In the communication-oriented world of social media, policy changes and hidden terms of service rarely go unnoticed. Amazon.com is currently feeling the heat from its Twitter audience with its recent policy change that removes sales rankings from books that contain “adult” content. Through de-ranking a book, Amazon does not permit the book to make the “Best Seller” list and usually removes it from its search results.
So what, right? Offensive, adult material should be banned from making a credible “Best Seller” list. Well, in this case, no. Amazon has apparently defined “adult” material as “gay” material in the de-ranking of many award-winning books. According to a Los Angeles Times blog, most of the books that have been de-ranked are those containing homosexual themes, while many of the books that have remained ranked are offensive and crude, including “Playboy: Six Decades of Centerfolds” and “American Psycho.” Through de-ranking homosexual-themed books and removing them from the search engine, these books will likely lose sales and credibility.
Needless to say, Amazon.com is in the hot seat with its social media audiences. In particular, Twitter has been jam-packed with responses to Amazon’s failure. Using the hashtag “#amazonfail,” popular tweets have called for boycotting Amazon and petitioning against the policy change. The Twitterverse has taken action, and there is no stopping this downward spiral of bad PR.
Amazon has recently responded, calling the de-ranking of homosexual-themed books a “glitch.” Oh how I love vague wording. Again, the downward spiral continues.
Big business’ number one fear is social media, so why then do businesses not see the importance of transparency? If Amazon had brought this policy change to the attention of its audiences, this would not have created such an extreme response. Through attempting to hide this policy, Amazon is now looking at this crisis in a hindsight manner. And furthermore, where is the PR in the managing of the policy change? Allowing only homosexual-themed books to be de-ranked suggests that the checks and balances within the business are not present.
And again, “glitch”? Can somebody please give me a definition of that?