Amazon bans some anti-vaccine books

Amazon has now joined other companies navigating the line between doing business and censoring it, in an age when, experts say, misleading claims about health and science have a real impact on public health.

NBC News recently reported that Amazon was pulling books touting false information about autism “cures” and vaccines. The e-commerce giant confirmed Monday to The Washington Post that several books are no longer available, but it would not release more specific information.

I cannot say I am entirely happy about that (grossly underreported) development.  Here is the full WaPo story by Lindsey Beyer.


Also, most mainstream file sharing websites are banning the manifesto of the madman from Australia.

I think we should burn some books, while we're at it.

Why does a private business have any obligation to publish or sell anything they don't want to? If someone likes something you or anti-vaxxers or mad gunmen write, they can publish it pretty easily these days. Amazon is under no obligation to.

But keep whining about book burning and other completely irrelevant things.

Agreed here. Nobody putting them in jail for it.

As a result of I get pleasure from them and their efforts.

I am certainly not an anti vaccine luddite, and don't care a whole lot about the feelings of the raw milk drinking, homeschooling religious anti-vaccine weirdos, however with as large market share as Amazon, or as large as Mastercard, I still consider this a legitimate target for an anti trust case. Just like the only hotel in a small town or a utility can inflict more harm by discriminating than a run of the mill bakery in a city, so can Amazon. It certainly hurt the revenue of RooshV.

Instead of whining to the government like a crybaby snowflake, you should start an online bookstore to compete with Bezos. Freedom to compete is what makes the USA the best country you know.

I have noticed this is a quite common style of faux-intellectual argumentation. Can you explain why it is bad for *the government* to "burn books" or how about, why is it bad for *the government* to "greatly limit the distribution and exposure of certain books"?

The claim is that 'X is BAD' and you respond with 'X is FEASIBLE'. This "argument from rights" is just plain stupid. We invented so-called rights for the purpose of producing good outcomes.

Also, you lie with the claim that it's "pretty easy to self publish these days." This statement is true as long as you have access to the major publishing platforms, controlled by Amazon and Apple, which you are eager to tell us have no obligation to allow that access.

First thing we do, let's kill all the censors.

It don't mean nothing. Ninety-nine percent of everything posted/written (including this) is complete and utter bull shit.

Here's another case. Muslim/Q'ran thumping/Somali Congress critter Ilhan Omar enunciates anti-Semitic (she could be quoting Hitler) garbage and it's "crickets." Meanwhile, Jeanine Pirro asks if wearing a hijab means Omar subscribes to sharia law (vs. the US Constitution) and Pirro gets shit-canned. It's OK to say, "All hat, no brains." but not, "All hijab, no brains."

"I see said the blind man."

What did "Muslim/Q'ran thumping/Somali Congress critter Ilhan Omar" say? Let's see if it can get through the censors and you can publish it here.

Of course Omar is getting tons of pushback on it, that's why we know who you are talking about.

+1, obviously

Somehow thousands of American Muslims have served in the military in combat against Muslim forces. Thousands of Muslim Americans have volunteered to serve as civilian translators in extremely dangerous assignments with the military.

If you (DtB) want your “have you ever or do you now eat halal meat” Mcarthy test, then we should ask Christians about Leviticus and Christ.

Is this what you are talking about, Dick?

“I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee,”

“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,”

“I want to ask, why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil-fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby that is influencing policy.”

Is that it?

Because if that is it I don't see how it's anti-semitic. It sounds like something an American would say. Unless there is more too it that I am unaware of it seems like a lie to say its anti-semitic.

They are a bookstore. They can decide what to carry.

Is this a Libertarian website?

Do people have a hard time finding what they want to find, other than through Amazon?

Liberty University Library Bans Books on Witchcraft!

The Papal Library just banned books on pedophilia.

What next.

If Trump had an interest in the Library of Congress and their library, can you just imagine what he would ban? But, don't worry, he doesn't read books.

He does watch TV.

