Friendly reminder that the definition of censorship is not limited to the government.
The books they've banned may indeed be misinformation, but lets not push even more misinformation by denying simple dictionary definitions that seem politically unacceptable.
Censorship is censorship. It doesn't need to be a political body to make it so.
In the 80's, the idea of the corporate ran dystopian future where a megalomaniac controlled society through his mega corporation was seen as scary future.
Now we get the usual boot licking going on every time this topic is brought up as Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, and Google (Alphabet) actually put into practice real censorship and attempt to control the majority of online communication, ideas, and a good piece of all information over the internet.
What a turn for the worse we've taken as a society.
Amazon is not obligated to carry their merchandise any more than they would be obligated to carry any Amazon branded products in their own stores.
If anything, whenever Amazon is mentioned here, people come in to complain that they need to do more to remove garbage products from their website. Here's a garbage product that literally kills people when they use it. If it were a toaster, it would be yanked from the shelves and the manufacturer would be getting sued for wrongful death.
Answer this question to satiate my curiosity, what if Stripe and Paypal refuse to process credit card payments for these authors?
What if Square refuses to swipe cards at the flea market for the author?
Huh? Why would you make an exception for pornography in your definition of censorship? Porn is like the most obvious textbook example of censorship.
What's wrong with something that's lewd or pornographic? It's far better than quackery.
Like shouting "fire" in a crowded auditorium that is in fact not on fire? Let's call it what it is: we're talking about lying about things that can and will literally kill people.
Why should Amazon be expected to provide a platform for that?
What happens when the prevailing opinion in the future becomes that raising boys as boys is dangerous for their health? Girls as girls? Promoting religion to your children seen as dangerous to popular thought? Do we continue down this path and start banning literature on how to raise children properly, the bible? After all, it may disagree with YOUR OWN held opinion, so it must be removed, for the safety of the children, right?
We are entering the territory of cheering on the thought police, where you disregard your own faculties and off load all of your exposure to information and decision making to a highly select group of people, with their own biases, much of it monetarily motivated.
Do you understand what I'm saying to you?
That's funny, because every time that I'm here lately I seem to see a pile of upvoted stories and comments about how [insert big company here] is committing [atrocity here]. Sometimes its true, but often its backed by little evidence other than someone's opinion.
I'm not convinced that things are nearly so imbalanced as you are making them sound.
From the Article: 'Wired magazine noted that Amazon is crowded with titles promoting unproven treatments for autism that include “sex, yoga, camel milk, electroconvulsive therapy, and veganism.”'
Removing books that contain outright lies isn't censorship. It's simple denying a platform for bald-faced liars to profit off misleading the public.
The phrase your looking for is "dangerous lies"
Perhaps it's a game of whack-a-mole and censorship trying to suppress vaccine misinformation, but the anti-vax movement is an actual real danger to society, and misinformation was cited as one of the problems in recent testimony before Congress by a teen who defied his parents’ anti-vaccination beliefs: "The sources which spread misinformation should be the primary concern of the American people." 
Fortunately this teen learned to think on his own ("learning to find credible research and information is fundamental to finding truth in a world of misleading facts and false views").
Ideally, I'd want everyone to learn to think critically, and to combat misinformation with information. I don't like the slippery slope of censorship either. But I also can't stand the fact that my children live in a world with kids who aren't vaccinated.
So I hesitatingly applaud Amazon here.
I operate a Little Free Library that is a net source of books (people in the neighborhood drop off boxes of books). This has had a number of effects I didn't foresee:
1) we have learned who visits seeking books (usually kids and their moms), a demographic I certainly want to encourage reading in, so we load the stock toward that demographic.
2) rarely we acquire some really great books.
3) Occasionally we get books that give me unintended insight about who's in my neighborhood, not in a good way. I throw them out. I have no problem with Mr. Bezos doing what amounts to the same.
We're not talking about censorship of valid information. It's censorship of invalid information. That's just good methodology.
Might be a good idea to stock more history books in your library because that is precisely the same hubristic logic used by authoritarians throughout all time.
Ever so many of mankind's greatest scientific discoveries and moral progressions were deemed "invalid information" by "senior members of society", which is why the great thinkers of the Enlightenment fought for freedom of speech, thought, and information. It seems we no longer truly value those things as we are increasingly relying upon corporations to decide for us what is true and what isn't.
* "We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid." ― Benjamin Franklin
* "Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition." - Adam Smith
* "Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn." ― Benjamin Franklin
* "It is difficult to free fools from the chains their revere." - Voltaire
* "We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter." - Diderot
* "That Politics may be Reduced to a Science" - title of 1741 essay by Hume.
* "One unerring mark of the love of truth is not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant." - Locke
* "The supreme mystery of despotism, its prop and stay, is to keep men in a state of deception" - Spinoza
Shall I go on?
Here's a good starting point if you'd like to learn more:
Quite OT, but I've thought about doing this - how do you do this, practically speaking? Do you have a cupboard in the front of your house or do people actually come inside? Have you ever had to deal with vandalism? In what climate do you live, and what sort of infrastructure do you have?
We live in Southern California and even we get rain. So using a plan is a good idea simply for the value that they've thought of things like eaves and sills. You need to commit to repainting every year or so, maintaining the caulk, etc.
it's the details and maintenance that make it. Ours looks good years on. One in the area is starting to look janky because they were too fancy with their first paint job and now it is in the dire need of paint. Another is just collection of rotten plywood at this point.
It's a very big bird house on a pole in front of your house, just in front of the sidewalk. It's got a door with a window on it, so people can see the books. I live in a region with a cold climate and there are 7 or 8 exactly like what I'm describing in my neighbourhood. I don't personally have one but my wife wants to build one in the spring. Doesn't seem to be much of a vandalism magnet when they look so gosh-darn cute.
Well I was thinking more of a 'we're open Saturday mornings only' kind of deal, I can assure you I am far from the most generous, kindhearted person in the world :)
"I live in a region with a cold climate and there are 7 or 8 exactly like what I'm describing in my neighbourhood."
