suppliers against those few who have exploited its reviewer policies and anonymity to engage in and bullying behavior, Amazon will be protecting its
customers and itself.
Thank you for allowing us to bring this important issue to your attention. We value what Amazon has done for the publishing industry. Our members value their partnership with you. We hope you will take our requests seriously and consider them in the best interests of the entire supply chain, from
the author to the customer.
Rocky Wood, President
Horror Writers Association
25 March 2014