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The Seattle Times reports that Amazon is pondering possible changes in its product review system, with spokesman Tom Cook saying, “We are taking a close look at our policies regarding activism reviews and are considering changes."

The story notes that the policy shift follows a recent Times article reporting "on coordinated attacks by Amazon reviewers on Scarlett Lewis, the mother of a 6-year-old boy murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut three years ago Monday. Lewis wrote 'Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope and Forgiveness' to describe her journey after the massacre.

"Dozens of reviewers — conspiracy theorists who believe the shootings were an Obama administration hoax to push for gun-control legislation — savaged Lewis on the Amazon book Web page as a liar and opportunist."

The Times writes that "Amazon declined to disclose details of the review system. So it’s unclear whether they would prevent attacks like those on Lewis.

"One change the company has already made is the removal of its 'General Review Creation Guidelines' Web page. Those rules barred reviews with 'profanity or spiteful remarks,' as well as 'advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively.'

"That page was taken down this week.

"Instead, the company redirects Web traffic to its 'Customer Review Creation Guidelines.' Those rules are a bit more vague. Amazon, for example, prohibits 'Hate Speech & Offensive Content' without any mention of spiteful comments. That could allow Amazon some leeway in determining what’s suitable for its website."
KC's View:
When I took note of the original Times story, I suggested that the kinds of reviews being aimed at women who wrote about surviving the Sandy Hook experience were emblematic of a coarsening of civil discourse in America. In retrospect, I think that was an understatement. At the risk of being uncivil myself, I think these people are emblematic of the kind of slimy hate-mongers who, unfortunately, are able to use social media to promulgate uninformed and ignorant points of view.

Nothing wrong with a reasonable debate about Constitutional issues. But these people are nuts. (Mrs. Content Guy is an elementary school teacher in Connecticut. What happened in Sandy Hook is not an abstraction ... though it shouldn't be for anyone.)

As a frequent Amazon user and readers of customer reviews - which have from the beginning, been a game changer for the retailer - I have absolutely no problem if they want to change the rules so that reviews have to be written by people who actually have bought the products, and have to be relevant to the product being reviewed. I'm not sure this would protect the authors of the Sandy Hook-related books, but the bar ought to be at least that high for reviewers.

FYI...I've been urged over the years to get rid of the edited and curated approach to "Your Views" and just put up a message board, which would take a lot less time on my part. But I see some of the stuff that comes across my laptop, and I respect the time it takes for MNB readers to peruse the site each day ... I don't want to abuse your affection and respect by wasting your time.

It would require an investment of people and money for Amazon to take a more curated approach to reviews, and I know Jeff Bezos prefers algorithms to people ... but in this case, respect for the shopper ought to justify an adjusted approach.