Does it work OK in rain and cold? It only gets to -10 C here so not even that cold, but it seems it would be hard to build the cute ones (like, all the results when Google Image searching 'little library') in a waterproof way.
Then again, I'm probably overthinking it and getting stuck in analysis paralysis like I usually do...
This isn't a reminder, it's an assertion that uses rhetoric to make itself sound more factual.
They doubled down on this strategy with their on demand printing service - bypassing traditional publishing gate keepers.
When someone dispenses with long-standing policy it is noteworthy.
There's long tail and long tail. Amazon can still sell books about how to repair and maintain a 1936-era WLW Crosley Radio without also selling books informing the unfortunate gullible about how to "treat" their children's autism by DIY at-home electoconvulsion therapy.
Due to a long history - books in particular are seen as a bellweather of a societies attitudes towards censorship.
As much as I'm pained to be standing up for these anti-vaccination nuts, it's the thin end of the wedge.
The choice of not doing business with someone ceases to be a meaningful choice when it's the only viable alternative. One could argue that Amazon is not the only viable alternative and that argument is, strictly speaking, correct. However, this isn't a binary situation -- one day we have plenty of equally viable alternatives and the next day it's just Amazon -- but rather a continuum.
TL;DR: Amazon pulling stuff from their store is only a bad thing when taken together with not having a meaningful alternative. The latter is a bigger problem than the former.
When your storefront is 83% of the market, and you restrict choice, it's time for you to be broken up.
 - https://www.retaildive.com/news/apple-takes-a-page-out-of-am...
Wal Mart censors people too - if you don't comply with their morals, you can't promote yourself in their stores.
In this case the book as a product is not different from a trillion of other Amazon products. What makes it different is its content. So yes, this is censorship.
If Amazon started saying "we won't sell these books to gay people" then, yeah that would be a problem.
"Masterpiece's owner Jack Phillips, who is a Christian, declined their cake request, informing the couple that he did not create wedding cakes for marriages of gay couples owing to his Christian religious beliefs, although the couple could purchase other baked goods in the store. "
Say a baker hand-makes dog-shaped cakes, among other cakes. The baker loves dogs. A client comes in and tells him he hates dogs and wants to order a cake for the purpose of ritually defiling it.
Would the baker be wrong in refusing to fulfill this order?
Legally, the baker would not be "wrong" in your scenario, though in my opinion they would at least be foolish. Defiling a cake does not harm a dog and once the customer pays for, it is their property to do whatever they want with.
How about if your dog-hater were driving late at night, they got tired and pulled over into a motel. They're signing in for a room and the topic of dogs comes up for whatever reason. They mention that they hate dogs and the motel owner says "Get out, we don't allow no dog-haters in here". Are they right to do that? Legally, again, they could, though they couldn't on the basis of sexual orientation (in some states) or race, religion, national origin (everywhere).
The Supreme Court has already sided with the baker on the basis of the cake being an artistic expression, so it's a moot point now.
Forced creation is as bad as forced speech.
Not to mention, there's no need, as a customer, to inform the baker the purpose of the cake. Doesn't matter if you're taking it to a wedding, or using it as a prank. They make cake, you want cake.
And considering their humble and rather "anti-censorship" beginnings, it's rather disappointing to see what amazon has become. Seems like another case of you die a hero or you live long enough to be a villian.
If they were not a monopolist, then they could claim curation.
Once you achieve monopoly status, you can't claim to be a simple business anymore.
At that time, they controlled 65% plus of the online book market. Do you think it is less now?
They basically have no competition. A monopoly does not require 100%. For example, the Sherman Antitrust Act defines it as 75%. But, it's obvious that they are a monopolist in this area.
Almost all of the nonfiction books and videos on the first search result page promote similar "cures," with only one book based on medical research at spot #8 (The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer) and a book about the engineer who invented the universal microscope (The Cancer Cure That Worked: 50 Years of Suppression)
People should be able to share their personal stories, but Amazon and other tech companies have a responsibility to society, too. Claims like these can have real life and death outcomes. It's not enough to shrug and blame the algorithm because more people click on a book with a carrot on the front cover.
An allegory: I'm currently using Craigslist to look for an apartment in San Francisco. I frequently encounter posts which are obviously scammy. I disregard them because I know that Craigslist can't possibly have the resources to police all its listings.
That said, I still appreciate it when they take the time to remove a scammy post. And I don't by any stretch of the imagination think that the listings I find on Craigslist have been endorsed by Craigslist.
Spot-checking and removing garbage posts from Craigslist (or books from Amazon) may be a never-ending game of Whack-A-Mole, but it's still better than letting those platforms turn into the Wild West.
We would have felt differently about him if he had published a book titled "iCancer: How I Beat The Disease Using Alternative Medicine".
You just can't win. Hopefully this is only an initial reaction and will eventually die down.
Personally, I don't know how I feel about normalizing censorship. Freedom of information is a large part of how we reached the peak of our current civilization. How long before this goes too far?
However, any organization that proliferates plagues should be labeled as a terrorist organization. The anti-vax community is like a terrorist organization with "good" intentions, and they're just regular misinformed people all around us. Very tricky situation indeed..
One of the things that sets a good bookstore apart from a bad bookstore is their curation of their inventory. One of the thing that sets a good school apart from a bad one is their curation of classes and instructors. Hell, curation is the most valuable service a non-information related store provides.
I don't think this really applies in this case -- Amazon happily sells lots of books that are full of crap; they have every book by Trudeau, and I lose a little respect for any bookseller that carries a one of them.
But in general, I think the focus on access to information sometimes makes people forget the value of curation.
You can but it requires identifying and fixing the actual problem instead of trying to cover it in layer after layer of bandaids.
The problem with this issue, as it is with many other issues, isn't the availability of information, it's that a significant portion of the populous lacks the skills necessary to process information and reason about it. It shouldn't be surprising that limiting access to information does nothing to fix this problem, at best it just pushes it out of sight, thus out of mind.
This is one hell of an assertion, and needs substantial evidence to prove.
