Thursday, March 13, 2014

My New Amazon Petition

You may have read that bestselling author Anne Rice has joined an online petition, started by Todd Barselow, requesting that Amazon:

"revise their policies regarding anonymity when it comes to writing product/book reviews and for participation in the forums. Reviewers and forum participants should not be anonymous. By removing their anonymity and forcing them to display their real, verified identities, I believe that much of the harassment and bullying will cease."

As of today's date, this petition has been signed by more than 6000 people, seeking to put an end to Mean Anonymous People on the Internet (MAPI.)

Naturally, they supported their position by linking to thousands of occurrences of bullying. Just because I can't find any links, either in the petition or the comments, doesn't mean they aren't there. I mean, they have to be there, right? When you decry something and demand change, don't you link to specific examples?

(If someone can point me to these links, please do.)

Normally, I'd be against such a petition, claiming it is an instance of moral panic. Just like the No Sock Puppets Here Please folks two years ago. I thought they were acting publicly insecure, and ultimately very silly. After their online petition, Amazon removed thousands of reviews, including many reviews of my books, and reviews I've written of other books. These were legitimate, thoughtful reviews, and the result of Amazon's action personally is that I no longer review books on their site. Why should I spend time writing a review if it can be deleted without any explanation?

I also value free speech, even anonymously, and I dislike the idea of policing public forums. I believe people have the right to voice things you don't like, even if they don't sign their real name.

Anonymity allows people to say things--in some cases positive things--that they wouldn't say otherwise. Writing a review of erotica without your children knowing it is you. Weighing in on a heated debate without making yourself a target. Whistle blowing.

Now Amazon can do whatever they want; they're a private company. You might not like some of their policies, but they aren't the government, and we don't get to vote to decide what they should and shouldn't do.

They have terms of service, and customers can report hate speech, threats, and harassment. (Perhaps that's why the petition didn't supply links to offenders--Amazon has removed them.)

Amazon won't ever be able to police their entire site 24/7 because that would be impossible. I don't believe they should even try to. If Amazon listens to this petition and tries to end all anonymity, with the aim of stopping MAPI, I think it is a slippery slope.

This slippery slope means there is no place to draw the line. If you demand something be deleted from a forum because it offends you, where does that end? Amazon doesn't allow hate speech or threats. But being critical and mean-spirited, even anonymously, has to be protected. If it isn't, watch how quickly you get hauled off to jail for criticizing a government, or a law. In countries without free speech, anonymity is the only way to voice opinions.

We have to let the pinheads spout their nonsense in order to be truly free. Forcing manners on someone doesn't make for a polite society--it makes for a totalitarian society.

We also live in a time where anyone kicked off of a forum can get back on within minutes using a proxy.

If everywhere public voices mingle is policed, some good voices will be silenced, good people will mingle less, and trolls will whine about their rights--and they may have a point because of that annoying due process/freedom of speech/Constitution thing. And when trolls do get kicked off, they'll come right back.

Do those signing this petition really think there's a way to stop people from posting anonymously? How? Credit card verification? I can buy a $25 Visa gift card at Walmart and open up an Amazon account under any name I choose. Maybe Amazon should fingerprint all customers? Demand a DNA sample? A retina scan?

So I was originally against telling a private company what they should do, and I believed the petition was ridiculous, and potentially harmful.

Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized something startling:

That petition doesn't go far enough.

MAPI aren't beneficial to society at all. They need to be silenced, and held accountable for being mean. But why stop there? There are many other things we should insist Amazon start doing.

So I decided to start my own petition. Along with asking Amazon to stop anonymous posting, I have some other demands.

1. Remove all 1 star reviews. I have hundreds of them, and they hurt my feelings and make me feel sad. If Amazon got rid of all 1 star reviews, and customers could only rate on a scale of 2-5, it would eliminate a lot of the anger and frustration felt by authors.

2. Everyone who reviews or comments on Amazon should not only post their real name, but also their address, phone number, last three income tax returns, whom they voted for in the last several elections, and pictures of them showering. Let's make sure that people are REALLY held accountable for their opinions by outlawing privacy completely. (I think the NSA may be able to help here.)

3. All reviewers must prove they actually bought the book, finished it entirely, swear on the religious tome of their choice that they weren't paid for their review, and then make sure the review ably defends their star rating. Naturally, this last point can only be possible if they've taken several college courses on How To Properly Review, and have attained a minimum of a B average.

4. I don't like the words "mirthquake" or "thrillomedy". Amazon needs to delete these stupid words wherever they appear on their website.

5. When someone posts something that someone else doesn't like on Amazon.com, Amazon should send a representative to that poster's home and beat the crap out of them

6. Amazon should use bots and spiders to constantly patrol their website, permanently banning anyone who uses too many exclamation points. Or adjectives. 

7. Murder is a very serious topic. It is, quite literally, killing people. Amazon needs to take a stand and stop all murder. Worldwide. Forever. Because murder is bad. 

8. I want a pony, but they're expensive and I don't have enough room on my property for one. Amazon needs to buy me a pony, and a farm where I can keep the pony. Also, lots of hay.



Joe sez: I know trolls can cause pain. I just think policing words is potentially more painful than any words could be. The NSA would love to know every hacktivist in the international network known as Anonymous, but I think it is better for the world if they remain anonymous. Getting rid of all anonymity on Amazon, or on the Internet, or in the world, is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

MAPI will always exist. If Amazon listens to the petitioners and tries to take steps to remove anonymity, they will no doubt also remove many heartfelt, positive posters along with the mean ones. And the mean ones will find a way to comment anyway. They always do.

The only way to truly deal with MAPI is to ignore them. Don't engage. Ever. And teach your children about cyber etiquette and manners. It isn't okay to try to hurt someone's feelings, even if you'll never meet that person in real life. I've never said anything online that I wouldn't say in person, and I don't post anonymously. But I defend peoples' rights to be anonymous pinheads, even if I'm their target.

Of course, there is no defense for hate speech, libel, threats, and harassment. But I believe Amazon takes steps to remove reviews and comments that violate these things. If they don't, please someone post a link to where they're failing.

The system may not be perfect, but it works. Having your feelings hurt online is not a reason to try and kill a gnat with an AK-47.

As for the petition, getting 6000 signatures is impressive. People dislike anonymous trolls, and I dislike them as well. But then, who wouldn't sign a petition stating that bullies are bad without thinking it through carefully? Signing petitions without fully understanding the consequences is something that people are good at.

Anne Rice, Todd Barselow, and the thousands of people who don't like MAPI would be better served by not reading reviews and not responding to critics. As a publishing personality who no doubt has a lot more haters than Anne Rice does, I wouldn't ever think to try and shut them up, or hold them accountable. As Michael J. Fox recently said (and Hugh Howey repeated):

"What people think about me is none of my business."

Amazon can't stop MAPI anymore than it can stop worldwide murder. My unsolicited advice to Anne and Todd is to create your own author and reader forum, celebrating books, and police it however you see fit. You can insist on zero anonymity, only allow positive comments, and kick out anyone who says anything you don't like.

And yes, my petition is real. Feel free to sign it, link to it, Tweet it, and post comments. If you do, and Amazon buys me a pony, you can come over for free pony rides.

But hopefully Amazon won't listen to me. Or Anne and Todd.

Addendum:

On Todd Barselow's petition website, I clicked on his name and found this, which amused me for some reason.


While I'm sure Todd is who he says he is, this made me smile.

131 comments:

P. S. Power said...



1. They can just get a gift card and then... I dunno, sign up under some different account!

That's a great point, Joe. So what you're saying is that, if they want to attack you, they'd have to actually do some small bit of work? Instead of just doing it without thought?

Excellent idea!

No, we can't stop them all, but anyone that has to go and get new accounts to attack a person, will at least know that they might be in the wrong.

2. Without anonymity, we're instantly doomed to a totalitarian state!

Seriously? Come on... That's so silly that you need to rethink that one quick!

Amazon saying that wanting to troll in the reviews needs to be done under your own name, or at least one you had to work for, is a bit different than the government saying you need to leave a DNA sample before posting.

You're linking this to the same kind of process that the sock puppet clowns used. They sought control, this first petition is all about accountability. Yes, Trolls won't like it, but so far you haven't come up with even one good reason why people need to attack authors while hiding.

It's the exact opposite situation.

Why fear backing your word, on Amazon?

So you can review porn? Well, if youre afraid to do that, then maybe you shouldn't? There is no one forcing a person to say things that they know, or fear, might hurt them.

3. This idea that your working with promotes Troll Culture (I think I coined that one... Quick, check!)

It's basically saying: "Hey, you can't do anything about it, and yes, it hurts, but they need to get off, so lay back and try to enjoy it."

I don't know if you see your own words that way, but... Yeah, it's kind of there.

4. Why aren't there hundreds of links to these attacks?

Probably because people know that you'll just say, "hey, even though they called you out, and spoke about you, personally, not your work, I don't care and think you're a whiner."

I wouldn't link to anything either, given that. It doesn't have to be libel to be wrong, but you're saying things in a way that makes everyone think that nothing less will change your already set opinion.

There you go! Some things to think about, which you will probably ignore, because it doesn't fit what you want to think. That's fine, but then again, you own it, at least here, using your own name.

Cowards hide behind fake names, hit from the shadows and sneak around to undermine people just trying to make a living.

I've read some of your reviews, if you honestly want things to link to. Many of them attack you, as a person, without cause. You have plenty to use as an example, if you really want to open your mind and see things from other peoples perspectives.

If not, then carry on! Just don't claim that everyone should let themselves be abused, because it doesn't really bother you.




NJMANGA said...

You really cant can't stop people from reviewing especially when it comes to trolling to destroy your sales, you can only hope people don't base their purchase on a hateful troll and actually read the content of your work before making judgement. I think the whole petition issue is stupid for the simple fact that is no one has the right to censor a comment of your work, if you don't like negative comments don't write a book, not every person will enjoy your work and not every person will give you 5 stars. If people want to pass a petition how about a petition prevent the big publishers from buying positive reviews for their authors to increase their sales and book standing in the top 100. They want to censor negative comments lets censor the purchased positive comments your publisher purchases to increase the sales of your book maybe that will even it out since 1 star reviews hurt their sales and their feeling, fake positive reviews hurt the feeling of authors who worked hard on their release and didn't have the income to purchase those positive 5 star reviews. I think fair is fair if petitions are being passed around.

P. S. Power said...

Oh, just to point this one out, since I know some people don't click links for research:


The initial petition only asks for real identification to be given, and for that to be proven, before posting.

Yes, people are going to keep talking about censorship, but nothing in this petition is about that. There is no call to take away anyone's voice, just a request that people sign their name by their words.

Claiming otherwise is a sign of a very weak argument. The conversation is about the lack of need for hiding who you are, in normal communications on Amazon.

That's all.

I just wanted to add that, before people get to far afield to realize it. If anyone was going to.

Shaun Horton said...

That is exactly the whole point. MAPI's will find a way through the system to continue doing what they do regardless of Amazon's attempts to stop them.

On the other hand, there are a lot of people who have legitimate reasons for wanting to post anonymously. It could be for safety reasons or professional reasons. And these are the people who won't be bothered to sign up and leave reviews at all if the ability to be anonymous is taken from them.

Joe Konrath said...

but anyone that has to go and get new accounts to attack a person, will at least know that they might be in the wrong.

That's the complaint, P.S. Users with multiple accounts. They're doing it anyway.

Amazon saying that wanting to troll in the reviews needs to be done under your own name, or at least one you had to work for, is a bit different than the government saying you need to leave a DNA sample before posting.

Slippery slope, P.S. I'm sure you can use your imagination and guess how little steps can lead to major changes.

There is no one forcing a person to say things that they know, or fear, might hurt them.

There is no one forcing a person to read their reviews, either.

But luckily we have the freedom to do what we want to.

I've read some of your reviews, if you honestly want things to link to. Many of them attack you, as a person, without cause.

And I'm willing to put up with that, because I think the alternative is worse.

Joe Konrath said...

Just don't claim that everyone should let themselves be abused, because it doesn't really bother you.

I'm really tempted to delete your post to prove my point.

If I did, would you ever come back to my blog?

I think, if I deleted you and you never returned, the world would be worse off for it. Your opinion matters. It would also matter if you posted anonymously.

Disagreeing, and the discourse it provokes, is a good thing. We can both believe the other is wrong, but isn't it great we have a place to discuss it?

Joe Konrath said...

There is no call to take away anyone's voice, just a request that people sign their name by their words.

This isn't censorship, because Amazon can do whatever they want to. Just like Chik-Fil-A can close on Sundays and hate LGBTs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSBFTKI-zIM

But the petition doesn't seem to understand that asking people to sign their names to their comments does inhibit free speech. Which is why I allow anonymous comments. That means putting up with trolls or pinheads to get posts from industry bestsellers, agents, and editors who would otherwise be hesitant to engage here.

And, as I said, good luck getting it to work even if Amazon agrees. Any MAPI determined enough to hurt someone is determined enough to find another way to do so.

Just as DRM harms honest people and doesn't dissuade pirates, this petition will harm honest posts and not dissuade trolls.

Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Amazon will suddenly become a utopia where no one's feelings are ever hurt.

Jim Self said...

Joe, you disappointed me. I was hoping you'd push for implanted chips that delete hurtful thoughts before they get posted, or at least for Amazon to arm their new drones and take out offenders.

The internet-naive have failed to learn the #1 social rule of the internet: do not feed the trolls. This petition is like dumping a whole bag of food into the troll tank.

Sandra Martinez said...

Hi,
the signing of the petition is triggered by different things for each person. In most cases it is not a rational thought.

As I see it, the reason behind it was the way Anne Rice was smacked by a group of individuals who consider themselves Amazon police squad, with the sacred duty of putting authors who write in the wrong place in "their place".

Anne made the mistake of posting in the wrong forum, and things got ugly fast. Then she moved to the authors´jail in Amazon (MOA), but had the audacity of express her surprised concern, and they followed her mob-style.

I went to that thread seeking information, and ended up caught in the mess.

You asked for proof, here is mine:

http://elearah.com/images/goodreads-bizarre-voting.pdf

I was still not going to sign the petition. I respect privacy, and thought of all the other people who would have their privacy violated because of 12 poor souls with too much time and too little life.

