Amazon And Censorship

Last week Amazon had a book available on its website titled “The Pedophile’s Guide To Love And Pleasure” by Phillip Greaves. Within hours there were over 3000 complaints about this book. It has since been removed from Amazon in order to be re-reviewed by the retailer. Fox News had a more in-depth article wherein they spoke to Greaves about his book. In it, Greaves explained that while he, himself is not a pedophile, he has sympathy for it. His goal was to make “pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them,”.

During the few hours the book was available, people threatened to boycott Amazon until the title was removed. Other people  stated that they would boycott the retailer even if it was removed. Which asks the question, “What is the seller’s motivation to comply when leaving the title up or taking it down yields the same results?” Adam P. Knave asks this and other questions regarding censorship on his site.

The first question he asks (paraphrased): Is there some kind of magic number of complaints that Amazon has before they take something down? If so, does that mean that anything that someone might feel is morally objectionable can be removed through peer pressure?

He raises the point that many people find homosexuality to be morally objectionable. Does that mean that if enough people complain about a book on that topic, Amazon or another bookseller will remove the topic from their shelves.

The Fox News article above also noted that there are several pedophile related titles available on Amazon. None of these have been removed due to a threat of boycott.

We are fortunate in this country to have laws that protect our freedom to say whatever we want to. Even though this sort of material is deplorable to most of us, is it really worse than books by Holocaust deniers or racism? Both of those topics are deeply harmful. Granted, they are not targeted towards children, who cannot defend themselves.

When the first Harry Potter novel was published, school libraries around the country were forced to remove it from the shelves because it supposedly taught witchcraft. This move was made by right wing conservatives with the aim of protecting children. Since we have the right too free speech, do we also have the right to publicly censor what we find objectionable?

What do you think? Is there acceptable censorship? Why or why not?




  1. sgerbic said,

    November 16, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Thanks Maria, I will be pondering today about some of your questions.


  2. Jason said,

    November 16, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Actually Maria this isn’t an issue of censorship at all. I actually think that if you think this is a free speech issue at all, then the problem is really that you dont know what freedom of speech is.

    Amazon is a private corporation and is free to sell or refuse to sell whatever books it chooses to and nobodies free speech rights are violated when amazon declines to offer the book for sale.

    Free speech rights reflect the co-ercive power of government to silence speech it finds undesirable.

    Private companies are at liberty to do as they please and it would be a violation of their liberty to claim they must offer certain books for sale.

    And surely Amazon’s customers are free to let Amazon know that they wont be buying books from them while Amazon chooses to sell certain titles. Then Amazon is free to accede to these requests or ignore them. Either way, there is no free speech right violations here at all and you diminish the real value of rights to freedom of speech when you debase and distort them like this.


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