Nope. You think you just need to win the argument about vaccinations. No, you need to win the argument about how to think like a rational adult, whether you're thinking about breakfast or whether to vaccinate your kids.
Personally, I don't know how I feel about normalizing censorship.
I know how I feel about stores that refuse to sell what they feel are defective products.
I was watching the flat earther special on netflix last night and I was thinking, that although its ridiculous to believe in these things, society needs people who are distrustful and challenge science/popular consensus etc... thats also part of being a rational adult.
I use to believe fat was bad for me, I need orthotics for my feet, babies need to be bottle fed in sleep in a separate crib, I need to be on all sorts of medications instead of eating healthy etc... but thats just because I was butt owned by what societies consensus was.
They made a big to-do about purchasing a highly accurate gyroscope to be able to prove their assertions about the flatness of the world.
When their experiment blew up in their faces and confirmed everything they thought to be false, they simply moved on saying [to paraphrase]: we won't stop until we find proof that we're right. Then they followed through a number of other failed experiments (failed in their parlance == proving their theories wrong).
These are not skeptics, as it were. Now a mind that explored these experiments and changed their mind based on the evidence, sure. That said—they're mostly harmless.
That's not what these books were doing, though. They were actively promoting some pretty unhealthy, potentially very dangerous, methods on helpless children.
Pretty clear line to me there.
In the marketplace of ideas, some are going to be really, really bad, just like products. But over time they go out of business, just like the idea of witch trials or human sacrifice to appease the gods. It's just that for those of us that don't agree it seems to take forever because we already know it's a bad idea -- what's taking them so long?
The real problem is not the bad ideas themselves, but that when people think they know how to pick the good ideas from the bad ones and are OK silencing the bad ideas with force instead of debate. See: Galileo.
It adds no value to society for someone to say "I don't trust the experts who have spent their lives studying this subject, and also I refuse to take the time to become an expert myself so that my opinion is an informed one."
Challenge science and popular consensus all you want, but do it with evidence and research, not with scare tactics and appeals to bias.
The argument for private businesses making their own choices is strong, the argument for them being an effective monopoly is strong, I'm sure many other arguments are strong.
What occurs to me, and especially after listening to the second Joe Rogan/Jack Dorsey and co interview, is two dimensions of critically important inquiry:
- What effect do policies and procedures like this have? How are they perceived? What are the unintended consequences? What are the limits and conditions surround the erection and enforcement of these policies? What is likely to be the next set of things removed? What are the forces that guide the decision making of the organization removing content?
- What kind of world do we want to live in? Do these actions move us closer to that world, once all relevant and foreseeable consequences are taken in to account? What ability or mechanism exists to change course if the policy doesn't have the intended effect? Is there a way books can be reinstated?
The reality, as I see it, is the policies surrounding content moderation have tremendous future impact potential for culture and human experience.
We should make sure there is a broad and deep debate, not arbitrary action that takes its validity merely by existing. That's called "might makes right."
The world is full of shitty materials and content. Should Amazon, or other intermediaries, be allowed such interferences?
Has any judge ordered such material not to be sold?
Dangerous, anti-science literature was on the top of their own charts, and ignoring that has moral implications. Amazon has decided indulging populist fervor and the "wisdom of crowds" does not rank higher than protecting general welfare where they have an influence.
(Think carefully. Most people will "want" to answer the seemingly-closely-related question "Why do you think these books are 'ignorance'?", but that is not the same question!)
I would completely agree with what you said about the rights of the private companies if Amazon was a regular market player. But even you qualified above statement. Even though Amazon is not really a monopoly, it is pretty close for small scale book selling. That is, it has such a dominant market share that its decision not to sell a book can be a death sentence for a small book publisher. Thus they should be super careful when culling titles by content -- next time they might pull <insert your favorite hot topic> and there will be no recourse either.
Why do you have to trust Amazon's assessment? You don't have to trust my assessment of anything, either. Nor I yours. So why are you debating whether or not you should trust Amazon's?
I don't agree with plenty of things corporations do. I'm confused on what point you're trying to make?
edit: This is a question if it's not clear. Please answer.
But it is not Amazon's duty to prepare such books in store just in case you want to assess ignorance level of certain works. They are tens of millions of books out there, are we going to blame search engine to not presented all of them to you in order to be, not biased, and supporting freedom of speech/expression/searchability? Probably not.
You’re under no obligation to accept science’s assessment of the facts. But if you choose to reject it, be ready to do a better job of making your case than the scientific community has done making theirs. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
I also observe that the censorship frontier is moving quickly and taking a lot of ground in the past couple of years, and while I may not be forced to accept it today, the trend is heading strongly in a direction of yes, outright forcing me to accept a very Amazon-like decision about what should and should not be censored. It's strong enough that I feel it's acceptable for me to not just ignore these facts.
: I mean this globally about Amazon's gestalt opinion, not this specific case. One of my kids is diagnosed autistic and the other has the doctor's scratching their heads and kinda headed in that direction, and my wife and I have both looked at the "autism community", and steered hard away from it. There's all sorts of things wrong in there, at least on the loudest side of it. While I have no specific knowledge of the books in question, my priors have no problem accepting the idea that they are full of stupid and dangerous advice.
Perhaps when not doing so would perpetuate the resurgence of a life-threatening disease that, until 20 years ago, was virtually eliminated in the US?
> each individual is subject to the ignorance of their time.
True. They are also subject to the responsibility to think rationally and use the provable, reproducible evidence at their disposal to make decisions. Especially when those decisions have life-or-death implications not only for their children, but others’ children as well.
These are not scientific. They are not necessary for historical purposes or archiving. They are purely malicious words made to ruin people’s lives for profit...
Private, yes, until it has been shown to harm the public good to do so.
Government, no, until it has been shown to harm the public good to not do so.
What Amazon said:
> Mr. Huseman also said in the letter that Amazon had conducted a review of anti-vaccination books and “found categorizations that were not consistent with our customers’ expectations.” The company, he said, was “actively working to resolve this.”
