More on the #AmazonFail fiasco from the weekend. Andrea James (Seattle) quotes Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener: “This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error…”
She also detailed an unofficial explanation:
Amazon managers found that an employee who happened to work in France had filled out a field incorrectly and more than 50,000 items got flipped over to be flagged as “adult,” the source said. (Technically, the flag for adult content was flipped from ‘false’ to ‘true.’)
“It’s no big policy change, just some field that’s been around forever filled out incorrectly,” the source said.
On the other hand, ValleyWag reported that a hacker claimed responsibility, saying that he exploited Amazon’s “flagging” system. Bolstering that claim, ValleyWag writes: “Amazon.com has apparently removed the feature that lets users flag books as ‘inappropriate’.”
It’s quite possible that a widespread attack (should it be technically possible) could have been the catalyst for the cataloging error. Amazon should have specifically addressed these claims in its Monday comment.
Moreover, Amazon’s explanation ignores the corporate email to authors (one in February, one in April) which suggests that their books were specifically delisted because of “adult” content. Right hand and left hand not knowing what the other is doing? Probably.
Amazon’s PR department missed a big chance when no one from the company got in touch with these two authors. I say this because both authors have updated their blog posts with the official “ham-handed” line … and neither notes that Amazon contacted them with an apology.