Yesterday they finally pushed the right button and I signed. I am not very proud of myself for doing it, not one bit. I should have get out of there before. I am not coming back.

Joe Konrath said...

I was hoping you'd push for implanted chips that delete hurtful thoughts before they get posted

I'm patenting a chip that does just that. It's called the Ludivico Enhancement. It will run like clockwork, and be orange.

Adam Lawson said...

Quoting P.S. Power:

Many of them attack you, as a person, without cause.

So... Amazon can delete those without needing the person's name to be displayed...

So you can review porn? Well, if youre afraid to do that, then maybe you shouldn't?

Uh, maybe some people want to let other people who are into (whips/chains, spanking, or any other sexual fetish) whether a book on said subject is good without having their real life name attached.

I like breasts a whole lot, but I wouldn't want a potential employer googling my name and seeing me talk about a particular pair.

I hate this attitude of "well if you have nothing to hide..."

Maybe I want to review a book on something political or religious -- and give my honest opinion, but not have it tied to my name. Maybe because, I don't know, I'm a private person but I'd like people to know what I thought of it? That's the point of reviews.

Sorry, no, I do. And anonymous communication isn't hurting people -- not even in this case. It's not that the people are anonymous that's the problem.

It's the fact they're douchebags.

Amazon can simply remove that and disallow said douchebags to post reviews anymore. Problem solved.

The person could, technically, make more fake accounts and make more douche comments. But that's against the TOS and breaking a TOS in a lot of cases repeatedly could lead to actual legal trouble.

One line change to commenting policy and the problem is solved: "Don't be a douche or we'll ask you to leave."

Although, short of threats or exposing someone's personal information, I'm not sure what would constitute a need to remove a review. They don't like the author? Well, if the content of the review is irrelevant to the quality of the book ("Author X is a TURD! HIS BOOKS ALL STINK!") it will get 0 helpful ratings and possibly deleted as it stands.

I think all relevant reviews should get to stand. I'm all in favor of anonymity for them. Even if they're critical of me.

Adam Lawson said...

Bah. Blogger ate my emphasis tags for the quotes.

I want a petition against eating my tags.

Joe Konrath said...

You asked for proof, here is mine:

Sandra, that's a pdf of a screen-saved shot from Booklikes.com.

Where's the Amazon links that show the bullying?

And where are those original links on Booklikes? They seem to be gone.

Joe Konrath said...

I like breasts a whole lot, but I wouldn't want a potential employer googling my name and seeing me talk about a particular pair.

Too late! In our new society where privacy is antiquated, I have taken it upon myself to email every prospective employer you ever may have and informing them that you appreciate the female form.

Sorry, but you just can't get away with stuff like that. No matter how awesome breasts are. (And they're pretty awesome.)

P. S. Power said...

I'm really tempted to delete your post to prove my point.

What point?

That's lashing out, but doesn't prove anything at all. I'm not suggesting censorship. Just accountability.

The people that are afraid of that, as far as book reviews go, are the ones to worry about.

I don't think that reviews should be removed, just that a lot of people might just take off a lot of the negative things they've said about others, if they knew anyone could look for it through Google.

As for it being hard to implement, perhaps. I wouldn't say that Amazon should do too much, really. Just, let people know that the name on their credit card will be their handle.

People will still be people, but it might make a difference.

It won't solve "mean people on the internet" but it might get them to think twice.

Yes,trying to get people to be polite can be thought of as quelling "free speech" so is telling people not to make death threats, threaten rape, bodily harm or accuse people of crimes.

Remember, that kind of thing, in part, is what you want to defend here. (Not in those words, of course. It's what your plan of letting people do what they want supports, not what I think you want.) This isn't about protecting freedom fighters from the man.

It's about letting people go after others because they have problems and know that no one will stop them at all.

Also, what you do here is very different than what Amazon allows.

Here I want to hear from industry insiders and so on. What I don't want is for them to simply attack me, personally, hiding themselves away. Those are two completely different worlds.

If someone from a Big Five company, or a big agent, wants to have a go at me, then, yeah, they need to step up and do it under their own name.

There can be different rules for different situations.I'm good with that.

But this doesn't mean that we should give up and just let the trolls win. Giving up almost never makes the world better.


Sabrina Chase said...

Yer not thinking large enough, Joe. We know Amazon is gearing up for drones, right? So anybody who posts a Mean Review(tm) will be followed by a drone broadcasting a) the entire review, with the author's name replaced by the reviewer's, b)Variations on a Theme of Monty Python's French Knights c) an entirely imaginary Amazon shopping list featuring books on treating embarrassing personal issues/diseases.

On a more serious note, for those who say "what do you have to be afraid of by using your real name?" I can think of two examples where a credible fear would exist preventing the use of a real name--stalking victims and those trying to escape domestic violence.

Yes, trollish cretins will attempt to hijack rules for their own purposes, but they always have and always will. Let's not destroy the good to temporarily remove the bad.

Joe Konrath said...

What point?

That's lashing out, but doesn't prove anything at all


Letting people voice their opinions, even anonymously, is a good thing. If Amazon restricts anonymity, it's the same as not letting people be heard.

Deleting your post is similar to no allowing anonymous posts.

This isn't about protecting freedom fighters from the man.

Yet. Slippery slope, remember?

It's about letting people go after others because they have problems and know that no one will stop them at all.

And I have yet to see a link where this is happening. When it happens, it seems like Amazon deletes the harassing comment if someone complains.

Screen names and avatars are part of the Internet. I'd say they outnumber those you post their real name and photograph. You really want to eliminate that because some people are bullies?

But this doesn't mean that we should give up and just let the trolls win.

Where exactly are they winning?

Joe Konrath said...

Let's not destroy the good to temporarily remove the bad.

I dunno. Illinois got rid of the death penalty, because it turns out we executed a few people who were innocent.

Personally, I think that's an overreaction. Who cares if a few innocent people die, as long as we kill a lot of bad ones?

Sandra Martinez said...

Sandra, that's a pdf of a screen-saved shot from Booklikes.com.

Where's the Amazon links that show the bullying?

And where are those original links on Booklikes? They seem to be gone.


Yes, a post of mine in MOA—said in the heat of the conversation--was taken from Amazon to Booklikes, where there is a group dedicated to monitor BBAs (Bad Behaved Authors), who later on act in Goodreads.

The 1-stars in Goodreads are not such a big deal. What really bothered me was the intent.

I wouldn´t call it bulling. It does catch you off guard, if you don´t know where you are heading.

You want the initial thread by Anne? I only participated in the one in MOA:

http://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors/ref=cm_cd_et_md_pl?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx2UYC1FC06SU8S&cdMsgID=Mx1Z5E72A2M0F3E&cdMsgNo=1&cdPage=1&cdSort=oldest&cdThread=Tx161FOLX8OXP8L#Mx1Z5E72A2M0F3E

About the conversation being removed, I am not surprised.

There is more to the story. A guy called Rick Carrufel, who has been in war with them since one lady one-starred one of his books. And this lead to very complicated situations. He published the private information of one of the ladies (another site had published it first, and he did remove it, but that is just a no-no). He did apologize finally a couple of days ago, but I think--and told him so--that his attitude inflamed these people against self-pub.

The last thread in MOA is this one:

http://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors/ref=cm_cd_pg_pg1?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx2UYC1FC06SU8S&cdPage=1&cdThread=Tx2OXT72IMMD7Y3

Let me know if I can help in any way to clarify this some more.

Sloan Johnson said...

Thank you SO much! While I understand that things suck sometimes, the world seems to be going crazy lately!

Anonymous said...

America: Land of the Crybabies. I'm so glad I'm gonna die in 30 years, when I'm too old and don't give a crap anymore. We're the new France ... minus the croissants.

Petrea Burchard said...

Joe, I agree with you.

I'm a person of immediate enthusiasms and when I saw the petition I thought, "Yeah! No bullying!" And I admit, I signed it.

After some thought I wished I could rescind my signature. We've got to have freedom of speech. Even icky speech. And if it's directed at me, as you said, I just have to rise above it and not engage.

Anonymous said...

I would like to stand up for the mean anonymous people on the internet. These are the teenagers of cyberspace, living breathing pillars of self-centered immaturity. We can only hope that time will bring them empathy and an understanding of manners. In the meantime, even book Nazis have a right to march in public. I would sign this, but prefer to remain, ever yours...anonymous

Anonymous said...

From my interaction with her on Facebook, I can tell that Anne is very open-minded toward self-publishing, so I applaud her for that.

This petition, I don't know.

But I don't think it's a contradiction to be simultaneously in favor of free speech and opposed to harassment. Bullying shouldn't be tolerated anywhere, whether it be the school playground or the Internet. Can we stop it completely? Probably not. But there’s nothing wrong with voicing an opinion against it.

And I know it’s ironic and maybe even a little hypocritical to be posting anonymously about this subject, but there you go. Who wants to be a target for the bullies? Not me.

So, in a way, the Internet has taken away free speech in certain circumstances. We can no longer speak freely without the threat of repercussions from bullies who will never have to face any consequences for their actions.

Anonymous said...

1. Remove all 1 star reviews. I have hundreds of them, and they hurt my feelings and make me feel sad. If Amazon got rid of all 1 star reviews, and customers could only rate on a scale of 2-5, it would eliminate a lot of the anger and frustration felt by authors.

Joe, I demand that 2-star reviews be removed as well, since 2-star reviews will become the new 1-star reviews. They hurt my feelings, too. Only 3 star reviews or higher.

But wait...

P. S. Power said...

Joe...

There is no slippery slope. It's a false argument and always is.

Gays won't be marrying sheep any time soon if they are allowed same sex marriage.

Communists won't take us over if Charlie Chaplin makes a movie...

And people having their name next to their words won't stop them from speaking, if they have something they need to say.

It might slow down some of the worst, most useless, speech. It might not as well, but not trying? That won't help anyone.

As for where the trolls are winning? Look around, you're soaking in it. The world is becoming a worst place. That's their goal, and they are winning.

It isn't done yet, but yes, each time we let them get away with an unprovoked attack, or hide behind false claims of purity...

Then they win.

Standing by and doing nothing, because it's hard, because some fear that they will lose their ability to attack without fear of retribution or even real response...

That is a win for the people that want tear the world down for their own amusement.

But even that isn't a slippery slope. If we stop them, or even slow them down, things get better.

Doing nothing just lets thing carry on as they are.

*Just to point this one out, I don't blame Amazon in this. They are a "place" online, and named in that petition, but this is a larger problem that the entire world needs to deal with.

If you don't like the suggestion given, people having their real names used, then come up with something better? Doing nothing isn't a solution, or even a chance at one.

I know, who are we to ask for things to be improved?

Then again, who loses from this being done. Not that it will be, but who actually would be harmed? Erotic novelists whose five year old's search Google to try and find out what books they've been reviewing?

Joe Konrath said...

Let me know if I can help in any way to clarify this some more.

Sandra, you published links to 18,000 Amazon comments.

Are you saying, in 18,000 comments, it was nothing but anonymous harassment and cyber-bullying? I'm not going to read all 18,000 posts to find out why there Amazon needs to crack down on anonymous trolls. What is the link to the posts that concern you? They each have a permalink next to them.

I'd be surprised, in an exchange that long, if civility could hold out indefinitely. And you just mentioned someone removed some comments and apologized. And from the looks of it, he wasn't posting anonymously.

So what exactly do you want Amazon to do?

Joe Konrath said...

P.S., freedom means that gays should be able to marry who they want to and people can be communists if they want to and free speech must be protected. The examples you posted don't side with you're argument, they side with mine.

A slippery slope I'm referring to is about restricting freedoms. You're likening my position to restricting freedoms, which is incorrect.

Once you stop being tolerant, it is very easy to take a little step further.

Doing nothing just lets thing carry on as they are.

Who is doing nothing? Amazon has a TOS that allows harassment to be reported. They aren't sitting idly by, ignoring libelous statements.

From all I've read on the topic, Anne didn't like getting her feelings hurt, and she has a precedent for not dealing well with critics.

http://blogcritics.org/oh-anne/

Then again, who loses from this being done. Not that it will be, but who actually would be harmed?

If I did it on my blog, a lot of people would lose out. Entire blog posts, spurred by anonymous posters, would never have existed. Many fascinating, intelligent debates would not have happened. Industry pros with opinions who yearned to be heard wouldn't have been able to share their experience and opinions.

We don't need a solution. There is no problem, other than some writers foolishly engaging critics, and taking things personally.

Someone show me some thread where some anonymous poster on Amazon is being a bully, and then show me that numerous attempts to get the post removed have failed.

Until that can be verified, why the heck is there a petition other than moral panic and joining a group without thinking too deeply because it purports to do good things (Let's ban dihydrogen monoxide! It's responsible for thousands of deaths every year!).

When I made the joke "Let's stop murder" I was using hyperbole to make a point. Murder is bad. Bullying is bad. In both cases, there are systems already in place to punish the guilty.

And yes, people should be able to read porn and review it without having to worry about using their real name, just like more erotica writers should be able to use pen names (and do). It is nobody's business what kind of smut I like. Why shouldn't I be able to review it without my boss, co-workers, and mother finding out?

Take Anne's own Sleeping Beauty trilogy, originally written under a pen name.

http://www.amazon.com/Claiming-Sleeping-Beauty-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B003QP4DU4

It has over 700 reviews. If Amazon killed those done anonymously, more than 2/3 would disappear.

That's not harmful? That's not a loss?

If I want to be gay, I should be allowed. If I want to be a communist, I should be allowed. And if I want to give a 1 star review under the username "BigJ69", I should be allowed. And if BigJ69 starts using hate speech or libel, someone should report him, and Amazon will take care of it.

this is a larger problem that the entire world needs to deal with.

The way to deal with it is to ignore MAPI, and teach your children well, not to make it harder to express yourself.

My Amazon review profile is in my name, and often my reviews are tagged with "Real Name".

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2012/09/konrath-posts-fake-amazon-reviews.html

Allow me to play provocateur and ask if your reviews are under your real name, or if you use a screen name or your "P.S. Power" pen name.

Does it really matter if people know the name on your birth certificate? Shouldn't you be able to comment or write under any name you choose, like DL Power or Morgan Price or Brian Kennedy? Should Anne Rice be forced to be called "Howard" because that's what her parents named her?

Why take away the freedom to choose our online identity because some people abuse that privilege?

Claire Chilton said...