That is, Amazon doesn't want to piss off its customers. So basically they are in fact "indulging populist fervor and the 'wisdom of crowds'".
Edit: Here, Amazon is arguably pulling hazardous books. But I'm reminded how the tobacco industry accused its critics of promoting "junk science" and being "anti-science". As did many firms that were polluting the environment. And those who deny anthropogenic global climate change.
As we steamroll at full speed into the Brave New World, does any book, piece of art, or piece of literature that goes against current popular thought become "anti-science literature" and thus promoted for removal.
Plenty of people could make an argument that implementing communism is just good rational and logical policy and thinking, and anyone not wishing to do so is illogical, irrational, and anti-science, therefore we simply remove any literature relating to human freedom, free markets, or the constitution. Does that solve the problem?
How about books on biology that clearly make a distinction between male and female genders. When the political transgender movement becomes locked in, do we simply ban all books that expose two genders as "anti-science literature"?
Anti (preposition): opposed to, or against.
Science (noun): the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
Literature (noun): books and writings published on a particular subject.
>As we steamroll at full speed into the Brave New World, does any book, piece of art, or piece of literature that goes against current popular thought become "anti-science literature" and thus promoted for removal.
No. It is not true that any book, piece of art or literature can or will be deemed "anti-science literature". It is also not true that Amazon's ability to curate its own platform - an ability it has always had, and has always shared with every private enterprise, and has, with all other platforms, exercised before, represents a dangerous precedent towards the wholesale societal censorship of everything that "goes against current thought." Further, it is not the case that the books in question merely represent "wrongthink," making their removal an example of such. And also, we are not steamrolling into the Brave New World.
Bringing up Brave New World, 1984 or Martin Niemoller's poem in on the internet should be considered signs of pseudointellectual poserdom.
>Plenty of people could make an argument that implementing communism is just good rational (...)
We live in a society. Society is run by human beings capable of perceiving nuance and applying rationality and discretion to their decisions. The fact that an equivalence can be made, does not mean that all equivalences must be made. Amazon choosing to remove these books from their platform does not lead to the slippery slope of removing all literature related to human freedom, free markets and the constitution.
>How about books on biology that clearly make a distinction between male and female genders. (...)
Is the alternative that a merchant should be forced to carry a product against their will?
Nowadays, every one of them are not even pretending they are unbiased, how is that better than take down 2 books selling pseudo science? And do we need a democratic process to decide whether certain treatment is acceptable?
That smells suspiciously close to the anti-vaxxer argument.
> Should Amazon, or other intermediaries, be allowed such interferences?
It's not a strawman to read that, then ask:
> Shouldn't a merchant be able to decide for themselves which products they want to carry or not carry on their shelves (both physical and digital)?
> Is the alternative that a merchant should be forced to carry a product against their will?
If they carried a surgery manual that told its readers that the proper procedure for a tonsillectomy involved removing the spleen, it would be wrong to sell it.
Refusing to sell a book that tells its readers that autism can be cured by drinking camel milk or bathing in chlorine dioxide is not wrong, it is the correct and moral stance.
If they sold a car repair manual that told its readers the proper way to fix a clogged fuel injector was to stuff bananas into the throttle body, I would expect that Amazon would refuse to sell it once it was brought to their attention.
I don't understand the cries of "censorship!"
They sell a ton of self-help books, ... if the advice isn't scientifically beneficial then do those books get dropped? Drinking camel milk is probably not harming people (unless they have an allergy/intolerance, but that's besides the point).
Do people with investing systems have to prove they work?
No, I don't want to see people harming themselves or their kids with bad advice.
Drinking camel milk with the presumption that it will cure cancer is comparatively harmful, given the end result as contrasted to actually being treated for cancer with medicine.
> Do people with investing systems have to prove they work?
The analogy in this case would be an investing system that provably does not work under even the most casual inspection, like "set your money on fire and bury the ashes and it will grow a money tree".
This curation was a part of the value the bookstore provided. Nobody ever demanded that they be forced to sell every single book in existence, or even that they explain why they did or didn't want to sell a particular book. Why should Amazon be any different?
If Joe Crackpot wants to sell his book online, he can make a website with a shopping cart and offer it for sale himself. He has no standing to demand Amazon's assistance in selling it.
Literally all intermediaries are making these decisions all the time. If I cook up some homemade ketchup in my bathtup, should I be able to force Giant to stock it on their shelves? Does Bloomingdale's have to stock their racks with whatever rags any aspiring fashionista sews together? Should Best Buy be forced to stock my homemade Fitbit that I soldered together in the garage?
No, of course not. They have people whose entire job it is to wade through all the available products and find the best ones to sell. There's nothing wrong with that.
In this case, one can make the case this is the right decision, but the same decision later on may result in the wrong decision.
Should they go against conspiracy theorists? JFK, whatever.
No, and it is beside the point. What you are asking for is that the government should order Amazon to sell snake oil.
Otherwise, curation is something that I'd definitely pay for, something consumers definitely want.
You'd like judges to be able to force merchants to stock specific books?
However, when government forces Amazon to remove these books or force them to sell these book, then we have a serious problem.
However, I worry in the long term that we are normalizing censorship of ideas. It is not just simply a case of book stores not having enough shelf space so they had to make editorial choices. Amazon, for all practical purposes has no limits on the number of books it can stock. In addition, successfully getting Amazon to do this will embolden people to pressure other book sellers as well. In addition, there is no appeal to obscenity or legal fraud as the reason. The book is being banned simply because we do not like the ideas it promotes.
>“Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism” recommends that autistic children drink and bathe in chlorine dioxide, a compound often referred to as “Miracle Mineral Solution.” In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration described it as “a potent bleach used for stripping textiles and industrial water treatment” that “can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration.”
That's dangerous, plain and simple. I have no problem with a merchant on Amazon that sells rat droppings in a jar, provided they make it very clear what they're selling: rat droppings in a jar. If they start claiming that consuming rat droppings will cure lymphoma, however, then we've got a problem.
You can stop worrying. Silicon Valley/FAANG has simply come out on the "censorship" side, strongly and unambiguously. It's not "long term", it's here, now.
