There are dangers to such large portions of our information infrastructure being in the hands of commercial companies in business to sell things.
Apparently Amazon’s “best sellers” lists are now in fact the best selling books that they (or more likely their poorly tuned computer learning algorithms) think won’t offend anyone. But perhaps more significantly, this apparently effects how books are ranked in search results too?
Amazon’s policy of removing “adult” content from its rankings seems to be both new and unevenly implemented. On Saturday, self-published author Mark R. Probst noticed that his book had lost its ranking, and made inquiries. The response he got from Amazon’s customer service explained:
In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.
Probst is the author of a novel for young adults with gay characters set in the old West; he was concerned that gay-friendly books were being unfairly targeted. Amazon has not responded to the LA Times request for clarification.
[Would it be better if the computer learning algorithms were more finely tuned?]