Amazon Glitch, Twitter, Hacker and Truth

We are in a new age.   Yesterday, I received reports that Amazon the online bookseller mogul had deranked thousands of books across a variety of categories that had one common theme; positive gay images.  Amazon stated it was a glitch in their software programming.  People across the nation begin to use Twitter to decry this event. Gay authors brought forward official communiques from Amazon stating their works were deranked because of an alleged “new” Amazon policy to derank adult books.  This did not make sense when many of these books were written for children, were health related or simply had nothing to do with adult content.  Something was a foot.  After my checking with Amazon’s releases on the subject, checking various claims that gay authors were making on various blogs, finding some of the titles re-ranked again, I called it a hate crime. 

Amazon still claims it to be a computer program glitch.  Yesterday afternoon, a well known Hacker by the pseudonym of Weev, is claiming credit for the debacle.   He claims to have done it as revenge against the  gay community in San Francisco for allegedly targeting his Craigs List ads looking for women who want to shoot up with him.  One of his tactics he claims was to target Amazon’s feedback program of stating a particular book as inappropriate–meaning adult content.   Amazon is still claiming that the de-ranking of 50K+ titles of gay related themes was a glitch, yet this feedback program that customers could target items as inappropriate is no longer available.  

Yesterday, I received cautionary advice from a colleague, Christine Robinson about jumping quickly on the news that sails on the tsunamis known as Twitter.  It is good advice.  I did what I thought was due diligence in checking the claims before I wrote my post.   My sensitivity to homophobia as a gay male is acutely heightened and so it is a button if pushed, I respond.  

I still find it hard to believe this was a programming glitch.  Unless that is what hacker’s do; find programming glitches to exploit with their computer terrorism.  In which case, Amazon can deny the hacker’s success, save themselves from the apparent embarrassment of being hacked, and place into the software the safeguards needed to avoid the glitch from being exploited again.

These are the new days in which we live.  Computers are now the threads that bind our lives together.  Hackers are the new proponents of hate crimes.   Twitter is both the new rumor mill and a power to contend with for corporations–for good or ill.  And the Truth, well, it is still out there waiting for the light of day. Blessings,

Published in: on April 14, 2009 at 9:40 am  Comments (2)  
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  1. “Tsunami called twitter…” I like that.

    Of course just as one must be slow to accept that one’s previous ally has become a hate monger, so one must also wonder about the bragging of a hacker, although it is certainly true that this is how hackers work…they exploit little bugs in programs to do damage, mostly for the sheer fun of it, which makes all claims from them suspect in my book! Still, it is also how computers work that a slight change in, say, the parameters of how the idiot computer “decides” what is “adult content”…something that even courts have difficulty doing…could have the kind of unintended consequences that showed up on Amazon last weekend.

    It has all been a very interesting tale, indeed…

  2. Be gentle with yourself, too – the story was all over NPR last evening. Seems our major media outlets also need to be aware of hacking and glitches. It will be interesting to see how/whether they report this latest development.

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