6/19/2010

06-19-10 - Amazon censors product reviews

It's hard for me to get my hackles too up about this, but it's a topic that's worth noting over and over, so I'm making myself write about it.

A while ago I decided since I'm buying all this stuff from Amazon, I should write some reviews so that other people can see what products are good and which aren't. I mainly wrote reviews for products that had zero reviews, and mainly in cases where the product was not clearly described or listed.

I thought nothing of it, until I went back and was reviewing some of my purchases and noticed that there was no review on some of the products I was pretty sure I had reviewed.

Well, it turns out that Amazon censored my review. Not only did they not publish it, but they *silently* don't publish it, they don't give you any notification or reason that it was declined, it just doesn't show up.

It took me a while emailing back and forth with support to get some answers, but it turns out most of the declines come down to a specific policy :

Amazon does not allow reviews to address errors in the listing.

Some of the reviews I wrote were about incorrect pictures or list prices. For example a picture might show a set of several brass wool scrubbers, but the shipped product is only one of them. I write a review to make it clear what you're getting. BOOM! Review does not show up.

Here are the current guidelines . In particular, the troublesome ones are :


# Details about availability, price, or alternate ordering/shipping
#
# Comments on other reviews visible on the page (because page visibility is subject to change without notice)

Off-topic information: 

* Feedback on the seller, your shipment experience or the packaging 

* Feedback about typos or inaccuracies in our catalog or product description

Granted, some amount of censorship is necessary or you would be flooded by spam and libel, but this goes rather too far. Not being allowed to write a review when what you get is not what they said you would get is a pretty big problem. I can also understand them not wanting reviews that say "this is available cheaper at Walmart" but all my reviews that mentioned price were things like "listing says retail price is $100, in fact retail price is around $40". It's also simply not true that they objectively enforce those standards; you will see plenty of positive reviews around Amazon that mention price in a positive way, things like "what a great product for only $10" - that review is allowed through, but if it's a negative review like "product is not worth $10" it won't be allowed through; all my reviews that mentioned price and were censored were negative reviews. For example one of my reviews that was blocked was about a listing that showed a picture of a box full of cleaning pads and showed a list price of $40; actual shipped product was one cleaning pad (not a box full) - review deleted.

Of course I should note that this is not unusual. Yelp of course censors reviews in roughly the same way ; both Amazon and Yelp really want you to write "stories" that attract "community" and generally make people hang out and buy product. They don't want factual information that helps customers. I had several reviews deleted from Yelp because they failed to be "personal" enough (they were short things like "this place sucks"). Yelp is also semi-corrupt, despite claims otherwise they are in fact in the pocket of sponsors, and will delete reviews or ban people who write too many negative reviews.

CNET and Chow are actually much worse. They will bald-facedly delete reviews and discussion threads that are critical of sponsors. Most of the advertising sponsored web forums, such as the 2+2 poker forums or car forums like 6speedonline are the same way as well. They will lock or delete threads that are critical of sponsors or the site administration.

In conclusion : the internet is fucked. It is now owned by corporations who censor and edit the content to create the message they want. You have to be very careful about what you read on these sites, because valuable negative information might have been deleted, and if you value your own content, you should not contribute to any one of these sites.

4 comments:

Aaron said...

Word. You gotta pretty much just skip all the positive reviews, click on the negative ones, ignore people who are complaining about obvious just random quality control problems, and then multiply any other problems you read about by 100.

Aaron said...

Word. You gotta pretty much just skip all the positive reviews, click on the negative ones, ignore people who are complaining about obvious just random quality control problems, and then multiply any other problems you read about by 100.

Jon Olick said...

you should e-mail Jeff Bezos (jbezos@amazon.com) personally or their executive customer relations ecr@amazon.com about this. Its possible that the higher ups in management don't know that this is going on and deserves attention.

CHIPS said...

I notice when giving a seller a two star review that I am only allowed 400 characters of comment. Most reviews I read are much longer. Is this a policy ? From what I read here when shipping time of 6-12 days is altered by the seller to make 1 Month !! acceptable my comment will be disallowed. After half an hour I am still seeing "we are having problems ... please try again in a few minutes" -

old rants