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Big Tech is censoring like never before. In my first article in this series, I examined YouTube’s incredibly detailed and restrictive “Covid-19 misinformation policy.” YouTube has since banned “misinformation” for ALL vaccines, not just the Covid vax. In this article, I will look at some of Amazon’s more ridiculously restrictive ad guidelines and highlight instances where Amazon itself was hypocritical or where it applied its guidelines in questionable ways. The Ministry of Misinformation is out to quash you (and yes, Amazon knows where you live).
Amazon’s advertising guidelines for books contain some restrictions that are predictable and normal and other restrictions that, honestly, made me do a double-take. Ads can possibly contain “military equipment” or weapons on books in certain situations, but:
“Weapons (including realistic and non-realistic firearms, swords, bows and arrows, etc.) must not be shown:
- Directed out toward the customer.
- Handled by or associated with a minor.
- In a gruesome way (for example, covered in blood).
- In a violent, threatening manner, for example in the process of injuring another character.
- Pointed at a character.”
And if this doesn’t already sound unreasonable to you, let me put this in context—in Sept. 2019, Rick Smith reported that ads for his book The End of Killing were banned after two mass shootings happened in the US. . .because the book had a gun pictured on its cover. It gets better.
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The book, according to its author, was actually anti-gun and purported to have solutions that would end gun violence once for all. Furthermore, then as now, Amazon sells guns via its platform. Rick Smith said Amazon would not allow ads for the book because of the cover’s gun image. Apparently, the way to combat gun violence or deal with shooting-induced trauma in America is. . .to prevent everyone from seeing images of guns. Makes total sense, right?
In fact, according to another 2019 story, Amazon reportedly told Yakov Merkin his book A Shifting Alliance could not be advertised, due to “an inappropriate display of a weapon, such as: pointed directly out toward the customer or at another character, in the act of firing, or being held by a minor.” Below is the cover. You can see that sci-fi blasters (not even real guns) are being fired by the cover’s characters, in the general direction of the “audience.” Apparently, Americans became so utterly incapable of dealing with life that they might have PTSD triggered by an unreal blaster being “fired” in a drawing on a book cover with the artistically rendered blasters pointed vaguely in “their” direction. I am guessing this is the sort of story that provides late-night entertainment for America’s enemies.
Amazon also bans “Children in adult or dangerous situations.” Now, for ads, I can kind of understand this on the surface, even though that sort of puts a lid on any books showing, for instance, Jewish kids in Nazi concentration camps. But Amazon doesn’t want gun-toting child soldiers or kids doing—shall we say—age-inappropriate things in their ads. Fair enough. But wait until you read in more detail what Amazon considers situations too “dangerous” to be included in ads, including book ads: “For example, children close to, or handling, firearms or other weapons, or in situations which may contravene established child safety best practices (such as children in vehicles without their seatbelts fastened or cycling without helmets), or without adult supervision in places or situations where they cannot safely look after themselves (such as swimming pools, crossing busy roads or around dangerous equipment).”
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So much for teen novels showing kid heroes in dangerous situations—or even history books depicting kids in times when, say, seatbelts and helmets weren’t really on the radar. Don’t put 1900s newsboys riding bikes before helmets were a thing in your ad. Don’t you dare show children standing next to a swimming pool without a lifeguard in the background. Honestly, these rules seem to deal out a Chronicles of Narnia book with the queen’s sleigh whizzing along while Edmund crouches inside. Doesn’t Narnia have any road rules at all (besides getting the heck out of the way of the queen’s sleigh)? And I’m guessing that Harry Potter flying over Hogwarts’s lake on a broom is also a big no-no. After all, brooms unaccountably lack seatbelts and the lake seems distinctly lacking in lifeguards.
Ads for books about weight-loss “must not speak directly to customers, such as ‘Are you overweight?’” Apparently, that would be too offensive. And to think this is the country that used to fight literal wars to defend their beliefs. Now a question about weight targeted at no one in particular is too much for an American to stand. At best, this guideline seems a little bit nit-picky.
I find it interesting that a company that demands, “Be clear and accurate so that customers receive correct information before engaging with an ad or deciding to purchase a book,” should promote The Poet X as a Teachers’ pick and a #1 Bestseller Teen & Young Adult Fiction about Emigration & Immigration. A book summary describes the anti-Catholic and seemingly pornographic content of the book (the book seems to end on a somewhat decent note but that does not make up for the disturbing content in between). Somehow promoting the book as a “Teachers’ Pick” seems less than clear and accurate advertising. No students (not even high school) should be assigned this book by teachers.
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Amazon also bans “Content that promotes practices that may be illegal or dangerous, or that encourage the evasion of law enforcement” and “Content that revolves around controversial or highly debated social topics.” This is hypocritical, considering that the book When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, co-authored by radical Marxist Black Lives Matter (BLM) co-founder Patrisse Cullors, is an “Editors’ pick” for Best Biographies and Memoirs on Amazon. And, as we know, one of BLM’s central rallying cries is about how evil police are and how the police either need to be defunded or radically changed. In fact, the book synopsis describes alleged “police brutality” as inspiring the founding of BLM. Cullors herself has called for defunding the police, accusing law enforcement of “state terror.” And if there’s anything that defines BLM protests, it is the looting, burning, statue defacing, and generally illegal and destructive activity. Amazon ad guidelines forbid “Content that encourages or promotes vandalism, anti-social behavior, or the defacing of public or private property.” Finally, if there is any issue that is “controversial” and “highly debated” it would be racism and the BLM/Antifa movement. Questions?
Don’t worry, though—Amazon is all over Christian writers who deal with somewhat controversial topics. Declan Finn’s Deus Vult novel, about a policeman who is called in by the Vatican to solve a murder (or rather murders—possibly connected with demons), was removed from Amazon in 2019. Amazon gave the publisher the run-around, with vague reasons and lame explanations. The publisher even asserted that one of Amazon’s justifications was simply untrue.
So, basically, what emerges from this tangled web of stories and guidelines is that Amazon has rather questionable guidelines (to say the least) to begin with, and it chooses to apply these guidelines in ways that seem fueled by bias. The lesson from Amazon’s guidelines? Do as we say, and we might practice what we preach. Say as we say, and we will tilt the scales in your favor. Amazon is just another Big Tech company out to encourage the narrative of wokeness.