Always they have reasons. Sometimes even good reasons. But the censorship debate has never been about whether or not someone thinks they have good reasons to censor something. That's always been just taken as a given, because it's so obviously true.
Believe it or not, not everything is a slippery slope to a boot stomping on a human face forever.
It's still a million miles from the old days when book shops, even the largest could only carry a tiny fraction of what was available. Even then there were fringe shops that sold plenty of conspiracy and alternative views that main publishers, wholesalers and retailers wouldn't touch.
This Atlantic article has their market share of all book sales at 65% in 2014. I wonder if that number has risen since then.
"And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up" -- The Holy Bible (James 5:15)
Stuff like this baffles me. Like, yes, it's hard to say where you draw the line between patriotism (good) and nationalism (bad), but no one (who is also sane) wonders where you draw the line when discussing Hitler.
(Yes, I know about Godwin's law. I'm not being hyperbolic here, I think this is a good comparison.)
Scientists researching potential behavior and psychological treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome are being targeted on Twitter so aggressively that many are giving up on the research, and some journals are pulling their findings (1). What happens when these people scream until Amazon pulls books about it? A whole field of helpful research could be burried for decades.
These ideological battles used to be local. Now they are global and it's causing real harm. We've discussed this previously. (2)
“Any information system of sufficient complexity will inevitably become infected with viruses - viruses generated from within itself.”
IMHO the right way to go about this, would be for amazon to attach a letter to the cover of the book saying something like: "We're sorry you bought this book, but we do believe in your right to choose what you do with your time and money, so we have not removed this book from our store. FYI, according to (insert number of) scientists and XYZ peered reviewed papers, the vast majority of the content of this book has been certified to be false and you should seriously question the author's recommendations before acting on them, as they may pose health risks. If you require further information, here's some websites & books that provide what is widely considered to be factual information on the matter".
It's a bad product which they don't want to carry. They're a store. It's their prerogative to simply not sell that product.
Personally, I am glad there are strategic actors exerting heavy influence on the "don't force your child to drink bleach" agenda. You can add me to the list: don't force your child to drink bleach. Ok?
Amazon (and pretty much everyone else) has been censoring stuff from the start. This act is not a radical change in policy, it's a tiny shift in where they draw the line.
I'm constantly baffled at how upset everyone gets in cases like this. I could see it when, for example, Tumblr started cracking down on stuff. But 99% of these cases involve companies that have always engaged in censorship (or curation or picking and choosing or whatever you want to call it) and are just making some adjustments.
I forget the exact time it was mentioned, but it's in the first half somewhere. The author he's talking to mentions that his book is #20 when you search for autism because the first 19 were of the kind mentioned in this article. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the driver of this.
That would be all of them.
Obviously not by scammers/snake oil salesman, I'm talking legitimate science. From my understanding Autism is largely genetic, so without the ability to re-write someone's DNA (and the potential ramifications that could have), I don't know if a cure like that could ever exist.
Although I guess Epigenetics could be an interesting avenue of study.
But I agree we're a very long way away from curing something like autism, particularly if it required altering DNA/gene expression.
Out of curiosity, what "process or set of rules to be followed in calculations" would give that result?
(I hope my asking this doesn't mean I'm deluded too.)
But if it somehow does, then perhaps more chiding will produce an algorithm which can prove that too.. cause I have doubts.
1. Amazon have removed two books out of hundreds (probably orders of magnitude more) of anti-vax books.
2. The books they removed do not seem to be primarily anti-vax, but quack medical advice on treating autism.
3. The only one we have details of recommended bathing your autistic child in industrial bleach.
Slippery slope arguments are one thing, but selling books advising how to abuse vulnerable children, is probably a libertarian argument to far for most.
In all seriousness, no punishment is severe enough for those willingly harming innocent children. If only we could force them to experience the pain and terror they caused with their own body.
What the fuck? These weren't parody books were they? I just can't believe that was published in a book seriously promoting autism cures...that's so fucked...there's people out there stupid enough to follow that advice...
Although uncovered under different circumstances Lorenzo’s oil is an interesting case, cannabinoids for cancer patients are another.
Everybody thinks modern medicine is like CSI because a few people know how to use CRISPR. The reality for many people with common diseases is that the doctors a taking shots in the dark. In layman’s terms they don’t know what the fuck they’re doing.
I have far too much personal experience with such things to be blinded by the fancy motion graphics and splashy headlines. Being sick is a total shit show of incompetence.
As offensive as it is, the stereotype you see on reddit and YouTube comments of people with autism yelling "RREEEEEEEE" is sometimes a true one.
The question is..would amazon have pulled those books if Adam Schiff didn’t chide Jeff Bezos?
2. It’s not about Autism. It’s about protecting Vaccines.
Every pharmaceutical drug comes with warnings and side effects. But it makes tons of dollars. Placebos don’t.
3. We live in a world where ..thanks to Monsanto..you can find Glyohosate in mother’s breast milk. And that’s ok. Because. Science.
I am a woman. The tampons we use contains dioxin. So. Really. Colour me a cynic. The govt doesn’t care.
This from CA where homeless people are allowed to live and freeze and shit and shoot up on the streets. And given clean needles to shoot up safely. $600 million dollars and no solution for the problem.
Sometimes ‘problems’ are profitable. I see this drama and outrage as protection of Big Pharma. There is a tiny fringe population that accepts these books as gospel. There is nothing you can do to change them. This is merely a dry run for censorship and more of a prep for nanny state installation.
I hope this isn’t encouraged.
If I was selling arsenic on amazon and labeling it as a cure for cancer would Amazon be in violation of our right to free speech for pulling it? If I was selling mentos, but labeling them birth control, would that be censorship if amazon pulled it?
This is supposed to be medicine and it’s fucking lies. This is safety and soundness, it will hurt you or your children.
If I’m selling you a cure for something, and that cure is BOTH harmful and does not work, then shutting me down isn’t censorship that’s fucking public safety. It’s even responsible for fuck’s sake.