Oh, come on, man. I've already done a book worth of essays on this, and now there's another post on it.. gawd.

By the way, you never replied to my email, which included evidence of the indie publisher hunting down victims on the ABNA forums, conning authors, then destroying their books on Amazon to hold them hostage. The restraining order and screenshots of abuse were attached.

So yeah, there is that problem with anonymous on Amazon. Any criminal can use their systems to rip people off or attack them.

Is it really freedom of speech when authors are silenced? They are the voices that historically speak out against injustice more than anyone else. And yet, groups of trolls are empowered to intimidate and silence authors, using reviews and bullying on the Amazon forums.

When you talk about freedom of speech, it doesn't seem to include authors.

Here's an example: An author comments on a review to thank a reviewer for a lovely review that brought a tear of gratitude to their eye.

Can you guess what happened next?

The author is overrun with troll comments about fake reviews or some other BS. They try to defend themselves, only to find that people start slamming the shit out of their book in reviews. They try to complain, but Amazon (noreply@ amazon.com) sends them an auto-email that basically says 'tough shit.'

They try to speak to their peers, maybe on the Amazon forums to ask advice...

Can you guess what happens then?

You got it, a large group of trolls drop by to harass them into leaving in shame, implying they are everything from a whiny brat to someone who punches kittens.

Next, they go to their own blog and make a post. It's an outrageous attack. They, as all authors would, want to tell their side of the story in their own safe environment.

Trolls see it and decide to promote a blog post on their own blog that attacks the author for outrageous BS, bringing their BS to thousands of people, who by their nature don't read into the finer details and choose to automatically listen to this blog post. Then it hits facebook and everyone is talking about this person as if they are meat in a grinder. Why not, the article sounds believable, so it must be true.

The author receives hate mail, phone calls, threats from thousands of strangers until they eventually go silent, living in fear of speaking ever again.

All that for an innocent comment on Amazon...

Crime or not, explain to me how that is freedom of speech!

Explain to me how 'shut up and take it on the chin' is good advice for freedom of speech!

I'm all for freedom of speech. I'm not all for coddling the anonymity of sadistic human beings.

I'm all for writers to have the freedom to write without harassment. And yeah, I think they should be able to thank people who review their books if the want to.

If they, as so many people claim happens, complain about a review in an unreasonable manner, in a real ID environment, they're doing it under their own name. They'll publicly look like an asshole. They won't need to be trolled into submission for it by the masses. It'll be live on their profile next to their real name.

Still, I don't have a solution other than real identity for the problem, which of course may possibly lead to the dystopian future world where the NSA find out and decide that Amazon security is the bomb, so they take control of the internet in the same manner--I'm not sure how since one website can't control the entire internet. Ignoring the fact that hactivists have their own version of the internet setup for freedom of speech in the case of that event, as do Google, the NSA then would conquer all by banning VPNs I guess, because nothing else would work.

Just saying, if they could control the internet, they already would.



Again, just my opinion.

Joe Konrath said...

Here's an example: An author comments on a review to thank a reviewer for a lovely review that brought a tear of gratitude to their eye.

Can you link to that? Or was it the post taken down?

Screenshots aren't links. The only reason to send screenshots is because the original links were removed, which is proof the system works as it should. People complain, Amazon removes the offending material.

I don't mind being trolled, which is why I'm fine signing my own name. If I wanted to voice my opinion without being trolled, I'm happy to have the ability to do so anonymously--that is until petitions like Anne's take that ability away.

I've been to forums where I've been harassed, and instead of demanding the moderators do something, I simply left the forum and didn't return. No ego engaged, no harm done, just sticks and stones.

I'm not saying there aren't assholes on the Internet. I'm not asking for proof that people are jerks.

I'm asking for links that show Amazon needs to stop allowing anonymous posts. And no one has given me any of those links.

MAPI will never quit, no matter what names they post under. But don't take away my ability to post anonymously because you don't like what other anonymous posters are doing.

Joe Konrath said...

Apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way.

http://carolynjewel.com/wordpress/2014/03/13/author-fascism/

Claire Chilton said...

Joe,

No, I created an example of what happens. It's not an actual event. It's an example of what does happen. I suppose you could call it my take on life at Amazon.

Are you telling me that you've never seen an author attacked for commenting on a review on Amazon, really? If not, then why advise people not to comment on reviews? I mean if nothing ever happens if you do, why is that advised to authors?

You do make a fair point about past crimes being irrelevant. In my own experience, I got trolled. I walked away, and moved on. It was not recent.

But you're missing the fact that a bullied person isn't going to want to post links to their current destruction on a blog where they can be attacked for it.

I asked the group that had been recently attacked to drop by. They did. They read your post and the comments on it. They decided against posting anything about their situation here because they saw the reaction I was getting for just suggesting that the Amazon support system could be improved.

I don't think a bullied person would want to post a current link here for fear of it inviting more trolling. Anonymous or not, people nattering at you is exhausting.

It's a bit like asking a GBH victim to walk into a dark alley alone and wait there to see if someone attacks them again, as proof.

But, you are right. If the only evidence is people who've experienced it in the past, what's to say that the situation hasn't already changed? Maybe Amazon already improved it?

Except, those people who committed crimes on Amazon spanning the last ten years, are still on Amazon. Maybe they all found God and turned over a new leaf without any kind of nudging required from Amazon?

But then, if I email support about abuse, I still get an auto email telling me 'tough shit'.

We could gather a group of new authors. You know, really innocent ones. Get them to make a comment on one of their reviews and see what happens? (Please don't do that. I am joking!)

But if its totally safe for an author to comment on Amazon, in any way, exercising their right to freedom of speech, then why are so many of them scared to?



Joe Konrath said...

They decided against posting anything about their situation here because they saw the reaction I was getting for just suggesting that the Amazon support system could be improved.

They can post here anonymously. No one will know who they are. And if bullies come, I'll deal with them.

Some people disagree with you, me included. But the reaction you've been getting has been level-headed. No one is trolling, harassing, or attacking you. If anyone did, I'd delete the comment. Much like Amazon already deletes comments that are against their TOS.

Again, no one is denying there are bad people on the Internet. Only that killing anonymity is a bad idea.

I hate bullies. I hate them so much I fought one in high school because he was picking on a smaller kid. I told him to pick on me. He did. We took it outside. I won.

But you can't punch someone in the face on the Internet to get him to stop. In reality, you can't do much, other than report him when he violates TOS. That, and never ever engage.

When 6400 people sign a petition to get Amazon to stop posters from cyber-bullying, and there are no links to said bullying, it really hurts their case.

I understand wanting justice. I understand feeling helpless. I understand the justifiable anger when someone gets away with being mean.

And I value the ability to post anonymously more than all of that.

This petition is silly, and can do more harm than good. If Anne doesn't like some peoples' reactions to her posting on a public forum, the answer isn't forcing the forum to accept her suggested changes. The answer is posting where she can control the forum. Like I do on this blog.

I learned a long time ago that I can't change people's opinions of me. But I don't have to let their opinions of me, or the terrible things they say, effect me.

Andrew Goodman said...

Signed and promoted.
Wow, a lot of negativity about this but if someone wants to bad-mouth someone else then at least have the b*lls to admit who you are.

Alan Spade said...

For the record, I didn't sign Ann Rice petition and I think anonymity has to be protected if we want to continue living in a free society.

But that's the concept of anonymity. Not the mean persons whose intent is to hurt.

I think Anne Rice's petition was a good thing, because, as much as I don't agree with her, it has ignited a debate which is essential today.

"If I did it on my blog, a lot of people would lose out." Joe, there were some periods when even you prevented anonymous persons to speak on your blog. Yes it was temporary, but it was justified, because it helped moderate this blog when the debate became too much heated.

People who post anonymously to hurt other people on Amazon may have at least three motives:
- simply to hurt people, on a whim
- they have an economic agenda, because they work for concurrence
- they have an economic agenda, because they work for the author who didn't like his/her reviews, so they are attacking reviewers

I agree with Joe when he says most of the debate is fueled by authors who want to defend their books by attacking some reviewers. He's perfectly right when he says it is essential not to feed the trolls.

But these trolls matters, because they are not good for business. Amazon should be concerned. Very concerned.

So, I think Amazon would be wise, not to prevent persons from posting anonymously of course, but to do just what Joe did on its own blog: to prevent temporarily any reviewer to post reviews when reviews have become a terrain for hate and flames war.

Mothers and children want to be reassured there's a sheriff in town. And they are perfectly legitimate to ask for it. It has just to be done the right way. Preventing anonymous posting is not the solution.

Anonymous said...

When news of this petition broke on the Passive Voice one of the funnier comments posted was (paraphrasing) "then all pen names should be ended immediately as well and everyone should have to stand by their dino-porn".

Claire Chilton said...

Joe: It's not about being bullied on your blog, which I don't think I have been. I wouldn't still be posting here if I had because I do agree with you on a lot of things, and one of those is that arguing with a troll is pointless. It got a bit angsty at 2am, but I was probably just exhausted at that point.

I mentioned trolling once to Susan because I didn't understand why she kept questioning my character all the time, but I also asked if she was just defending you or maybe misunderstood my post in the same response. She decided to choose to focus on the troll mention rather than the other suggestions for why she seemed angry with me. But then, I can see how that may have been an offensive thing to ask, so fair enough. I was just trying to work out why someone seemed so angry with me. I don't think I've been offensive, but I can get a bit passionate about subjects, so there's always room for misunderstandings.

For the group or battered authors, I don't think they don't trust you or your blog, I just think it is more that their evidence highlights who they are, and your comments are public.

They can't be anonymous with their name stamped on their evidence. But also, I get the impression that they don't want their pain discussed by random strangers on the internet. They just want to submit it to a higher power and have their day in court, which I think is fair enough if they’ve been attacked.

On the Anne Rice petition: I believe there is a public post asking for evidence to be emailed to the petition owners. The evidence gathered will be presented to Jeff Bezos. At least, from what I’ve heard that’s the case.

One of the people in a group I'm in got an email asking to see her evidence from the petition owners, but it was also asking for other people in the group to submit their evidence if they had any.

I privately submitted two documents to the petition owners, listing a couple of cases I had evidence about. You've seen one of those. I did it because it was completely private, thus protecting people from trolling while providing Amazon with evidence.

Now, whether that evidence of mine is worth much or even presented to anyone is up to the people running the petition, and then Amazon's opinion of it. Since I've submitted it to Amazon in the past myself (another 'tough shit' email arrived) I can't see it making much of a difference to anything.

But there is most certainly evidence being submitted to the petition by the people signing it. It’s just not being publicly posted, which I think is for the same reason above. Bullied people don’t like going public with their stories of pain. But then, I don’t think they should have to. It’s only Amazon who really need to see the evidence. They’re capable of making an informed decision, and they tend to err on the side of caution, so I doubt any big dramas over nothing will get a look in.

But yep, there is evidence going into that petition. I think how relevant is it will depend on Amazon's opinion. They're going to be judge and jury on that.

Anonymous said...

I find it pretty offensive that authors might be comparing themselves to being battered women (as Clarie above suggests and as I have seen elsewhere before). They're not even close.

Quit reading your reviews and the problem is solved. Quit engaging trolls and the problem is solved. Someone gives you a crappy, unwarranted review--let it ride. It'll all work out.

Anonymous said...

There is precedent for ending anonymous commenting in order to improve civility--South Korea had a law that banned anonymous commenting, enforced countrywide. It was a miserable failure; civility wasn't improved one iota. They repealed the law last year.

Claire Chilton said...

Anonymous:

They don't refer to themselves as battered authors. I called them battered authors in this forum because I don't want to name them. I can call them wibblybits if you prefer that phrase? The wording isn't really important.

So basically, you're saying remain silent about it. Ignore it, and it'll go away. Yeah okay, what do we need our pesky human rights for anyway? We can just shut up and pretend nothing happened...

Kevin Riley said...

I personally have no problem with anonymous comments/reviews but I do like the idea of only allowing reviews by people with verified purchases. I know this might limit the reviews by those who bought from somewhere else but I think it would be a very small percentage.

Chris Redding said...

Oh snap!

Rick Gualtieri said...

I had started my own petition on this last week, asking for people to support users' rights to privacy on Amazon.

http://www.change.org/petitions/amazon-protect-the-privacy-of-amazon-com-users?utm_source=guides&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=petition_created

Quite frankly, I kinda like yours better, though. Hope you get the pony.

Jason Brant said...

I'm in total agreement, Joe. In fact, I just blogged about it yesterday too.

It's interesting to me that authors feel they can use pen names, often to write things they don't want associated with their real names, but they don't want reviewers to do the same.

Andrew said...

What if the guys who wrote the Federalist Papers were forced by decree to not remain anonymous? Or if Common Sense had to have Thomas Paines name attached before publication? Or all those spokesperson not authorized to speak on various things because of various reasons, yet they are a reliable source for that article anyways?

Every year the company I work for puts out a questionnaire that were are to answer honestly and anonymously, about how we feel about the direction of the company, the leadership, what can be done to improve things, etc. Should these be returned with the employees name on them as well?

How about when you vote? When you step out of the booth you must announce who you voted for, and why.

If I have a reason to take away your anonymity because of what you say, why then do I not also have a reason to take away where, when, why, or how you may say it?

Anonymity is not just a refuge for cowards and trolls, and if one segment of the public is worthy of being protected by such rules, then all segments of the public are.

I am confident that when I publish, I will get negative reviews. I will read them all, and then forget them and get back to the keyboard. And if they are a TOS violation I will report them and follow up to make sure Amazon is doing it's job. Someone else can choose to be outraged on my behalf I suppose, but I have more productive things to worry about.

Dav


Anonymous said...

Claire said:
They don't refer to themselves as battered authors. I called them battered authors in this forum because I don't want to name them. I can call them wibblybits if you prefer that phrase? The wording isn't really important.

Anony sez:"Battered authors" is a bad choice of words--they're not battered in any sense. The word choice is important because you're using hyperbolic language. In that case I want to refer to the petitioners as the "SS" trying to load all of us anonymous posters into camps. See how unhelpful that is and disrespectful of people that are actually abused?

I also find it helpful you don't want to name the "battered authors". Why is their anonymity suddenly important? Is it because you agree with their viewpoint?

