Ten months after the election and Jeff Bezos is still making in-kind contributions to the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Last year, he was directing the Washington Post to promote Clinton over her opponent, no matter the cost to the paper’s identity or credibility. Now, he is having Amazon pull bad reviews of Clinton’s book off the site to artificially improve its ratings.
“In what many have dubbed a flagrant intervention by Amazon itself to seemingly boost the rating of Hillary Clinton’s new book “What Happened,” the Telegraph first reported, and subsequently many others observed first hand, that Amazon has been monitoring and deleting 1-star reviews of Hillary Clinton’s new book, ‘which was greeted with a torrent of criticism on the day it was released.’”
Among the deleted, according to Zero Hedge: “Read all the promotional excerpts, which combined come close to book length – pretty good novel. It is fiction, isn’t it? Surely, someone is playing a joke.” Another said, “Picked this book up at Wal-Mart out of sheer morbid curiosity. Returned it, claiming I bought the wrong book.”
Screenshots show the manipulation. At 10:31 a.m., “What Happened” was rated 3.2 out of five stars, based on customer reviews. Of 1,503 reviews, 45 percent were 5-star and 52 percent were one-star. At 2:55 p.m., the book was up to 3.3 stars overall, with 46 percent awarding 5-star ratings and 50 percent awarding just one.
But by 5:23, everyone had fallen in love with the book. It was up to 4.9 out of five, 97 percent of the reviews were 5-star and more than 1,000 reviews had been deleted.
Amazon responded to Fortune magazine with a statement that said, “In the case of a memoir, the subject of the book is the author and their views. It’s not our role to decide what a customer would view as helpful or unhelpful in making their decision. We do however have mechanisms in place to ensure that the voices of many do not drown out the voices of a few and we remove customer reviews that violate our community guidelines.”
Amazon also told Fortune some of the posts occurred before the book was released, which would mean more if it had not been excerpted widely beforehand, and that many of the commentators were deleted because they had not made a “verified purchase” of the book.
It may well be that some people commented on the book without having read a word of it. But it is likely many of those people gave the book a 5-star rating. And it may be that people organize in opposition to a person or book.
But we’ll wait to see Amazon similarly tidy up the ratings for a conservative book before we buy into this account of its motives.