We all depend on Amazon reviews to an extent, ensuring that whatever product we’re about to buy is worth our hard-earned cash. We also naturally assume that the reviews we’re reading are legitimate, which means Amazon needs to have some process to vet reviewers. Unfortunately, that process appears to have backfired in the case of indie writer Imy Santiago.

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Earlier this month, Santiago attempted to submit a review for a book she’d purchased from Amazon’s online store. Having enjoyed the book, she decided to write a review, but when she went to publish it, she received a strange message.

“Dear Amazon Customer,

Thanks for submitting a customer review on Amazon. Your review could not be posted to the website in its current form. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines:
http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines

Reading back over her review, she couldn’t find any obvious violations within the review, so she tried to publish it again. Same result. She even tried to submit another review for a book by another author she had recently finished, but that didn’t work either.

Confused, Santiago decided to email Amazon to see why her reviews weren’t being published. This was Amazon’s response:

“We cannot post your Customer Review […] to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author. Customer Reviews are meant to give customers unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers. Because our goal is to provide Customer Reviews that help customers make informed purchase decisions, any reviews that could be viewed as advertising, promotional, or misleading will not be posted.”

The emphasis above is mine, because that’s the worrisome part. Santiago claims that she has no personal relationship with the author in question, although the two have interacted on social media in the past. She wrote an impassioned response of her own stating as much, but Amazon refused to even provide details for Santiago’s case.

Regardless of whether or not Santiago’s supposed relationship with the other author crosses some line, it’s unsettling that the company refuses to explain how exactly it determined that the two were close enough that a review of each other’s work would be “biased” or “misleading.”

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