Bokhari: Amazon Is on a Digital Book Burning Spree

Jeff Bezos arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Under pressure from left-wing journalists and activists, Amazon is purging right-wing authors from its store, including a book co-authored by English Islam critic and independent commentator Tommy Robinson.

The web retail giant has become the dominant market player in book sales, accounting for nearly 50 percent of physical and 83 percent of e-book sales in the U.S. As such, Amazon has the power to effectively cut an author off from the vast majority of the books market.

Amazon began its new round of purges by targeting the white nationalist fringe. In February, the tech giant banned a number of books from white identitarian Jared Taylor, and a book called The White Nationalist Manifesto by Greg Johnson.

This followed bans on Holocaust revisionist books in 2017, and a purge of all books by controversial pickup blogger and author Daryush “Roosh” Valizadeh in 2018.

As with financial blacklisting, a censorship spree that starts by targeting extreme ideas quickly moves towards the censorship of more mainstream ones. In early March, the online retailer banned Muhammed’s Koran: Why Muslims Kill for Islam, a Chronological Koran and critique of the Islamic religion co-authored by British populist Tommy Robinson.

The book is a chronological reordering of the Islamic Koran, followed by commentary by Robinson and his co-author, Peter McLoughlin. Amazon did not return Breitbart News’ request for an explanation of why the book was banned.

In 2010, Amazon refused to take down a book defending pedophilia on first amendment grounds. “Amazon believes it is censorship not sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable,” an Amazon representative told CNBC at the time.

“Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.”

Public and media outcry was not enough to pressure Amazon into watering down its commitment to content-neutrality when it came to a pro-pedophile book. But it now takes only the slightest pressure for the tech giant to ban right-wing critiques of religion.

And even before that, Amazon had watered down its commitment to “the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.” In 2015, the site banned the sale of all merchandise depicting the Confederate flag.

Amazon doesn’t seem to have a problem with extremist or destructive books in general. Two of the most destructive books in history, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are available for purchase. So too are books by black nationalist Louis Farrakhan, notorious for his racist and anti-semitic comments — so it seems racial hatred isn’t subject to a blanket ban on Amazon either.

Amazon has abandoned its previous commitment to carry all books no matter how controversial, and it’s unclear what consistent principle, if any, the company now follows.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. You can follow him on TwitterGab.ai and add him on Facebook. Email tips and suggestions to allumbokhari@protonmail.com.

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