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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.

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Another commenter objected to the fact that the STGRB website posted profiles of the alleged bullies without offering any identifying information about the website administrators.

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“They have the audacity to ‘out’ reviewers but refuse to have their real names, or even have a bio or a picture here,” a commenter named Katiebabs wrote.

However, others commenting supported the STGRB site and their message.

“Maybe it's not a big deal to authors who are already fairly well established,” a commenter using the name TeaPartier said of the negative reviews. “But those people who are just starting out, this is serious.”

After the column was posted, Andrew Losowsky, the Huffington Post books editor, posted a column titled “Stop the GR Bullies: An Explanation.” In the piece, Losowsky explained that while columns are edited for grammar and factual errors, they do not go through the same process as a news article on the site.

“To those who feel that we let them down, I can only apologize,” he wrote. “We should have provided more context and presented the debate over the site – and the broader issue of online bullying in the books world – in a more balanced fashion.”

Losowsky said that many users had contacted him citing a case in which they said a reviewer who had been called a bully by the STGRB website had been threatened via telephone. Losowsky said they had been unable to corroborate the incident had actually happened.

“In an email to me, one of the people who runs the site categorically denied stalking, threatening or telephoning any of the people who have been featured on Stop the GR Bullies,” he wrote.

Author Foz Meadows posted a column on The Huffington Post sharing her thoughts about the Goodreads controversy. She cited the alleged incident of a woman being harassed over the phone as one of the matters concerning her.

“The STGRB site stands as singularly unhelpful forum for discussion, unashamedly more concerned with personal vendettas, retaliatory anger and biased crusading in a name-and-shame format than a considered exploration of the issues,” Meadows wrote.

Questions about negative online reviews, of course, are not new. In one high-profile example, historian and writer Orlando Figes paid damages to fellow authors after it was discovered he had gone onto amazon.co.uk and left negative reviews of their work under the name Historian while positively reviewing his own books. He first claimed the comments had been left by his wife.

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