Claire said:
So basically, you're saying remain silent about it. Ignore it, and it'll go away. Yeah okay, what do we need our pesky human rights for anyway? We can just shut up and pretend nothing happened...


Anony sez"In most cases yes it will. You say "what do we need with our pesky human rights", but you are supporting a position that takes away everyone's right to post anonymously, regardless of whether they engage in misbehavior. You support taking away my right to post anonymously even though I'm not a troll (mostly :-)), in the off chance you'll prevent someone else from saying something mean or improvident--which I doubt it will do.

Outlawpoet - Gangster Bully (a.ka. an Amazon Reviewer) said...

LOL - I am one of the Gangster Bullies Rice has a problem with on Amazon. In fact, I've embraced the term. My new screen name is Outlawpoet - Gangster Bully.

The fact is that this started months ago. Anne came to the Top Reviewers forum with a suggestion that Amazon develop a reward system for five star reviewers and forbid one stars unless they are truly critical reviews that focus, not on what the author accomplished, but on what they 'try' to accomplish.

Most of my book reviews are four stars with quite a few five stars. Yet, as a reviewer who would have been rewarded under her idea, I disagreed with her - as did many other reviewers.

Next thing we knew, we were being called 'careerist reviewers' and 'parasites'. Her words, not mine.

The fact is that Anne Rice got her feelings hurt and now is dragging other authors with her into the mud.

I left a message for her on the Top Reviewers Forum which she still reads and I'll put it here.

Anne Rice, Grow Up!

P.S. With apology, I've been waiting for my Amazon pony for about year now. You'll have to get in line.

antares said...

I do not remember the style of the case (I read it in law school and that was years ago), but the Supreme Court of the United States held that you do not have a right not to be offended.

That said, the fora belong to Amazon. They can police them how they wish.

Me? I have posted 1-star reviews (Joe read one of 'em), 4-star reviews, and 5-star reviews. I may post a 3-star review. The 1-star reviews draw goons who take shots at me, not at my reviews. I don't care. IMO anybody who does care has serious self-esteem issues. I do not feel abused. Just insulted. I been insulted before by pros.

Here's the key: If you feel abused by a review, STOP READING THE DAMNED THING!

Ya know, I never liked one word that came out of Jane Fonda's mouth, but I swore my life to defend her right to speak her mind. If you say people should shut up so that your feelings will not be hurt, that's fine; say it all you want. But if you a priori try to censor someone else, count me your enemy. To the death.

Kelly Faunce said...

I've been reading the comments here (mostly as a way of procrastinating when I should be writing) and a comment jumped out at me regarding trolls on an authors' own blogs. That made me scratch my head. Doesn't the blog owner (i.e. author) have to approve a comment before it appears in public? Mine asks for my approval, which I admit gives me pause if someone says something I find borderline offensive, since I worry that it looks like *I* hold that view too. But I'd feel funny blocking it, since I figure the comments section is really for readers, and not for me.

As for the idea that 1-star reviews can destroy an author's career, I don't know that I really but that. Usually the troll reviews I've seen are pretty obviously trolls, and if the book is any good, other reviewers will come along to refute them. It seems to be really self policing as long as you leave it alone.

Then again, I never hang out in forums or pay attention to my reviews. I don't get many reviews to begin with, despite having what appear to be 'true fans' who love everything I write. All six of them. :) As long as I can keep them happy, no one else matters. I have too many avenues of procrastination as it is. Why get involved in yet another time suck?

Anonymous said...

Clair Chilton said
"But there is most certainly evidence being submitted to the petition by the people signing it. It’s just not being publicly posted, which I think is for the same reason above. Bullied people don’t like going public with their stories of pain. But then, I don’t think they should have to. It’s only Amazon who really need to see the evidence. They’re capable of making an informed decision, and they tend to err on the side of caution, so I doubt any big dramas over nothing will get a look in.

But yep, there is evidence going into that petition. I think how relevant is it will depend on Amazon's opinion. They're going to be judge and jury on that."

I think you have just made a very valid point in favor of anonymity. It's really only Amazon who needs to know someone's real information. They are capable of making an informed decision of whether or not someone is being a bully. They tend to err on the side of caution, so I doubt any big dramas over nothing will get looked at. I think how relevant it is will depend on Amazon's opinion. They will be judge and jury on that.

Alan Spade said...

"Doesn't the blog owner (i.e. author) have to approve a comment before it appears in public?"

Not for all blogs. Joe hasn't to do it for this blog. But he can choose to prevent anonymous posts when he desires to. He did it very, very rarely.

PJ McMullan said...

I am a constant lurker in the Amazon forums - I pick up great info and there is often great entertainment. I also visit the MOA to get book recs etc.

There are times I feel that groups of people have too much time on their hands and don't come across real good but the whole 'bully', 'troll', 'attacker' thing totally escapes me.

People disagree. Oh well. This is the real world and people don't always communicate the same. Your supposed to be over 18 to participate in the forums so prove it and stop acting like petty children.

Reviews left on books on the Amazon site are NOT for authors. I don't get why Authors even look at them. If your book is not selling there are so very many reasons why that is that have nothing to do with the reviews people leave on a website.

People who read the reviews are not sheep being led by every review. they make up their own mind on whether the review is legit and helpful. the stars are also very subjective. If I think a book is really good then I give 3 stars. To me the 5 star is for something that really effects me in a literary sense.

Right now it is Authors themselves that are causing issues for other Authors.

My 2 cents...

Anonymous said...

The unfortunate reality is that every mean, jealous, destructive, misfit on the planet is now armed with a smartphone and has 24/7 access to the internet. They hate for any reason or no reason at all. They ban together and attack in packs, intending emotion distress, decreased sales, and any other harm they can inflict. No author on the planet needs a link to know this is true. We've all seen it, first hand.

So what's the solution? Ban all reviews? Stop everyone from "speaking?" Make the speaker identify himself?

Limiting, controlling or stifling speech is never the right answer, which is one of the reasons this county has succeeded where many others have failed.

No, we can't and shouldn't limit speech. That said, though, we can note that many of the people who do talk are absolute assholes and that their actual speech, as opposed to their right to speak, are absolutely without any redeeming value.

They're jerks. I for one won't engage them. They're not worth the time.

Anonymous said...

I went over to amazon and looked at Joe's one-star reviews for a couple of his books. I will admit that I didn't do it for all of his books, because, duh, he's Joe Konrath and there 1.3 million of them to the seventh power, and I don't have enough time to do it this morning. Or ever.

But I didn't see a single review that would constitute a threat or a personal attack.

I want someone to prove something in this discussion. It is impossible for the people opposing the petition to prove a negative - to prove that out of the 20 million unique amazon reviewers there are no instances of stalking, death threats, etc. on reviews. But, the burden of proof shouldn't be on the person who is opposing something. It should be on the person claiming something.

So, come one. I see authors all over the place, including on that petition, claiming that they are being stalked and threatened and harassed and are receiving death threats without one link. Without, even, one screen shot to prove that it existed but has been removed.

I am convinced that this is all about negative reviews. It is basically a bunch of people saying, like my grandmother did, "I don't like your tone, missy." They want to remake the world so that everyone has to speak nicely and in hushed tones about their books, regardless of the quality of the product.

Ed Teja said...

Joe,

You are on the right track, but the issue goes even deeper. A lot of the books people put on Amazon offend me and I would like to have Amazon eliminate those as well. And of course, since I can't read every book, they should eliminate the ones that would offend me if I ever got around to them (maybe using xray?). In fact, why don't we just save all the hurt feelings by eliminating posting of anything on the Internet? It might become a tad bland, but then it would be safe for smurfs.

Alan Tucker said...

"Who are you so wise in the ways of science?"

Hateful and abusive speech should absolutely be policed. But does anyone really think that disallowing anonymous posting will put an end to it?

Let's look at this from the other side. When Amazon culled a lot of the erotica titles a while back, there was a good deal of outrage and pitchfork waving claiming Amazon was violating free speech by not allowing those titles.

How is that different in principle to disallowing anonymous reviews or posts?

Anne Rice should then be forced to write under her real name. And all those erotica writers should have to do the same. Where's the difference?

Right, so we come back to hate speech and bullying. As Joe says, if this is reported and removed, where is the problem? If it is reported and not removed, then yes, that is certainly a flaw in the system.

I wonder if trolls weigh the same as a duck?

w. adam mandelbaum esq. said...

I have found that the persons who attack my ebooks sign their reviews as unanimous.

petemorin said...

A total ban on all anonymous reviewing and commenting, for all products and on all forums, is a gross over-reaction to the grievances suffered by relatively few authors (relative to the number of customers affected).

I think Joe’s mockery is well-placed.

Claire Chilton said...

Oh, it's getting confusing now. I don't know which Anonymous I'm replying to lol.

I'll just do a blanket statement...

Fair point, my friend. Although I do think that something needs to be done about Amazon's system for reporting abuse--because it does suck ass.

I think that about covers it.

Anonymous said...

Anne rice came into the top reviewer forum on amazon and suggested a "prize" or "reward" from Amazon for the best written reviews. When asked how that would be decided, what made up a well written review, would the prize be for each category, like books, vacuums etc, she got into a snit because her idea was questioned.

After that she became confrontational, called us bullies because we told Spamming authors to link their book in the MOA forum (which, if the author read the TOS we wouldn't have to remind them) and then suddenly we became careerist reviewers, gangsters and trolls.

If anne rice is so about transparency, why did she delete about 85% of her comments. Oh, perhaps because they were abusive, dismissive, and derisive?

In order to support her bullying claims she searched the forum and resurrected zombie threads 2 and 3 years old.

When authors came in to chat, who weren't just linking their books, against Amazon's policy, they were greeted and talked to, but then Anne comes running stating, "be careful, reviewers in this forum hate writers!"

petemorin said...

Here is video proof of author bullying.

http://tiny.cc/klxpcx

Joe Konrath said...

Although I do think that something needs to be done about Amazon's system for reporting abuse--because it does suck ass.

Claire. every comment and review on Amazon has a "report abuse" button on it. Not sure how that could be simpler.

Are you suggesting those buttons don't work? If they don't, why does abuse get removed?

Perhaps they don't work fast enough, or remove as many comments as you'd like. Amazon is a private company, not the government. It doesn't have to remove anything.

But maybe they could have more fulltime staffers looking at abuse inquiries. That sounds like something to petition for, and much more level headed than eliminating anonymity.

Sandra Martinez said...

Are you saying, in 18,000 comments, it was nothing but anonymous harassment and cyber-bullying? I'm not going to read all 18,000 posts to find out why there Amazon needs to crack down on anonymous trolls. What is the link to the posts that concern you? They each have a permalink next to them.

Yes, it is long. And no, I never expected you to read it. It was for reference. I didn´t call them bullies or trolls. Actually, I specifically said they weren´t. I also never answered a 1-star review, nor attacked a reviewer. And never will. Other´s opinions are their own. I actually think of “troll reviews” as "graduation" for the books.

I was not "punished" for attacking other people´s rights, but for expressing my opinions.

So what exactly do you want Amazon to do?

Absolutely nothing. I don´t expect Amazon to comply with the petition. I count on it, actually. I wholeheartedly believe privacy should be respected.

I signed the petition because, after smacking me around for 300 posts, they managed to push the single button that makes me see red: my kids. Yes, I´m human, go figure.

-----

I spent a couple of hours gathering permalinks. And after that I realized this didn´t really deserve my time or yours. None of this does.


Great blog, thanks for taking the time to write it.

Joe Konrath said...

I signed the petition because, after smacking me around for 300 posts, they managed to push the single button that makes me see red: my kids.

Did you report that as abuse, and was it removed?

I have an author friend who is being cyber-stalked, and it is unpleasant. I have another friend on Facebook who had someone who disagreed with him send him pictures of his house.

That kind of behavior shouldn't be tolerated. But when it is reported, it is usually removed. If it isn't please point out links, and that could be evidence that Amazon needs to try harder in removing abuse.

Claire Chilton said...

Joe, Every time I've reported abuse on Amazon it's been via KDP support (which also has a reviews tab that you can request a removal on).

Here's my impression of reporting abuse to Amazon (based on my own personal experience):

Assuming I don't just get an auto-email that basically says 'tough shit' in a few more words....

You go to KDP and fill in the contact form for reviews with as much information that you can to help Amazon understand the issue.

You can't send files though, so evidence is impossible to provide usually.

A guy replies, not really understanding what you want, so he asks you to reply with more information. You nod and agree until you notice that the email address is noreply@amazon.com, so you can't reply.

So you go back to KDP and send another message with your reply.

But this time, you get someone else. They have no record of your first email, so you must repeat it all again and add in your new issue of not being able to respond. You can't reply to their email, so you go back to KDP to send another message.

This time you include your first two emails, and a request for an email address that works.

Someone at 434654457443533blah@amazon.com replies, and it finally seems like you're getting somewhere. You hit reply, write out everything they need and send it off.

It sends. You breathe easy.

Then five minutes later an email from mailer daemon lands in your inbox.

'Could not reply to 434654457443533blah@amazon.com -- address does not exist in any known universe.'

(Fuck!)

So you go back to KDP, with now a novel-length email, trying to explain how you want to report some abuse, but the email system is so crazy making you're planning on just killing yourself instead.

You receive and auto-email stating that they've read your concerns but don't plan to do anything, but they'd very much like you to review their support before you slit your wrists.

Shortly after five identical emails arrive from all the support requests you've made in attempting to reply to just one.

You roll your face across the keyboard and contemplate just letting this one go.

I mean, it could be just me, but in my experience, that's how usually goes.

*Disclaimer for literal thinkers: Slitting my wrists and the known universe are exaggerations.

Alan Spade said...

"But maybe they could have more fulltime staffers looking at abuse inquiries. That sounds like something to petition for, and much more level headed than eliminating anonymity."

I couldn't agree more.

@Claire Chilton: I also use KDP to fill contact forms when I have questions. In my experience, sometimes, it's a "no reply" adress, sometimes, you can hit the reply button and it works. But that's often different persons who are responding, so your point stands.

Jm Cornwell said...

What people do not realize is that by limiting the voice of people who don't agree with them or stroke their egos they also limit their own voice.

As I've said many times, A prominent Jewish lawyer defended the Ku Klux Klan's right to put a cross up on the Ohio Statehouse lawn at Christmas. He told me his rabbi explained to him that only by upholding the rights of all people without regard to whether they are right or wrong can we ensure our own rights and freedoms.