Is it too much to ask a company that provides a platform for commerce to just be a platform for commerce?
So your saying the right way is to force amazon to continue selling this book? That the sole remedy at Law is when people are injured then they can sue the author?
That’s not how products liability works. If I’m injured by a defective product, my legal remedy is against everyone in the stream of commerce...manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, retailers, etc... they would all be jointly and severally liable for my damages, meaning I can collect 100% of my award for damages from any of the parties found liable.
And the argument that buying it on Amazon gives it more credibility is so ridiculous that I actually laughed out loud.
Possibly yes. When a publisher choses to sell through Amazon I assume that includes some form of legal agreement between the two parties. This idea that "They're a private company, they can do what they want" is wrong if they have some kind of agreement to sell the book.
The fact that we've been letting the tech giants get away with putting vague language into their terms of service and using that as a justification for arbitrarily enforcing or even changing the rules is bullshit. These catch-all provisions that let companies "do whatever they want" would never have stood up in court in the past. They are undermining our ability to conduct business and are being abused to stifle competition.
There is no catch all Amazon can do whatever they want provision, but certainly the have the contractual right to stop carrying the book at anytime without notice. Just as if you are selling your book through traditional brick and mortar they could always stop selling/carrying your book (maybe there could be exceptions if they did it on the basis of discrimination against a protected class).
Trust me I wouldn’t even put amazon to allow others to sell a counterfeit of your book/product, which the law would provide a remedy for...but they have no contractual obligation to carry your book/product.
We are not robots, we don't have to strictly follow the "protocol" for every decision we need to make. We are humans and sometimes we need to use what we call the "common sense".
Of course that common sense is always subjected to the judgment of a person and that judgment can be biased towards something sometimes. But in this case the judgment is straightforward: there is no cure for autism. Period.
Now, if you were a health care provider and told your patients to read this book and do everything it tells you, you could probably sue the doctor. But not the author.
There's the famous example that yelling "fire" in a crowded theater is not protected speech. Threatening someone with violence is not protected, nor is telling someone to jump in a lake if they can't swim.
There are also laws around giving bad advice, which is what legal and medical malpractice is about.
In the meantime, within that year, 1000 more authors create books like this. By the end of the year you have 1000 resolved cases and 1000 new cases. This can continue forever, with the result that 1000 books are always available for sale.
You might say, the authors could be penalized so as to scare new authors away from this. However, the probability that a court will impose sufficiently large fines on the authors is close to zero. Even if they did, many authors could be (or claim to be) based abroad and therefore (in practice) cannot be fined by the US court system.
Do you have any solution to this problem that doesn't involve Amazon acting without a court decision?
If someone sees a problem with my example, please let me know. I am not trying to impose my views on anyone, I'm genuinely trying to understand the mechanisms at play, the concerns, and the possible solutions.
At one extreme lie revolutionary fanatics destroying lives. At the other, a gigantic bureaucracy that watches passively while the lives it's supposed to protect are being destroyed.
IMO the answer depends on the nature of the problem. It would be unwise to require a court order before police is allowed to shoot down an armed assailant killing people in the street. It would be unwise to allow police without a court order to break into any house they suspect of illicit activities.
I don't have a strong argument about this particular situation. I can comfortably argue that the courts will not solve the problem at all. But you can respond that solving the problem through private corporations puts us on a dangerous path. You can say that the fix is so dangerous that it's better to leave this problem alone despite the deaths it causes. I would admit that your criticism is valid.
Ultimately, it seems the choice here will be completely subjective, based on personal preferences about the importance of free speech versus the importance of saving human lives, and other similar factors. I cannot see a realistic solution that most reasonable people will be comfortable with.
You seem to be opining for a kind of libertarian idealism and at the same time asking Amazon to be "socially responsible". How is it supposed to work?
The real problem here is the dominant market position Amazon has. People figure if Amazon bans something, the book will be completely inaccessible. This is sometimes true. Nobody freaked out when their local indie bookstore didn't have "Mein Kampf" and "Middle Eastern Terrorist Bomb Designs" (it's real!) in stock because they figured they could just get it somewhere else if they really wanted to. Whatever you think about this, one company having over 60% market share in books (higher in some categories) is concerning. I have been using https://www.alibris.com lately.
It's not up to me what people read and write, or what Amazon puts on their website. Amazon has the right to choose what they sell, just as the author has the right to publish their book. In this particular case, besides Amazon's action, there could be civil suits against the author (look up Paladin Press), and even FTC actions depending on the exact claims made by the book.
How would you respond to the concern that this is not the only book that people believe has caused suffering? For example, how about Aquinas, or Marx, or Hume, or Foucault, or the Anarchist Cookbook or hell, Hugh Hefner? Books don't leap off of shelves and hit people, causing them injuries. A person, subject to the law and with their pre-existing moral system, must, having read the contents of the book, perform some action to their self or others to cause suffering.
And the people who don't happen to think about cross-checking information with a couple of other sources before digesting it will surely suffer from the lack of that very habit eventually.
If the same did apply to everything we'd have to shut down most of internet and reduce the selection of non-fiction books only to cover academic publications to be on the safe side.
Namely, we can use the idea of calculating the "probably of necessity" v. "probably of sufficiency" from Pearl's section on counterfactuals to calculate causation.
Taking your arsenic merchant example, for instance, if you publicly release information that "arsenic in large doses is good for you" to the public, we would consider the counterfactual statements
- "would large portions of public have taken arsenic had you NOT released such a statement"
- "would large portions of the public refrained from taking arsenic had you released such a statement"
Notice that, in both statements, we require a model of public behavior that is contextually dependent on things like "how educated the general public is", "how common is it to take arsenic", "how much harm does arsenic actually do" etc., most of which can be determined and agreed to beforehand. Given that we, as a society, can come to agree on a model of ourselves (lol probably not easy), we can directly calculate the necessity and sufficiency values, which would allow authority to make "just" feeling decisions
I think regulations that prevent bad executions of sound ideas are OK (and desirable), this rules out things like people busing mislabeled arsenic. Regulations that try to protect people from bad ideas are misplaced idealism and tend to end very very poorly for the societies involved.
