Amazon has apparently started removing ‘suspicious’ reviews from many books, with many authors reporting that reviews are vanishing while some reviewers are finding that their reviews are being blocked. Some are now questioning whether Amazon has swung too far and become over-zealous.
Michelle Gagnon at The Kill Zone reports that some fans of her books emailed to say that they tried to leave reviews, but couldn’t. It’s not clear what criteria Amazon is using to determine which reviews are ‘suspicious’, but the most obvious methods would be IP addresses. There has also been a long-standing Amazon policy of banning authors from reviewing books by other authors in shared genres. Neither of these possibilities seems to explain the problems reported by Gagnon, though; instead, her fans seem to have been accidentally snagged by the Amazon algorithms.
There’s been a lot of discussion about Amazon reviews in recent months, prompted by concerns over sock-puppet accounts and paid-for services. It seems Amazon has now altered its algorithms in an attempt to weed out such problems, but the early evidence suggests they might have become too strict. In the absence of any firm clarification from Amazon on the issue, it seems genuine reviews are in some cases being banned, while – undoubtedly – those who seek to game the system will find a way to continue with their practices.