Anonymous said...

Limiting, controlling or stifling speech is never the right answer, which is one of the reasons this county has succeeded where many others have failed.

...

They're jerks. I for one won't engage them. They're not worth the time.


This.

The petition is wrongheaded, offers no real solution, and has overblown the problem.

Most of the brouhaha resulted because of authors who couldn't stand not to engage The Mean People. ®

Amazon, if it cares about its bottom line, is not going to force customers to use their real names when reviewing books or commenting in forums because they rely on reviews and discussions as a way of marketing books (and products) to customers. If they did force reviewers to use their real names, they would lose a lot of good reviews and reviewers who, for whatever reason, don't want to use their real name when reviewing or commenting.

Amazon treats authors pretty damn well, but they treat customers better. They are not likely going to restrict the freedoms of customers to please a group of authors who don't like getting bad reviews...

Amazon is all about customers. If customers want to leave a completely fluffy 5-star review of a book because they loved it, great. Same goes for someone who wants to leave a very mean review of a book because they hated it. Even the very best writers get mean-spirited bad reviews.

When an author publishes a book, they have to expect to get empty 5 star and mean 1 star reviews at some point. Authors love those fluffy empty reviews, but hate the other kind but if you want the one kind, you have to accept the other.

This needs to be reinforced to all authors, new and established: don't comment on your reviews, positive or negative.

If the review is truly abusive, report it to Amazon. Abusive people exist and are not likely going to be deterred by anything you say to them. They are beyond the pale and only some kind of epiphany is going to turn them into mellow loving hugger types. Avoid them. They like hurt feelings because it affirms their existence, so when you show hurt feelings, it's like sharks sensing blood in water. Feeding frenzy ensues, attracting others of their species.

The petition offers no good solution to their existence, and restricts the freedoms of people who use anonymous judiciously.

It's also bad for business, IMO.

As Hugh (and Michael J Fox) said, what people think about you is none of your business. Your business as an author is to write books. In large part, readers will decide how well you do as an author.

Trolls are part of the intertubes. They are annoying and frustrating and a piss-off, but there's a simple solution: They feed on attention, so if you ignore them, they will go elsewhere to find someone who will pay them attention.

Susan

Claire Chilton said...

I'd much prefer a petition to improve the support system. That's where I think Amazon is flawed.

Glad to hear it's not just me that happens to, Alan.

Beverley Kendall said...

I'm DYING laughing. No seriously, I've been ill this whole week and I have one of those hacking coughs. Your petition did nothing to help that. You know what it's like to laugh and cough at the same time. Yeah, it's not a pretty sight or a nice sound.

Debbie's Spurts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marion Stein said...

Nicely done, Konrath! One thing to consider is those 6,000 signatures. That sounds impressive. But when you realize Rice has almost a million facebook followers,it's much less so.

The fact is, that people don't always play nice on the Internet. Rice's mistake was to think the forums were a good place for a writer to hang out and shoot the breeze. The chance of saying something that will offend someone and bring out all their very offended friends is high. Things escalate. The result is a very wrong-headed "solution" and more hurt feelings OUTRAGE and what the kids call drama all around.

As for me, more time writing. Less time hanging out on the Internet. It's worse than high school.

Anonymous said...

In response to "Are you telling me that you've never seen an author attacked for commenting on a review on Amazon, really? If not, then why advise people not to comment on reviews? I mean if nothing ever happens if you do, why is that advised to authors?"

Umm...because you can lose readers and reviewers.

And because then you have reviewers and readers spreading the word (justified or not) that you are behaving unprofessionally and tarnishing your brand or that you confront, attack (and as much as I hate seeing anyone equate it with a customer product opinion) or bully reviewers. Gets you placed on bba and DNR lists and shelves on all kinds of sites.

There are unfortunately book buyers who do not click through any such posts to see what an author actually said in the review comments and just take the BBA and DNR tags as truth.

Even reviewers not participating in online book communities, social media or who never see any such rumors may feel that their review is their opinion and can take any comment from an author not just saying thanks for the review as an attempt to get the review changed, any "fact" an author refutes successfully still isn't a win because in their opinion the reader read what they read and not what author the author wrote anyway and that reviewer or other readers reading the post will see it as an attack and trying to manipulate the review system ... Pretty much anything said can be taken the wrong way and is very, very public.

Sandra Martinez said...

Did you report that as abuse, and was it removed?

I have an author friend who is being cyber-stalked, and it is unpleasant. I have another friend on Facebook who had someone who disagreed with him send him pictures of his house.

That kind of behavior shouldn't be tolerated. But when it is reported, it is usually removed. If it isn't please point out links, and that could be evidence that Amazon needs to try harder in removing abuse.


No, no... please. They are not those kinds of people.

They just protect their reviews with as much, or more, passion than thin skin authors protect their books. And they move in groups, so if you get in their wrong side, it is ugly.

I posted doubts about vaccines. They called me "irresponsible" and a "menace" for putting doubts on other people´s minds that might lead them to not vaccinate their kids.

Thing is... my daughter was harmed by the measles vaccine. It took her three years to get out of the consequences.

I truly saw red.

And the worst thing is... it was not even planned. They tried again and again to push my buttons, but when they actually made it, it was unwillingly.

The whole mess is like this: one person found a really poorly written book and said so. The author decided to smack the person instead of fixing it. The person talked to others about this, and they were rightfully outraged.

Think of this coming and going a couple of times and you have a war. Then get an unaware person (writer or reviewer) in the middle and see what happens.

Some of the people that 1-starred me, have 150 books in their list of "BBA"s books in Goodreads.

Debbie said...

Don't get me wrong, this is a great, hilarious post. And it is logical to ask "If someone can point me to these links, please do."

You missed one other suggestion to petition for: give everyone uploading a file with words in it to amazon a big gold star. Display it big enough on the book page that those pesky average star ratings might not be noticed.

I think I everyone is missing the real reasons behind that petition:

1. Anne Rice had a need for publicity because she was announcing her return to writing vampire novels. Buzz was needed to gear up the launch of "Prince Lestat."

2. No one should point out all the anonymous amazon 5-star reviews the petition originator gave to books he was paid to edit. He's also above amazon and FTC regulations requiring that any material connection to a product (and fees received) must be disclosed. Apparently above it all by being associated with a notable like Anne Rice. Not one review from him disclosed he was paid to edit the book he is reviewing when I reported them yesterday.

3. Authors supporting can get reflected publicity and the increased activity on their book pages leading to book discoverability.

4. Antagonizing book buyers is way less important than maintaining by any means necessary an average star rating that allows indie authors to advertise on or get reviewed in sites and publications requiring a certain minimum star rating on amazon (and proven or rumored to lead to book sales).

5. Much easier to have reviews and ratings an author can control. Can always exchange reviews with other authors, paid reviews are cheap, and sockpuppet accounts easy to set up. Much easier than fighting all the links and screenshots of author comments that make the reader reviewers hesitant to buy, read or review indie authors. Let's discourage all consumer product opinions in favor of our marketing content. Down with FTC rules! (continued in next post)

Debbie said...

Continued)
6. Continue the fight to force public acknowledgment that star rating a product below what eReader News Today and Kirkus (?) requires as a minimum for books is bullying. That customer product opinions in the form of a text review that are within site guidelines (which prohibit attacking anyone in any way, bullying or not) are bullying.

Screw those whining bully prevention and victim organizations screaming that saying so is demeaning to bully victims and bully prevention efforts everywhere; they have a product to sale and will defend it from all negativity and attacks even if they have to say they themselves were attacked and it doesn't matter if real victims of bullying are hurt—those victims should be used to it and should just shut up; bully victims after all should also be very used to victim blaming tactics by now.

They are authors so get to choose the words and no bully prevention organization anywhere is going to get them to change "bully" for attack, mean, nasty, troll, or any other word/phrase because it doesn't draw the same sympathy from other authors and potential readers who hear "bully" and jump to their support without knowing what's going on in the online book communities; plenty of bully victims out there willing to support a fellow bully victim if they don't look too closely at the proof of the bullying. Bully victims are too good a marketing target to give up equating your book getting a ★☆☆☆☆ rating with bullying.

7. In fact, where possible, let's claim death threats and threats of rape no one can link to because stalker victims and rapes victims also get sympathy and there are a lot of them out there, too—who may not be real familiar with online book communities ... and, again, screw anyone or any organization saying in our efforts to get our products noticed we are demeaning those victims. Heck, those victims likely do spend a lot of time not going out and may read a lot by being shut in or to relieve stress. Target them too; we uploaded words to amazon so are special and above any attempts to rein us in!

8. Oh no, no, no, don't anyone post links to or screenshots of authors claiming to be bullied or threatened that prove they are confronting and attacking reviewers and readers. Nor any retractions by authors who started the now viral but still fake claims of rape and death threats.

Or before and after screenshots of abusive content that amazon has removed when reported or found.

Or recent forum threads where we attacked reviewers accidentally mistaking them for other people; we did apologize for the mistaken identity ones and for mixing up which reviewer had a child with a disability we were making fun of with the reviewer we were trying to get fired by calling them at work (we're over on our site crowing how a reporter picked that up not realizing we were authors and is using it as proof there are bullying reviewers on amazon just because although authors we were on a thread for reviewers--that's just so hilarious we'll be posting for days about it! And amazon deleted most of our worst posts so we'll swear screenshots have been photoshopped...

Mustn't let facts or evidence interfere with good publicity or any efforts to silence or control customer product opinions. If readers won't give authors the accolades, then they'll find other ways to get 'me and down vote or get rid of the reader reviews.

I personally want to thank every author who signed that petition with a screen/pen name or who reviews under a screen/pen name. The hypocrisy may have prevented others from being sucked into the book announcement publicity.

I also want to personally thank every author signing with the same name as their author profiles on amazon. An excellent resource for me to know which authors demean bully victims and could care less what they do to bully prevention efforts.

Joe Konrath said...

Gets you placed on bba and DNR lists and shelves on all kinds of sites.

And you believe this effects sales?

I'm happy to do an experiment. Pick one of my books and put it on every BBA and DNR list you can find. I'll track my sales for a month, see if they go drop.

I just looked at the Goodreads DNR and BBA lists, and they underwhelmed me with their lack of importance. I stopped reading when I saw Nabakov on there. Really? We're still touchy about Lolita after 60 years?

Let me explain a philosophy of mine that I call the "See Yourself Amplification Theory."

When you see something negative about you online, you automatically think it is being viewed by thousands of people, all who automatically agree with it.

The fact is, you're probably the only person in the world who cares about it. And no one would know about it unless you start complaining (see The Streisand Effect).

We really all need to stop worrying about what strangers think. Really.

Anonymous said...

Amazon will do what's best for their bottom line. So lets ignore all this, and get back to what we do best - writing.

MW said...

Great post - hurt feelings just isn't a good enough reason to take these actions, if you think about where these actions could lead.

Rick Gualtieri said...

And you believe this effects sales?

I'm happy to do an experiment. Pick one of my books and put it on every BBA and DNR list you can find. I'll track my sales for a month, see if they go drop.


Couldn't agree more. People get all sorts of bent out of shape about Goodreads shelves and the end result is a big fat "who really cares?"

I'm on at least one "douchebag" shelf (probably more :). The only reason I ever even noticed is because someone explained to me how to look at shelves and I wanted to try it out.

I got a good laugh out of it and then found something more important to concern myself with.

As you said, the only way something like this will really hurt is if you scream and cry and then shine a big old spotlight on it. Ignore it, however, and you can probably be content that the rest of the world is most likely following suit.

Brian said...

I just scanned Amazon for anonymous posts. Some were thoughtful I don't think this option is always used to hide identity. Look at the options for posting.

Maybe they're at work or on someone else's computer and don't want a followup.

This petition looks like a blunt instrument. I encourage Amazon to continue with their current policy

Anonymous said...

In response to "And you believe this effects sales?"

Not exactly; doubt it hurts sales at all. If I had a exact formula for what helps sales, I'd be busy peddling it somewhere.

I do think for the amazon customers who check reviews, most don't look at comments. The ones that do look at comments (clever reviewers will edit their reviews to mention they should) and see nastiness will avoid reviewer or author responsible for the drama. So it can lose a sale; but pretty minimal risk unless comment goes viral and I have seen that leveraged both to increase book discoverability and sales and to destroy the same.

I actually believe most amazon customers don't review, don't always read reviews, never read reviews because just assume mostly fake or gamed or know anything going in in the online book communities including DNR and bba lists.

Top reviewers with large followings that can lead to nearly instantaneous success are definitely paying attention to those things. Good luck once tagged as a BBA/DNR getting the shrinking pool of reviewers accepting indie submissions to review your book. Not having that doesn't decrease your sales; but, it.does cut off one proven viable (and unlike paid advertising free) tool.

But I also don't believe there are bullying gangs of reviewers or authors just because there are large numbers of both (and usually—unless doing something where law enforcement should be called in or against site guidelines—the worst either side does is fire off 1- or 5- star reviews or campaign to up/down vote something). So what do I know?

For an indie author convinced reviews are important or at least important enough to comment on their reviews, maybe it does hurt .

Amazon customers who do participate in social media and book communities all say (I have no idea if what they say translates to what their actual purchase decisions) that a negative comment from an author (author of one of hundreds of thousands potential indie books they could buy) turns them away quicker than a negative review that might be hating on the very aspect of the book they love. They usually find the comment by someone sharing a link or a screenshot rather than go looking for it; but, if you believe what they say it loses a sale. Some say they just stay away from all the drama authors who engage with reviewers or at a minimum won't risk reviewing them even with a positive review because it's not worth it.

No clue about actual sales (and no doubts drama can be leveraged). Probably just something an author needs to decide: do you want reviews or not, think they help your sales or not? If after reader reviews, it's probably a bad idea to engage publicly even in review comments a lot of amazon customers won't look at.

L B said...

A system could be put in place where the reviewer needs to have bought the book in question in order to review it on the site. This might go a long way to temper bully or troll campaigns. Though, if an opinion is honest and valid, I do have to question why anyone would need to hide behind anonymity.

KB/KT Grant said...

If an author is feeling bullying on a site like Amazon, they should stop selling their books there, correct? Report the so-called abuse they feel they find there and leave, to never return, correct?

If all these authors feel they are being bullied, why would they continue to sell their books on a website they feel isn't supporting them?

