Will Amazon ban Switzerland?

Amazon is suffering from user fury again, but on a smaller scale than over their behaviour towards Wikileaks. They have recently been deleting books from their Kindle store without giving a reason beyond a generic statement that “these books were removed from sale for violating our content guidelines.” The content guidelines are very vague about what subject matter would be in violation, but the books removed have been primarily about adult incest fantasies. Not a subject that many people are comfortable with but not one which is explicitly barred from their site. What’s more, the banning of books has the appearance of being arbitrary, as other books with similar, or even more bizarre, subjects have not been banned.

Most likely, after a furore about a self-described paedophiles’ handbook a few weeks ago, Amazon have become more nervous about complaints and are knee-jerk jumping to ban almost anything which is complained about. They’re a commercial entity, they have every right to run their business this way. But it could harm them in the long run if they are seen to be doing the censors’ work for them and harming free speech. If the banning net is cast any wider every one of the independent authors publishing through Amazon would have reasons to be nervous. Sounds of Soldiers could be viewed as anti-American (to paraphrase one of the Dilbert collections, I’m not anti-American, I’m anti-idiot), and goodness knows there’s a lot of very loud, very dim Americans who’d gladly complain about that if they were told to. I reckon I’d be safe, but you never know. The best solution would be for Amazon to either include a list of subjects they will not sell (eg. incest, paedophilia, bestiality, biographies of talent show contestants etc.) and stick to it (not the preferred method, even if it would clear Jedward and SuBo from their shelves) or be more open, and more open to counter persuasion, with the people whose books they do ban.

On the subject of incest, the upper house of the Swiss parliament has drafted a law which would decriminalise consenting sex between adult family members.

Daniel Vischer, a Green party MP, said he saw nothing wrong with two consenting adults having sex, even if they were related.

“Incest is a difficult moral question, but not one that is answered by penal law,” he said.

There are some obvious jokes about a certain bunch of castaways, but does this also put a whole country in danger of being delisted by the world’s biggest bookseller?


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