But should that be the case?
Look, you can disagree with that, but I'm not sure why you would. The entire concept is that two ideas, presented before a reasoning audience, can be examined and the one that is better will be likely to be adopted. This is impossible to do if one of the ideas is never presented as it is censored.
(If Amazon is so intractably dominant in book sales that it needs utility-like regulation, that's a different issue, but when it isn't subject to such regulation it is irrational to expect it to act like a utility.)
This is attempting to bypass this system by going straight to centralized censorship.
It's like saying people have the right to protest, but then saying they're not allowed to use a vehicle to get to a protest, in theory you're not interfering but in practice you prevent exercise of their rights.
So, even if you consider Amazon liable for the protection of free speech (I don’t), this doesn’t really qualify.
Anyway, perhaps a better approach is to label such books as 'unproven', 'pseudoscience', or even fiction, but continue to sell them. The idea of banning books because of their subject is a very slippery slope.
FWIW there are tons of other inaccurate, unproven, pseudoscience, or fiction books out there that are also damaging to public health. For example, any dieting book that promotes anything aside from caloric reduction for fat loss is basically fiction, and obesity is by far the largest public health crisis to face the USA with 80% of adults impacted. Would you recommend banning those books as well?
I am seeing numerous comments claiming this is not censorship when it most definitely is. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship
> Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient". Censorship can be conducted by a government, private institutions, and corporations.
From Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/censorship), where there is no mention of 'censorship' being a government-specific concept:
> the institution, system, or practice of censoring
From Oxford (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/censorship), where again there is no mention of 'censorship' being a government-specific concept:
> The suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.
We know Amazon is a private corporation. That's irrelevant, as such actions are censorship regardless. So please stop repeating the false claim that this isn't censorship because Amazon can do whatever it wants as a private entity.
WHY FREE SPEECH MATTERS
Proponents of free speech are pro free speech as a general concept and principle, beyond what protections are afforded under American law today. The idea of free speech predates the existence of the United States. Free speech is hugely valuable to defend, because what society finds acceptable or unacceptable is very much subjective and changes with time/location/culture/setting/leadership/etc. Having an open exchange of ideas is good and necessary for the long-term health and stability of society. Furthermore, making available ideas that challenge current understanding is necessary if we care about being a collectively truth-seeking society.
Free societies are durable over the long term when they protect these rights at all times, for all people, for all ideologies. As a rule of thumb, if the speech in question is not advocating for direct physical violence, it should be permitted. Getting into the business of censoring indirect or non-physical harm (and similarly, judging what is scientific/pseudo-scientific/unscientific) is a huge slippery slope. We could frame virtually any idea as having some downstream negative externality and suggest that it should be disallowed. For example, capitalism, socialism, and communism could all be attacked in this manner. Should books on those topic be dropped?
On the topic of health: our current scientific understanding is not bulletproof. It may never fully be. Look at how much our understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet has changed, just over the last 100 years of human existence. During that time, various individuals (e.g. scientists), companies, governments (via agencies like the FDA), and other institutions expressed high-degrees of confidence in beliefs that went on to be disproved over time. It would be a mistake to only allow ideas with broad scientific consensus today. People should be allowed to decide for themselves which institutions and parties and ideas to trust, and to what extent. Large platforms (privately-owned or otherwise) should not get in the way of that access if we want to maintain liquidity of information exchange.
WHY PRIVATE PLATFORMS' CENSORSHIP IS CONCERNING
Large privately-owned platforms carry so much discourse across today's society, that censorship and deplatforming in those spaces has the same impact as governmental censorship, for most intents and purposes. Even if these corporations do not constitute what we might traditionally call a "monopoly", they control a large-enough share of traffic to have significant impact when they take artificial actions. That sizable impact is exactly why they are being targeted (not just on this topic but others) by activists or other agents pushing for deplatforming/censorship favorable to their causes.
The big risk is this: when only a few entities funnel so much societal discourse or control our communication infrastructure or process payments, those entities making arbitrary decisions about who they serve has similar impacts/risks to the government imposing similar restrictions through the law. These companies should not act as a thought police and should not impose their own personal governance above what is minimally required by the law. Nor should they rely on the judgment of an angry mob to make decisions.
I'd see these as all being applications of speech; amazon is making a statement about these books by putting them in the store front. Folks like Donald Trump or Sean hannity have lots of influence, but we don't prevent them from speaking because of it.
I don't think I agree with this claim about dictionaries being "descriptive". The word 'censorship' exists already, and it has a definition that is unambiguous. The role of these definitions is so that we can all communicate efficiently using a word that is a placeholder for that full definition, knowing that we have common agreement on the definition since we're using the same language.
The folks scoping 'censorship' to just governments are redefining the term in a manner that serves their own views, and are eroding a preexisting definition to avoid the connotation it carries. That seems like waging rhetorical warfare in bad faith, rather than holding a meaningful discussion.
> amazon is making a statement about these books by putting them in the store front
Amazon isn't making a 'statement' by putting books in the storefront. They aren't evaluating each and every product or reading/fact-checking all the content of everything they carry. Amazon is performing very basic market activities, in a stoic and impersonal manner. These activities include things like fulfillment, payment processing, catalogs, recommendations based on customer behavior (e.g. purchases), reviews, etc. These are impersonal and low-level activities, and are by no means "making a statement".
For example, if I remove a book from my private library because of its contents, is it censorship? I don't think so. What if this is my library, but opened to a public, even to some small community? In this case I think this is censorship. What if the whole community decided the book should be removed? Again, it's not censorship. What if only the elders of the community came to the decision? It seems more like censorship again. What if we removed the book because it's damaged or, say, radioactive? Not censorship.
See, it doesn't matter if I'm a "big player" or something like that, or whether I have rights to do what I do, or what the book contains. All I have to do is to have some people to restrict access to a book or something like that to another group of people because of the contents of the book.