Also if authors want reviewers to post their real names or emails, then then same rules apply to authors. Authors shouldn't hide behind fake aliases either.

Anonymous said...

In reply to "A system could be put in place where the reviewer needs to have bought the book in question in order to review it on the site."

I think that would stop readers from reviewing books read before there was even an internet. Or who can only afford to borrow from public library, Or who obtain an Advanced Reading Copy in hopes of a review from authors, NetGalley, VINE, etc. (most ARC programs do want amazon reviews, not all).

But, amazon does have "verified purchaser" option. I would favor turning that on for all profiles and changing the default display order of customer product opinions so that verified purchasers display first.

To never under any circumstances allow the up/down votes to impact review display order. Most "gang" activity I see for amazon is from people campaigning to get their hordes of friends, followers, fans or someone randomly reading their forum, blog or social media posts to up or down vote a review on amazon to control the display order and effectively hide or feature their preferred reviews. At that point, I don't care if the voting is left as a feature or not; votes could just display as x number of customers found this helpful or not helpful. Don't let authors or reviewers gang up to change review order.

Ditto for sites letting people "like" or vote anything in a review -- don't let the number of clicks (popularity) determine display.

It stopped being a real sign of how helpful or how popular a review was a long time ago and became a competition for who can leverage the largest horde of supporters for their point of view. Whether that was to move a nasty review up top or to bury one.

Anonymous said...

BBA= badly behaiving authors?

What is DNR?

Joe Konrath said...

What is DNR?

Do Not Read.

Or maybe the Department of Natural Resources. That would explain all of those woodsy books on the list.

Anonymous said...

LB - amazon has always allowed customers to review products regardless of whether they bought them on amazon.

With respect to books, this rule would have immediate negative consequences for authors & publishers. All of those ARCs you are giving out to create pre-publication buzz and a rapid body of reviews upon publication? None of them would be able to result in an amazon review. ARC reviewers would be unable to leave a review on the biggest commercial book selling site in the world.

I think a policy like that wouldbe sort of like cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.

Suzanne Cowles said...

Can anyone say "publicity"? Obviously Ms. Rice (Who I love because she's from my hometown and writes horror) got her face in front of the cameras. She took a stand on an issue, good for her. She has a right as an American to speak her mind, but that doesn't mean that you have to agree with her.

My Goodreads group is up in arms about this petition. And there are valuable points to both sides. But here is what I think:

Art is subjective. No two people will have the same point of view after reading a book because intelligence levels and life experiences vary as well as expectations.

I purchased (hardcover) trad pub book from famous author and it blows! Yet everywhere the groupies flock and lurk. They post how fabulous it is, and frankly I don't think said author even wrote it. My point is that each to his own.

No one anywhere should bully, be mean or intentionally give bad reviews. It serves no constructive purpose, but to make the reviewer look like an ass.

Jay K. said...

Hmmm ... don't know if I agree. HuffPo recently removed anonymity from posting, and while it may not have stopped flame-throwing posts from all, it certainly stopped flame-throwing posts from me.

judygoodwin said...

I posted to a similar thread about this topic over on Goodreads, and I'll repeat it here.

(Please take note, P.S. and Claire)

1. What's the difference between getting a mean comment from Booboo57 or John Smith? (Trick question--there is no difference. And if you don't think BooBoo57 can't fake a profile as John Smith, professing that to be his or her real identity, then you don't understand how Amazon or most other websites work.) So Anonymous is nothing. Just as a name is nothing. It's the comment you want to flag, not who they're posting as.

2. I'm going to repeat this since nobody seems to hear it. Some people NEED anonymity. Because they are being stalked. Or they're a victim of domestic or other abuse, but they still want a voice online. And again, those who want to comment on things without giving away their religion, politics, or love of smutty stories.

3. Joe's totally correct. The way to deal with harassment is to remove the post. So if there should be any kind of petition, it would be for Amazon to have a clearer anti-harassment policy.

Jill James said...

Can always count on you for my laugh of the day. Thanks!

Hollis Shiloh said...

As an author, I don't respond to reviews. At all. Ever. Unless someone emails me to say, "I reviewed your book!" Then I reply with, "Thank you!!"

I do think author bullying goes on, because I've seen it. I suspect reviewer bullying goes on as well but I've not really witnessed that.

Personally, I try to keep a somewhat low profile about reviews online. When I leave a review, it makes me very uncomfortable to know the author might be reading it. Even though as an author I often do read my reviews. It's weird. You sort of don't want the author in the review space as a reader...but as a writer, it feels like a very personal thing and a judgment from on high (sometimes an incorrect or unkind one).

I will say that one of the worst reviews I ever got led to one of the best things...I met an awesome reader who wanted to tell me they liked my stories!

Anybody who thinks being an author is easy is wrong. It takes a hide of a rhino sometimes to have your work out there to be judged and looked down on. Doesn't mean it's not worth it, it's just SO much harder than anyone who hasn't done it realizes.

I've never had to contact Amazon about a TOS-violating review, and I hope I never have to. If I do, I hope they'll be as responsive as they have been in every other area of helping me as an author.

I'm very lucky to be able to write and publish my stories. I'm grateful to my readers. I sometimes with they'd be a little gentler with their reviews, but overall, I'm very happy. I'm grateful they'll give my stories a chance, and I do feel that all honest reviews (even negative ones) can be helpful to a book. I still prefer the good ones. And someday, maybe I really will stop reading them. :-)

I do wish the online environment would be a safer place. I don't think "don't feed the trolls" is a strategy that works in every situation. I personally don't have trolls. Some people like my stuff, some don't, it's not personal. I'm okay with that. Yes, sometimes it hurts.

But I have seen and heard about bullying online and it worries me that there are few if any consequences. (I'm not even talking just authors, who are hopefully all adults and can find resources or disconnect, but things like teen bully and such.) I really think we need a cultural shift that it's not cool to bully, but I don't know how that will happen when so many of these behaviors have a built in high and provide social status.

Anyway, I'm glad that I read the comments here because the discussion is illuminating and worth having. It's important to think about things critically.

I do think slippery slope is an incorrect argument, though, because literally anything can be called a slippery slope (and often is). It's just not a very helpful point, in my opinion.

Anyway, thank you, Joe, and thank you to the other commentators here. :)

Anonymous said...

Please don't equate teen or other bullying, stalking, or other activities with a bad review of a book.

Hollis Shiloh said...

I'm not trying to, and sorry if it came across that way. Reviews are a difficult part of being an author. Bullying & stalking are a systematic dehumanizing attack. Sorry if I talked about too many things in my (meandering) comment and seemed to confuse the two. I thought I was clear, but then I often do. It's human nature to think you've communicated clearly I guess... :)

Claire Chilton said...

Actually, bad reviews improve your sales. I don't think trolls realise it, but it's a fact.

Google ranks pages with 'community-driven content' on them higher in their search engine. So, if you get any kind of online activity on your book (reviews, comments, tags etc.), the trolls are making your book rank higher in search engines, meaning more people will click on it and look at it. Chances are that 30% of those people will buy a copy.

So essentially, from a technical point of view, you can't kill a book by reviewing it. You can only make it sell more.

I don't think the argument that bad reviews harm sales is accurate, but I do find a little bit of amusement when I get a bad review because I know that. Hopefully, it will help some people with bad reviews see the bright side.

You can however destroy a human being by abusing them online, which is my gripe. Forum abuse, personal attacks, attacks on people's reputations, sexual assault, fraud, libel and a list as long as my arm of things that are done to people on the internet is the real issue, for me anyway.

Claire Chilton said...


After speaking here, I was sent a link about abuse online of a writer, and it made me think about how online society had devolved into such a vile state. It didn’t used to be. I used to love chatting online, now I hate it because you can’t have a conversation without some BS argument happening. Here's the article, so you can see what kind of abuse I’m referring to:

http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/women-arent-welcome-internet-72170/

I was wondering why I feel the internet is so much worse now than ever before, why I so strongly disagree with Joe about anonymous. I'm usually in agreement with him about most things. We're both Generation X's with what appears to be a similar experience of the internet over the years. But for some reason, I can't get on board with the theory that anonymous is okay. I used to be anonymous, but I can see something rotten in it that wasn't there before. Why can't anyone else?

Then I realised why. It's that we haven't archived the past.

When I first went on the internet it was 1998. It's was fantasyland. There were abusive comments, but they blew past you because—back then—everyone was anonymous. It didn't matter if someone told you that they hoped your grandmother was raped by a Doberman (a real quote) because you were anonymous too. You could just walk away, shaking your head at the crazy internet. It was fantasyland. It wasn't real. You could just brush it off and ignore it. People were creative, inventive and a little bit crazy, but it was okay because the internet was fantasyland.

But that was then, and this is now. When Facebook made real identity the norm and killed off the chat rooms of old, more people flocked to the internet under their real identities. Basically, shit got real.

Suddenly, you had real people faced with anonymous people. Anonymous were still in fantasyland, where verbal abuse had become a weekend hobby. Real people were screwed, because you can't walk away from your own identity.

I don't think online abuse got worse. I think the internet society changed and became real, and yeah, back in the day I resented that. I liked fantasyland. These anonymous abusers are remnants from days long since gone. They don't think they're doing anything wrong. Why should they? It was okay in 1998. Of course, the difference was that in 1998 the playing field was fair. Everyone was anonymous.

Now, we’re half real and half not. I think that ignoring it and hoping it will go away is an out of date concept for trolling, just like fantasyland is an out of date concept, just like trolling is an out of date concept. Fantasyland died the day that Facebook made shit real. When people get attacked on the net now, they become victims of sadistic, psychopathic, Machiavellian abuse in their real lives. You can’t just shrug that off and ignore it.

It used to be a game when everyone started out anonymous. It used to be harmless. I think that how we deal with online abuse is outdated. It's based on our memories of fantasyland, where just ignoring a troll was a shrug because you were anonymous too. I think a lot of the comments I’m hearing are archaic theory based on bygone days that simply don’t exist anymore.

The internet changed. Shit got real. It isn't a game anymore.

*Disclaimer: This post has very little to do with Amazon petitions or reviews, but it has everything to do with online abuse and ignoring it in the hope that it would go away.

David L. Shutter said...
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David L. Shutter said...

As a heavy duty lurker in a number of places there's something I'd like to add: one of the most common (if not THE most common) complaint from writer's these days seems to be the removal of good, genuine reviews by Zon. Often they're removed in large numbers at once.

What I don't hear, from anyone who supported it, is that the No Sock-Puppet petition was perhaps a bad idea. A group wanted action and Amazon took action. Now everyone seems to be suffering.

And MORE Amazon policing of reviews I what people want???

Now, I hate Trolls as much as anyone but here's how a lot of this discussion looks:

Jane X writes non-consent, billionaire step-daddy, shifter-wolf, forced-knotting erotica. All work is under a penname with a stock pic of a hot model posing as her online persona.

If we polled the planet I think we could easily top a few billion people horribly offended by her. But Jane X's Freedom of Speech must be defended, at any cost. And I'd agree.

Joe X writes anonymous comments online that horribly offend people. But he's evil, vile scum whose anonymous speech must be eradicated, at any cost.

Sorry, but no.

Alan Spade said...

David said: "And MORE Amazon policing of reviews I what people want???"
I, for one, don't want Amazon using one of its nuclear devices algorithms for reviews. I want the most extreme harassement to be removed by HUMANS on the Amazon team, and, if not any guilty persons can be found (this is to say, if guilty persons are from both sides on a flame war), the comments to be temporarily disabled for a given book.

"If we polled the planet I think we could easily top a few billion people horribly offended by her. But Jane X's Freedom of Speech must be defended, at any cost. And I'd agree.

Joe X writes anonymous comments online that horribly offend people. But he's evil, vile scum whose anonymous speech must be eradicated, at any cost.

Sorry, but no."

I have to entirely disagree, here. You cannot compare a personal attack online to a book, unless the book is giving specific plans to kill or hurt some people on some given date.

It is not the same to compare erotica to a personal attack or harassment. If Joe X repeatedly attacks some person on a personal level, it is harassment. The law must apply for him.

As authors, we must show the right example. For example, I'm in the process of sending my book to reviewers (I have for the moment a ratio of three reviews promised for a hundred of bloggers contacted. I don't know if it's the norm). One of the bloggers said to me she stopped reviewing books because she received a personal death threat. She said we indie authors were in a self-destructive process.

So yeah, harassement has to be treated very seriously, because it is bad on all levels.

Preventing anonymous speech as a principle is not the solution, but the most extreme cases must be dealt with.

Pete Morin said...

Claire, I invite you to review the entire forum thread where Anne Rice claims she was bullied, and point out where this was so.

Having participated in it from beginning to end, I am confident you will conclude that she was not.

Anonymous said...

Surely, there are legal issues to using your real name on Amazon like identity theft, stalking etc, which Amazon will not want to be liable for in the future.

If Anne Rice wants to stop the anonymous posts, maybe she should use her real name, too. Lead by example. And maybe she should stop reacting so badly to reviews on her work, especially calling for a reward for well written reviews (who gets to judge that?) ... talk about self interest. Would she even be saying this if she'd never had a negative review of her books? Lots of reviewers make up names for valid reasons. They don't bully or harass authors.

I've seen authors defiantly state that any negative review will be criticized by the author because the book is their baby and they are protecting it.

Once you send that book out into the world, expect other people to pay and read your stuff, then they are entitled to say what they think about it. I understand that to some people that thought sucks. Really, I do. But cut the apron strings. The book will stand or fall on its own merit, and authors do not need to harass reviewers for a negative review.

You need a thick skin. The worst place to grow it is with Amazon's reviews. If you've never had criticism then it's going to be a shock. Anne Rice says she doesn't have an editor, so she has no one to offer constructive advice before she publishes. It reminds me of self publishers who publish on Amazon, have no one read their work beforehand, and wonder why they get so many negative reviews.

I've seen reviewers taking things too far and revenge starring an author. Most of the time Amazon is right on that and deletes those reviews. I've seen published authors game the system and get friends, colleges, and others to do paid reviews where most of the time they haven't read the book. I've seen books with so many five stars and the first sentence on page one has a typo.

I do not see how people using their real names is going to help author, and if authors want real names used, then they should lead by example. If all of these authors got five stars all the time, then there would be no problem. But they don't for whatever reason. If that reason is abuse, report it and move on.

