Should Amazon require users to identify themselves when posting comments on products?
Author Anne Rice and others have signed a petition created by a Change.org user named Todd Barselow which urges Amazon to require identity verification for commenters. The petition focuses particularly on book reviews.
“People have found ways to exploit this flaw in the system and are using it to bully, harass, and generally make life miserable for certain authors on Amazon,” Barselow wrote of the ability of users to comment anonymously. “These people are able to create multiple accounts and then use those accounts to viciously attack and go after any author or person that they feel doesn't belong on Amazon or who shouldn't have published a book, made a comment on a forum post, etc. With the current system, if one anonymous account gets deactivated because it was reported for these things, it is easy for the bully or harasser to simply create another anonymous account and continue on with their shenanigans.”
Barselow mentioned Rice by name and that he was “sure that she will support this petition” because she had experienced “vitriol and hatred” from Amazon users.
Rice did indeed stand behind the petition, which has now reached almost 3,000 signatures.
“My experience with the gangster bullies in the Forum has been very bleak and ugly,” Rice wrote on the petition. “I post there under my own name. They blatantly violate your guidelines with personal insults and harassing posts. If you would only apply your own guidelines this would greatly help.”
Online book reviews have certainly experienced growing pains – as reported by Monitor writer Husna Haq, authors have been caught giving their own books positive reviews online and in 2012, the New York Times wrote an article examining entrepreneur Todd Jason Rutherford, who made hundreds of thousands of dollars by selling good reviews.