However two laws should be made:
1. Not vaccinating your kids should be classified as a child protection offence (unless there is medical basis from a panel, not one quack). Kids are confiscated, vaccinated and put into state care after one warning.
2. Promoting non NHS / FDA etc approved medical advice should be a criminal offence and ends up with the publisher, author, owners being chucked in jail.
The latter covers bullshit like homeopathy and Chinese herbal medicine as well.
There’s no place for any of this in 2019. We should actively shame anyone partaking in this.
I think you'll have trouble regulating speech criticizing a federal agency, even if it is pure quackery. And I hope it stays that way.
My kids are vaccinated, but doing this is just going to make suspicious people more suspicious. They’ll try even harder to avoid vaccinating by avoiding all daycares and home schooling. It’s turning into a rallying cry against the government.
These children would not be much better off in foster care, where their risk of being abused would be much higher. These law changes would go from a private company shutting down speech to the government suddenly enforcing limits on the second amendment. Bad ideas need to be argued against, not brutally silenced. People will keep thinking the taboo thought, there will just no longer be a way of reaching them.
Fuck suspicious people. They're idiots. And you should point at them and make it known. Not only are they idiots but they are actively harming someone and that's a prime violation of the ethic of reciprocity. To allow harm to continue is as bad. Seriously bad. I know someone who's parents skipped the MMR vaccine, they got measles, lost their hearing permanently. That was totally avoidable and physical harm came to someone. Actual life-long disability. And there are LOTS of people who go through this.
If you put your arrogant self-interest in front of logic, data and research then the child will come to harm one day.
Great, once you pass that law you'll have drug companies lobbying to get their vaccine listed on your "must inject by age X or get your kids taken away" list. Imagine the revenue for every kid in the country being mandated to inject your vaccine.
Usually, our attempt to bring risk to 0 brings tyranny close to 100.
The scenes of the government dragging a kid out of their parent's grasp and injecting a needle into their arms is straight out of any stereotypical dystopian novel.
Yes, it can be frustrating fighting disinformation, but patience and kindness is almost always better in the long run IMO than force and punishment.
I understand the desire to eliminate unnecessary risk, but getting everyone vaccinated and respecting individual freedom is not an easy task. Our country is more vaccinated than it's ever been, but the last few % might take longer than most people would like.
There are disease outbreaks taking place right now and people making anti-vaccination speeches to rallies of supporters in the middle of the area where the disease outbreak is taking place. I'm really all out of patience and kindness when people are deliberately incubating highly communicable diseases.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_hYgFWehDY < PBS newshour report from a week ago including footage from one such rally.
I view these people with the same enthusiasm that I would view someone pouring gasoline on the walls of a building structure.
I understand the desire to eliminate unnecessary risk
Disease outbreaks are real. You are describing vaccination as equivalent to a scene from a dystopian novel, asking us to get upset about an imaginary ill.
People's ability to buy alcohol is a safety risk. Many crimes and fatal accidents involve alcohol. Do we force everyone to stop drinking alcohol?
I can't think of a government policy that has implemented 100% adoption without tyranny. I'm all for as close to 100% as we can get, but I don't want to lose our values of freedom and respect to get there.
But I am all for banning bullshit claims made by ineffectual remedies.
In my country child vaccination is mandated by law (parent may be cited if they don't do it, citations are handed very reluctantly, sometimes not at all).
What recently happened (Nov 2018) was small measles outbreak - MMR vaccine sold out so fast extra emergency shipments were made to pharmacies.
Who is Amazon, or anyone, to tell someone that they can't explore every avenue, and read whatever they want to deal with that grief? Think about the cathartic experience of reading this book and getting momentary hope that there's an answer to a problem that you've been told is unsolvable. It's psychologically like playing the lottery.
I mean, sure. But not every trader must therefore carry and sell snake oil. The same free society gives them that choice.
> Who is Amazon, or anyone, to tell someone that they can't explore every avenue, and read whatever they want to deal with that grief?
All they seem to be saying is that they won't be selling it to you? You are certainly free to explore every avenue on your own. But does everyone have to help you with that?
I think freedom and free speech are good things. Don't you?
publisher is saying "this is how you cure autism" and amazon is saying "no, that isn't"
for amazon to leave it up would be to not use their freedom, which is bad because using free speech is good.
I don't agree with you because parents are making decisions for their children - if it was your decision to put it in your own body, perhaps. But the State has an obligation to defend the rights of children, and in this case if they need to step in to prevent parents poisoning their kids they should do so.
Nothing happens in a bubble. If a parent doesn't want to vaccinate or wants to give their kid marijuana, that's just a data point within the spectrum of the type of decisions that this parent will make for their child over the years. So we draw a few lines in the sand -- you have to vaccinate, you have to send them to school for 8 hours times 9 months a year, you can't give them XYZ to treat their autism, where does it end? Are vegan parents who force their children to be vegan dangerous and child abusing?
Besides, the fact that a parent reads a book does not imply that they will act on it. Maybe they know in the back of their mind that it's all bullshit, but for an hour a night before bed, they get some comfort out of the fantasy.
Is the vegan diet harmful to the child? Probably not, but you'll have your child taken away if your child is malnourished.
But not getting them vaccinated doesn't harm their children...
...provided that everyone else around their children is vaccinated.
But when that population drops low enough...then herd immunity stops working. Then their children get sick, and other children may also get sick, etc.
So a parent not harming their children is increasing the risk to other parent's children that they will be harmed. Should parents be allowed to stochastically harm other parent's children?
Nobody can prove it in the individual case - but statistically it can be shown to cause such harm...
None of that brings into the discussion that such unvaccinated children could become sick and pass it on to other immunocompromised individuals (adults and children)...
Nice slippery slope fallacy.
Freedom isn't just with respect to government. When Amazon filters books you can buy, that does mean we have less freedom, especially when Amazon is a filter through which we are able to purchase most goods. No, your first amendment rights haven't been violated. But yes, we have less freedom.
See my other comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19393433
You put your personal interpretation of the general principle of freedom of speech above actual rights and freedoms. Nothing noble about that.