And if we track this abuse back to the start, do we find that the author did nothing to incite such comments? Did they make a comment that warned reviewers they wouldn't tolerate bad reviews? Are authors getting fans to attack people who write bad reviews?

I am a writer, but first of all, I am a reader. I was a reader long before I ever tried writing, and when someone posts a negative review on my work, I don't care. I love and respect books too much to stifle someone's opinion. I'm doing what I love, I'm happy with my stories. My work isn't going to appeal to everyone and that's fine.

If you've never taken a negative hit to your writing, then it is gonna hurt real bad. I'd advise you do it before you send it out into the world.

The reviewers who harass aren't doing the right thing, but neither are the authors who get their fans to attack reviewers or threaten to before they've even read their books.

I enjoy posting under an anonymous name. I have nothing to hide. Normally, transparency is a great thing, but not if it leads to identity theft and stalking people at their homes. What if someone's judgement of a negative review, really isn't so bad, but that person gets attacked?

I think Hugh Howey said it--you have to try to be nice to each other.

randyellefson said...

If people are dumb enough to read a troll's review and base their decision to read my book based on that, they aren't smart enough to enjoy my books anyway.

I know that doesn't help with the star reviews lowering a rating, but we all must live with a certain amount of injustice. It sucks, but I view it like that FICA tax or whatever on my pay stub. Stop paying attention and you'll stop caring.

That reminds me of a blog I wrote about dealing with negative feedback: Evaluating Feedback

Anna Karenina said...
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Anna Karenina said...

What good is this petition if I can't have a unicorn?

And why do I have to prove I'm not a robot to post this comment? What do you have against robots?

David L. Shutter said...

"You cannot compare a personal attack online to a book, unless the book is giving specific plans to kill or hurt some people on some given date."

Well, that depends on your definition of what constitutes a personal attack. Does a troll HAVE to directly threaten you and your family, divulge your personal info at possible risk to you, post pics that prove they're outside your house, to constitute an "attack" on what you hold dear?

Or can someone simply say or promote (by publishing) that which severely contradicts your beliefs and morals?

Right now Pastor Kevin Swanson feels that Disney is "personally attacking" Christian children by promoting homosexuality and bestiality through the context in the film "Frozen".

Here’s one of many articles

As writers and otherwise artistic folks, keen on free speech and expression, we can sit here all day and fisk and parse Swanson as an extreme right-wing nutbag embarking on a blatant publicity campaign. Hell, I'd be up for some of that action!

But do our opinions on something so subjective, or even a public majority, automatically make him wrong or invalidate his perception of Disney's offense? I'm not sure it does in every case. Objectivity is the key here and from where he's sitting Disney is committing the worst offense possible; threatening children's very SOULS.

Having said all that, yes, of course anyone who posts "this author should fucking die/be punched in the throat/be raped/etc. for writing such a shitty book" is an abusive, asshole troll intending to do some level of harm. It happens every day on Zon, GR, forums, etc, and I'm not pretending otherwise.

But, as Joe has asked, repeatedly, show me an ACTIVE link to abuse (without provocation or BBA, and that may be the trick for some authors) that has been callously ignored by moderation despite reporting. Thus necessitating a petition for drastic action.

I'm not siding with trolls against authors but if Zon anon-speech banning is so imperative because they're inept or unwilling to halt rampant abuse, then I'm sorry but I still haven't seen any viable proof of it yet.

As for the most egregious stories we've heard; the zealous, belligerent and vindictive attacks across email, blog, KB, GR, FB, et al...well, there's an answer for that too.

State laws on cyber stalking and harassement

Does anyone have to settle for ignoring or accepting trolling comments? Nope. The internet is as free for you as it is for trolls. Feel fee to dispense as much web justice as you like.

But, like a lot of things in life, you're picking your own battles.

Claire Chilton said...

Pete, I didn't think I'd mentioned Anne Rice in any my posts, so I don't really know what your point is?

My point was that there are people abusing anonymous to commit crime and there is nothing being done about it.

I don't mind if we have law enforcement, private security, or hacktivist bounty hunters on the payroll hunting down the people that are attacking the innocent online and serving them real life justice, but I think we need something.

That's the entire focus of my conversation on this blog. Doing nothing is not good enough. But I don't really care if it's Anne Rice with a petition or a group of hackers getting rid of online bullies, as long as someone does.

The point is, when someone gets attacked online, there is no justice system in place for them to turn to.

It's about time that changed, don't you think?

But certainly, it doesn't have to be real identity. There are many ways the internet could be made into a better place.

The thing is, we own internet, or no one owns the internet (depending on your point of view). The internet is uncontrolled, which is a good thing. We each control our own part of the internet. By sticking that Ethernet cable into your PC and transferring data, you own that bit of the internet. That's your land on internet island.

So, there is no government here, but I don't think that should mean innocent people should be tortured online.

What do you do in a community of 7 billion people, each one owning their own little piece of land on internet island? You need some kind of law and order. I'd be happy with a pro-Bono expert who would hunt down the bad guys and drag their ass to court, but no one's started that company yet.

So, I'm not really caring about the Anne Rice stuff in the conversation. I'm more interested in the stopping harassment side of it.

I don't know what Anne did on Amazon, or whether her petition is a promo for her new book or not. I just think the subject of harassment is something that people should give a bit more of a shit about.

The internet is our world. We really should put some effort into making it a nice place for everyone to live in.

That's just my opinion though.

Jeff Ezell said...

"Anonymous 1:07 PM said...
Amazon will do what's best for their bottom line. So lets ignore all this, and get back to what we do best - writing."

A Modest Proposal…
Amazon could productize the whole troll situation (maybe bullying too). Joe has mentioned trolls should be “tracked to their home and have the shit beat out of them.” Amazon could step in and offer options for dealing with trolls. (Between Amazon and NSA they can find anybody, right? What a teamup!)

Troll Treatment Alternatives

Level 1 Troll’s eMail addy only - Amazon account holder pays Amazon $.99
Level 2 Troll’s eMail and name - Amazon account holder pays Amazon $2.99
Level 3 Troll’s eMail, name, and cell # - Amazon account holder pays Amazon $9.99
Level 4 Troll’s eMail, name, cell # home address - account holder pays Amazon $19.99
Level 5 Attitude Adjustment Squad is sent to troll’s residence for shit removal - account holder pays Amazon a minimum bid starting at $100
Ultimate Attitude Adjustment Squad Showtime at troll’s residence for shit removal - account holder pays Amazon a minimum bid starting at $500 and gets to watch!

Should there be a commission split with troll? 20% to troll. Remaining 80% split between Amazon and Writer’s BS. (Benevolent Society, a counseling service.)

Would hundreds or thousands pay to “treat a troll”? Any predictions on how soon “trolling” might cease?

Which level would you purchase?

Enough procrastination entertainment! Back to writing.

Patrice said...

I'm in favor of freedom for exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe anyone would seriously think a group of hackers is a good idea. Yup, if you think the bullies, trolls, death and other threats are bad just from random amazon customers ... *shudder* imagine what a group of hackers would do.

How on earth would you restrict their activities just to stopping bullying? How would you control just what vigilante justice they would deal out -- steal someone's identity and financially ruin them? How would you get them to not harvest all possible targets instead of just those you feel bullied authors?

Oh yeah, set loose a group of hackers ... Er ... Activists on amazon. I'm sure Bezo would lump right in that.

Where in earth do you live that death threats, rape threats and bullying is not investigated by law enforcement or the justice system—whether delivered in person, by mail, verbally, by email, online content, etc.?

Claire Chilton said...

Anonymous,

Wasn't the argument for 'freedom of speech' that hacktivist groups like 'Anonymous' needed the ability to save the world from oppressive governments? I'm sure that was the argument I read about here. The main reason that people were allowed to attack other people on the internet were for the sake of anonymous hacktivists or oppressed minorities.

Claire Chilton said...

So let me see if I've got this right. Basically, after rationally discussing it with the group here for three days now. This is the general opinion from everyone here? (barring a few people like me, who see it all a bit differently):

1) If people are attacked on the internet in any way, they should be silent. (curling up into the foetal position is optional). They have no voice and no one to complain to. Let's keep it that way.

2) People should be anonymous to protect the freedom of speech of groups like hacktivists and minority groups, but the abused minority online should not be protected or have freedom of speech because they are not icons for freedom of speech, so screw 'em. They're probably whining or making it up anyway, right? Rather than look at it on a case by case basis, let's just brush them all under the carpet and pretend they don't exist.

3) We don't want to see any kind of improvement in support systems because we don't believe in changing things for the better. Internet society is already degrading, so let's just let it get worse. Why fix what is broken?

4) If people want to create any kind of justice system online it is not good enough. It's much better to have no justice anywhere. We want to keep anonymous and keep abusing people. We can't do that if there is justice.

So, no to petitions, no to banning anonymous, no to improvements in online support systems for the abused, no to law enforcement online, no to private security and no to hacktivist bounty hunters.

In fact, no to every possible solution suggested ever because change is scary. We don't like feeling scared. That's how abused people feel! *anonymously shudders at the thought of it*

5) We don't believe that people are abused because denial is our favourite reaction to anything we don't want to hear. Ignoring the countless blogs, articles, petitions and groups displaying evidence that abuse and bullying happens on a daily basis online, we refuse to believe it.

Unless you can drag the carcass of a half-dead human being here and display them like some kind of public martyr for us to pick at to see how much we can make them scream, then we simply won't believe you.

Am I accurate in understanding that THAT is the argument here?

Fuck that! I'd rather be the minority here who thinks that the above opinions are bullshit.

What can I say, I'm a crazy fool like that.

Here is my alternative opinion:

1) If people feel abused or attacked on the internet, there should be some kind of system in place that they can report the crime to, so they can seek out justice without being judged by trolls on the internet.

2) EVERYONE should have the right to freedom of speech, including the grossly abused, the upset and even the mildly miffed. But in cases of abuse, action should be taken against the abusers.

3) If something is broken, fix it! Support for abuse online is a joke.

4) Whether you like it or not, a justice system will appear online eventually. The only question is who controls it and when. If private companies (like Amazon) continue to ignore abuse, then governing bodies will step in. It's only a matter of time. Personally, I like Amazon, so I hope they improve their abuse support. Google seem to manage to investigate every case individually, and they're much bigger than Amazon. I'm sure they can do it without silencing the masses of oppressed minorities who need to 1-star Harry Potter to fight for their freedom.

5) I believe there is endless evidence of online abuse out there. I don't want to pick at the bones of a martyr to prove a point, nor do I ever want to ever hurt another human being.

But then, I'm just a crazy, irrational fool like that...

Anna Karenina said...

Claire Chilton said...
1) If people feel abused or attacked on the internet, there should be some kind of system in place that they can report the crime to, so they can seek out justice without being judged by trolls on the internet.

Anna said...
'If people FEEL abused or attacked' is not a good determination. Calling it a crime needing justice is not helpful. Some people FEEL abused if someone disagrees with them.

If people ARE abused or attacked on the internet, they should report to the police and the site where they are attacked.

Claire Chilton said...
2) EVERYONE should have the right to freedom of speech, including the grossly abused, the upset and even the mildly miffed. But in cases of abuse, action should be taken against the abusers.

Anna said...
EVERYONE does have the right to freedom of speech, including all the people you mentioned, in America (excepting certain situations).

EVERYONE's right to freedom of speech on the internet is determined by the site they are posting on.

In cases of actual abuse, the abuser should be reported to the site and the police.

Claire Chilton said...
3) If something is broken, fix it! Support for abuse online is a joke.

Anna said...
I think you mean support for stopping abuse online is a joke, right? But fix it how?

Claire Chilton said...
4) Whether you like it or not, a justice system will appear online eventually. The only question is who controls it and when. If private companies (like Amazon) continue to ignore abuse, then governing bodies will step in. It's only a matter of time. Personally, I like Amazon, so I hope they improve their abuse support. Google seem to manage to investigate every case individually, and they're much bigger than Amazon. I'm sure they can do it without silencing the masses of oppressed minorities who need to 1-star Harry Potter to fight for their freedom.

Anna said...
What makes you think Amazon hasn't investigated cases individually? Your determination that they haven't?

I don't dismiss your argument completely, though, as I don't think Amazon enforces their TOS as well as they should. However, I haven't seen any threats of death, physical harm or violent abuse there.

Claire Chilton said...
5) I believe there is endless evidence of online abuse out there. I don't want to pick at the bones of a martyr to prove a point, nor do I ever want to ever hurt another human being.

Anna said...
If there is endless evidence, surely someone would have shown something. I've seen campaigns against the abuse on others sites blogged about, with actual linked examples, so I know that people will show examples when they have them.

I've seen abusive posts on Amazon, which I cannot link because they were deleted by Amazon. (And see my previous comment.)

I've seen a very few abusive reviews on Amazon, which I cannot link because they were deleted by Amazon, but not the violent, stalking, threatening ones that I keep hearing about.

As to never wanting to ever hurt another human being, that's a very laudable goal. I don't want to hurt others, either. But if we're going to be honest, it's highly unlikely that we can avoid it. Just speaking our minds honestly is probably going to hurt someone's feelings sometime.

I'm pretty sure that your post, from which I answered a small portion, hurt someone. It was kind of snarky. (It didn't hurt me, though. I love snarky.)

Claire Chilton said...

Anna said...
If people ARE abused or attacked on the internet, they should report to the police and the site where they are attacked.

Claire says...
And when nothing is done because the police don't understand the internet and Amazon shoot out noreply auto-emails (both of which I've shown examples of in this thread), what then?

Anna said:
EVERYONE does have the right to freedom of speech, including all the people you mentioned, in America (excepting certain situations).

Claire says...
Online bullying silences people with fear, intimidation and threats. That's oppression, regardless of how technically free a site is to speak on.

Anna said...
I think you mean support for stopping abuse online is a joke, right? But fix it how?

Claire says...
Yes I did. Thank you for correcting that. And as to how to fix it, apparently we can't.

"So, no to petitions, no to banning anonymous, no to improvements in online support systems for the abused, no to law enforcement online, no to private security and no to hacktivist bounty hunters.

In fact, no to every possible solution suggested ever because change is scary."

Anna said...
I've seen abusive posts on Amazon, which I cannot link because they were deleted by Amazon. (And see my previous comment.)

