Is Amazon Homophobic? Or Were Rankings Broke?

Seems Amazon has had some problems with books on gays and lesbians intheir sales rankings, according to the Huffington Post. People noticed sales rankings had dropped and search results were giving odd responses recently.

A search for homosexuality was returning "A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality" over the weekend. The delisting was apparently fixed today, though some books have fallen under the adult categorization which removes them from main stream searches.

No doubt there will be more discussion on the topic in coming days.

Amazon issued a public statement:

"This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles - in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future."

Meanwhile an opportunistic hacker made a claim to having caused the problem, according to PCWorld.

Kate Harding of Salon.com makes an interesting comment on the event:

"Also, it's still not a real apology to all the authors and publishers affected, or the customers who had pretty good reason to wonder if Amazon had indeed instated a homophobic and misogynistic corporate policy, but "ham-fisted and embarrassing" is a surprisingly honest and accurate start."

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.