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Goodreads reviews: Are they fair?

Readers are divided after a website was set up to address the problem of negative reviews on the popular review website Goodreads.

By Staff Writer / July 23, 2012

The website Goodreads allows users to post reviews of books, but asks that visitors abide by the code of conduct.

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It's easy to recognize a negative book review. But how can you detect an unfair one? Popular review website GoodReads now finds itself in the midst of a debate over what justifies a negative book review and what freedom online reviewers – including anonymous ones – should have.

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In a recent column on the Huffington Post, the administrators of the website Stop the GR Bullies stated their concern over what they said are bullying reviews being posted on the GoodReads website, which allows users to post reviews of the books they read. The Stop the GR Bullies administrators say that bullies have been posting negative reviews of books because they holds grudge against an author or simply want to harass someone.

“If they are given any reason to target an author, they will attempt to destroy that author's reputation and career for either their own personal amusement or for vengeance,” the administrators wrote in their column.

On the website Stop the GR Bullies, which appears to have been created this month, four administrators posted screencaps of reviews that they say are examples of the bullying trend. They also posted profiles of Goodreads users whom they say are bullies.

In their column on the Huffington Post, the administrators cite the Goodreads comments policy, which reads, “You agree not to post User Content that: (i) may create a risk of harm, loss, physical or mental injury, emotional distress, death, disability, disfigurement, or physical or mental illness to you, to any other person…  (v) contains any information or content that we deem to be unlawful, harmful, abusive, racially or ethnically offensive, defamatory, infringing, invasive of personal privacy or publicity rights, harassing, humiliating to other people (publicly or otherwise), libelous, threatening, profane, or otherwise objectionable.”

“If you surf the GR fora, you will see hundreds of instances where the GR TOS is being violated, which shows that Goodreads is not policing their site,” the STGRB administrators write in their Huffington Post column. “Further, they are unresponsive when posts like these are reported.”

While some comments on the column supported the administrators’ message, others didn’t see what the problem with the Goodreads reviews were.

“I have to join in with those extremely disconcerted that HuffPo sought out these people and gave them a platform to continue this ridiculous and dangerous campaign,” one commenter who gave their name as OtotheA wrote. “I see people who can't deal with criticism of work that they put out into the marketplace.”

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