Claire says...
I wasn't solely referring to Amazon in regards to abuse. Every site is just as bad if not worse. It was more of a general internet observation. When a ten year old kid kills himself because his peers torture him on Facebook it is certainly worse, but the websites take no responsibility for it. I think that kind of thing shouldn't happen. I think that telling people to 'toughen up and shut up' is harmful and that anonymous on some level promotes sadistic torture of innocent people online. I'd like to see that stop.

Anna said...
I'm pretty sure that your post, from which I answered a small portion, hurt someone. It was kind of snarky. (It didn't hurt me, though. I love snarky.)


Claire says...
I hate snarky, so I hope it doesn't read that way. I think snarkiness leads to most of the problems on the internet. It's unnecessary nastiness veiled as something else. There's absolutely no reason for it other than sadistic enjoyment of someone elses pain.

I was aiming for shock-horror, since that is the emotion that some of the replies invoked in me. If that isn't clear, then I do appologise for not representing my meaning clearly enough.

Michelle Hughes said...

Hey Joe! As a steamy romance writer taking away a reviewers right to anonymity would hurt our genre. Not every reader wants their boss, community, or even family members to know what books they read. While I agree there are some problematic reviews, such as the one against Bromberg (http://www.kbromberg.com/?p=779) where her family was threatened and the book review was used to bring up a personal matter, for the most part I like the system in place.

As far as an author not liking the one star review about a book that's valid? Suck it up I've had tons and while those might "hurt" my feelings you learn a lot about your craft from reading them. Some of those were because they didn't like the heat level of my books, which is their personal opinion.

Zanara Taylor said...

Shouldn't people that sign a petition requesting Amazon customers use their real names be required to sign the petition with their real name, authors included.

Hedonist Six said...

I don't know if anyone has brought this up yet, but lately there's been a lot of talk about Amazon possibly removing reviews that state the reviewer received an ARC. This seemed like a rumour at first but then a writer friend of mine mentioned that after distributing ARCs for a release, the reviewers received messages from Amazon that their reviews wouldn't be posted because they weren't verified purchases. It all seems very coincidental that this is happening now after that petition has got so much publicity. Does anyone else have any views on this?

Sandra Martinez said...

Claire,
Anna is one of the "spoke persons" of the Ammie patrol that inspired the petition.

She is also one of the main victims of this situation. Her personal information was made public, and her employer was contacted by one author asking them to fire her--what is not acceptable. The author later on apologized.

Michael Scott is writing a thriller loosely inspired in this situation. Scary stuff.

Excerpt here: http://www.hardpressed.org.uk/the-wheels-on-th-bus.html

Claire Chilton said...

Hi Sandra, I've never heard of the Ammie patrol, sorry. I've also never heard of Anna's story, but if she was attacked on the Amazon forums, then I hope she was given a decent level of support and the culprits were caught and punished. (Although, I tend to doubt that happened given my past experience of those forums, so my best wishes go out to her).

This probably isn't good news, but is she aware that there is an Anna Karenina on the Amazon forums posting up the names of people who have signed the petition right now, in an attempt to stop people wanting to sign it?

I saw it earlier today. I don't think it'll have the desired effect though. It made me want to sign the petition twice while listening to the Sex Pistols. I do hate people trying to force others to conform.

Is that someone ghosting her name, or are there just a lot of Anna Karenina's on Amazon?

Anyway, I hope she gets justice.

On the petition, I think people should do what they feel is right. We have to believe in the majority on this kind of thing. I don't think one person can make the right choice, but everyone together can :).

Sandra Martinez said...

No, Claire. She is the same person, I think... Ammie patrol is the Amazon patrol, the group who considers the have the duty and right to put authors in "their" place.

They drove Rick Carrufel mad, and the guy took the information from another place, posted it in his blog, and called her work. He apologize, sort of, lately.

One would expect that she would calm down, but no. This only made them more *dedicated*.

Anna Karenina said...

Claire ~

I am Anna Karenina on Amazon. I am not part of an Ammy Patrol, because there isn't one.

I'm sorry Sandra said things about me. It's kind of gossiping, I think, specially esince she's got her facts wrong.

I started the thread on Amazon because it seems only fair that readers know what authors want to take away their right to anonymity on Amazon (and Amazon knows who they are, anyway). And their names are in public on the petition.

One of my threads asked authors who want to take away readers/reviewers' anonymity to ask their readers not to post reviews unless they do so with their real names. So far, no author has had the guts to do that. Seems disingenuous to me.

I don't know where you got the idea I was trying to force you to conform to anything. It would be a little hard, since I can't reach through the screen and grab your hand to stop you from signing the petition.

Claire Chilton said...

Sandra: I'm afraid I don't know about the Ammy patrol, but they sound pretty bad. A lot depends on if they actually abuse people or not. A Book, is just a book after all.

I tried to reply to your email, but according to the DNS, your address doesn't exist.

So here's my reply to your email:

Hi Sandra,

Thanks for the warning, but I don’t really care about bad reviews, so if it’s just that, then so be it. If it’s abuse, then I won’t stand by and watch people get attacked, just as I won’t stand by and watch someone get kicked to death in the street. It’s not in my nature to walk on by. Since everything I’m saying online is ‘Don’t criminally abuse people online’ I can only assume that people who attack me for it are the kind that require a stint in jail, and I’m happy to provide them with that.

To my knowledge, I’m not particularly antagonizing anyone right now. Unless Joe is a ninja troll in disguise, I don’t see how what I write as a comment on his blog is going to be big problem.

But if trolls do decide to go after my books, they’re going to have a bit of a surprise because:
1) Bad reviews, comments and tags only have the following effects on book sales. It’s either:
a. Fuck all happens.
or
b. They make the book sell more.

2) Since, as a white hat by trade, I know this to be true, there is the possibility that I’d die laughing at them for wasting their own time. Every time they mention my name, they make me more famous than I already am. Since I’m not famous at all, it’s not really going to harm me, regardless of what they say.
a. Example: Trolling -> Claire Chilton Eats Babies! … Result -> Billions of people buy my books to find out what the fuss is about. All trolls do is marketing for authors. The criminally abusive ones, however, harm innocent people, who don’t know any better. They suffer from emotional distress, fear and physical attacks. That’s what I have a problem with.

In addition to that, there are other reasons that I really don’t care about having trolls on my books:
3) They already targeted me in 2010, and stuck me on the list of BBA’s, guess what happened to me? Nothing... Then they targeted one of my books. Guess what happened? It sold like hot cakes. Then they tried to bad review me on Amazon, but I had a restraining order against that guy so his review was toast.
4) I have hunted down criminally abusive trolls real identities in the past. If they go too far in terms of illegal activity, I have the power and the technical knowledge to pretty much hunt down anyone on the internet. These people aren’t as anonymous as they think they are.

In my opinion, if someone writes my book a troll-like bad review, it’s some fiction about some fiction. Why not? Rock on freedom of speech. Maybe they’ll even read it, you never know.

If someone attacks me as a person, they better watch their backs because I don’t ever stop hunting them down until I see their ass in a courtroom for it. I’m tenacious like that. It depends on the level of the crime of course, but if someone goes too far, I’ll go after them with everything I’ve got.

If, by speaking out, I am helping some poor abused author somewhere realise that the only power these people have is the power that we give them, then I think it’s worth a few shitty comments on my books, and since there isn’t an insult in the universe that I haven’t heard (can they beat ‘a schizophrenic rapist minotaur? Because that one made me laugh), I really have no fear of a review.

All the best,

Claire Chilton said...

Hi Anna,

I understand why you feel that anonymous should be protected, but I don't think highlighting a small group of the 6k people who signed the petition is a fair way to display that. If there are trolls, you just pointed them all at 5 people. If you're going to do it, target all 6k and let the battle commence. Like you said, it's public anyway. Just link to the public list if you want to name them without typing out 6k names.

Personally, I wouldn't go to war. You have your opinion and debates about it, and they have theirs. Amazon will make the final decision based on the most rational argument, not on the biggest battle.

I would drop by Amazon and make that post, but since I'd rather poke hot needles in my eyes than go to the Amazon forums, I won't be. I suspect it may be a case that the authors who would make that thread left the forums a long time ago. At least, it is in my case.

Although, I will add that I'm not 100% sold on banning anonymous in reviews anyway. I like freedom of speech. I only want to see criminal abuse and bullying come to an end. I don't really mind how Amazon achieve that.

Anna Karenina said...

Claire~

I like your style in going after someone with a restraining order and using legal means to make someone accountable. I keep posting on Amazon that if someone is being threatened, they need to contact authorities. Not sure why that isn't their first response.

I've had people attack me for the very thing you mentioned: Coming to the aide of someone who is being attacked. I've done it when reviewers are attacked by authors or posters being attacked by other posters. People labeled me a bully because of it. After awhile I just figured those people were clueless, so why should I care?

"I only want to see criminal abuse and bullying come to an end."

I agree, as long as you are talking about real abuse and real bullying, not someone saying an author needs to hire an editor.

I've seen some authors attack reviews as abusive and bullying that were anything but.

But if we're talking serious abuse, serious threats, serious bullying ~ then we are of like mind.

Sandra Martinez said...

Claire,
good to know. I´m on a similar page. I don´t care about the reviews, take them as graduation of the books.

This was my first encounter, and it did shake me a bit. It will not happen again. It didn´t affect sales though, actually I did sell more.

Not sure what happened with the dns. I will check with my service provider. My email is public, like my websites.

I am perfectly fine with public conversation, but if you are ever interested, or someone else has stories to share,the email is sandra at elearah.com

Claire Chilton said...

Hi Anna,

I think we are in the same frame of mind about what classes as abuse and what does not.

If someone says a book needs editing, then it can mean many things.

On one hand, it can be helpful advice that will serve that author well for decades to come. Although, I tend to believe that if someone is being helpful with that advice, they won't post it publicly. I send editing advice to authors all the time, privately if they ask me to look at their book for them. However, if the intention is to be helpful, then that's something the author should be grateful for, even if it is in a public review. As long as it's honest, that's a good review imo, regardless of the rating.

If someone tells an author they need to edit their book in some kind of anti-marketing slur, that review should probably be ignored. That does happen because I've seen it a few times where there are comments like: 'You need too edit you're buck!' (<- there's some advice that you probably don't want to listen to.) Or sometimes there are reviews that invent typos to crow about, or people who claim the English language is a typo because it's British English. Those are ones that authors and readers need to ignore because they're either not honest reviews or they're not useful. That being said, I wouldn't report those either, well, unless Amazon install a 'stupid' button. I'd report them as stupid.

But I'm not talking about either of those instances in my comments here. I'm talking about death threats, people being threatened with physical abuse. I’m talking about acts of libel, fraud, plagiarism, piracy etc. Actual crimes, which I have seen come from the Amazon system on more than one occasion. I don't feel that the support for reporting those crimes is as good as it could be. So my main gripe would be that I'd like to see the people committing that kind of crime on Amazon removed from Amazon in a permanent ban. To do that, Amazon need a better system for reporting that kind of thing and a better system for investigating it.

Continued in part two...

Claire Chilton said...

On a side note though, your story did highlight another issue with the Amazon forums.

There is an issue with the Amazon forums if it makes people feel alienated or they need to defend themselves on it. I've said: 'I'd rather poke hot needles into my eyes than go there ever again.' You've said: 'I've had people attack me'.

People do get alienated from the forums because of the bullying on it and the reputation it has, which actually harms Amazon on the long run. If people stop going there to talk about books, then it will have long-term detrimental effects on Amazon as a whole.

I can think of countless people who will not comment or review on Amazon because they've been bullied off the forums, or attacked for commenting on a review. I can think of even more who won’t because they’ve heard bad things about bullies on Amazon.

Amazon ranks high in Google for most things because of its strong community. Because it has active forums, reviews, human interaction with its users, it has a high Google rank and pulls in all the new customers online. When users are alienated from that forum, they leave it. Amazon receives less community activity and drops a place in Google. It'll lose a few new customers because of that. If it drops too far in Google ranking, it’ll lose thousands of customers because of that.

Using me as an example, I choose to talk on Joe's blog because I know that if someone abuses me here, Joe will kick them off his blog for it. I trust the person in charge of this forum. He won't allow anyone to be unfairly harassed in his house.

I don't feel the same way about Amazon. I will not speak there, not ever. Ditto on Goodreads.

I'll give my trust and therefore my comment boost in Google to Joe, not to Amazon because of forum alienation.

The bullies on the Amazon forums are not helping Amazon remain the top bookseller online. Generally a social website (and Amazon is a social site on some level) wants people to review, comment and post on their site, but rather than a welcoming environment, Amazon offers groups of bullies and a bad reputation. Whether bullying is actually happening there right now or not, doesn't change the fact that it has in the past and their social reputation is mud right now.

I don't think that is something they should ignore for their own good. They really do need to make Amazon into a place that people want to be social on, rather than a place we feel the need avoid or be defensive on.

bart hopkins said...

I'd be happy to come over for pony rides, but #5 was really my favorite, there, with the beating the crap out of people and all that. Made me think of the Stephen King movie with James Woods, when he is trying to quit smoking.

Selena Kitt said...

4. I don't like the words "mirthquake" or "thrillomedy". Amazon needs to delete these stupid words wherever they appear on their website.
---------

You forgot "Bromance." Otherwise, I concur! :)

James English said...

"If not, then why advise people not to comment on reviews?"

There have been several times that I have opted to NOT buy a book because the author got in arguments with reviewers. It's unprofessional, and I'm not going to reward that behavior by giving the author money.

M T McGuire said...

For what it's worth, the problem is not reviews, it's that Amazon doesn't moderate the forums. As a result, two opposing groups have chosen to do so themselves and they get into fights. Repeatedly.

There are certain people who always attract this. If Anne Rice posts... well... pretty much anything on a book related forum on Amazon.com she gets a fair bit of heckling. Sometimes you will end up with a really excellent debate. Others it gets beyond feisty into nasty territory.

Some moderation by a human being at Amazon - especially the Amazon.com forums - could put a stop to hundreds of pages of handbags at dawn and keep the debate lively and feisty but the right side of aggressive!

I think most people have given up on the Amazon forums for that reason and until things are a bit more relaxed there, will probably stick to forums where there is some moderation.

I absolutely get your point and I do hope you got your pony!

Cheers

MTM