Call the FCC and have them investigate Saturday Night Live!! They colored my hair too orange!

In theory there are platforms other than Amazon, Google, Facebook, and YouTube...but in practice there really aren't. So yes it does matter when these places deplatform people whose views are not considered acceptable.

Amazon is a bookstore. There are many, many ways to find anti-vax books.

If a few keystrokes deter your inquiry or search for a book, you do not know how to search.

Just as an experiment, Google antivax books and see how many you find, and who you can purchase from to get the books.

Or, go to an antivax website and buy there.

Snowflake consumer.

Bill is on the mark here. Libertarians should care about power that is backed by the thread of state-sanctioned violence.

Tyler is worried about this development? I'm worried about 1) liberals regulating how companies run their business and 2) conservatives abridging companies free speech and freedom of association.

We all have a voice in how companies run their business when there are externalities. As for "companies" free speech, there is a right for commercial speech, as in advertising, but, even there, there are restrictions.

Libertarians normally care about monopoly power, too.

'but in practice there really aren't'

I believe somebody wrote a book concerning that subject. it is titled 'Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero' (available on Amazon, of course).

To suggest that B-B just might not deserve a love letter sounds precisely the contrarian position that someone who writes this - 'I cannot say I am entirely happy about that (grossly underreported) development' - could get behind.

Tyler's post does not say he thinks the government should prevent this change. It is possible he is both disappointed with the decision and believes Amazon is within its rights to make it.

However, the cited text uses the term 'censoring,' which in the U.S. is not possible in any context except the government. And censorship, thankfully, is prohibited by the 1st Amendment.

One assumes that Prof. Cowen is aware of the 1st Amendment, and yet still cited a text that misuses 'censoring.'

It is true that we have no idea what Prof. Cowen thinks, generally.

Full timeline: 1) Government official pressures private business to remove content he doesn't approve of, 2) said content is removed.

We can wish Amazon had more spine; but 'censoring' is an appropriate word.

Government officials are welcome to say what they don't approve of - President Trump has been doing it for months concerning SNL, for example. Every American President has 'pressured' media sources for content they don't approve of.

That is not, and has never been, censorship. When Amazon is subject to something like the Sedition Act of 1798. we can start talking about censorship - 'Lastly, the controversial Sedition Act restricted speech that was critical of the federal government. Under the Sedition Act, the Federalists allowed people who were accused of violating the sedition laws to use truth as a defense. The Sedition Act resulted in the prosecution and conviction of many Jeffersonian newspaper owners who disagreed with the government.'

Further, a private book seller is welcome to agree or disagree with any government official they wish, for any reason they wish.

Of course, if for some reason NBC is investigated by the FCC or FEC due to President Trump calling for such actions, I am confident that all of the people concerned about government pressure will become extremely vocal at actual government action attempting to suppress speech that a government official does not approve of.

Yes, in a libertarian world, Amazon can sell whatever it wants, and not sell whatever it wants. In that same world a libertarian is also free to dislike Amazon's decisions. I don't understand why this is so bewildering to non-libertarians.

Let us be clear, most of those against vaccines, Anti-vaxxers, are not really against vaccines, they have just found in it another issue to be profitably exploited on social media, at zero marginal cost, just like polarization and redistribution profiteers do.

Good point, it seems the anti-vaxxers are socially disgruntled trolls?

Bonus trivia: anti-vaccine people are actually smart free riders, iff the others dutifully get vaccines. If everybody but one anti-vaccine person gets a vaccine, the population is immunized, and the anti-vaccine person gets a free ride on the efforts of others, without any risks (small as they may be) from getting a vaccine. Our family did just that when Pres. Jimmy Carter ordered all Americans to get swine flu vaccines in the 1970s, which had some severe side effects.

They were semi-effective free riders, until there got to be too many of them.

Semi, because it's hard to free ride on tetanus.

Tetanus is not a communicable disease. The premise is that if everybody does not take vaccines, then an outbreak of a communicable disease like smallpox (sic) can wipe out the population before they have time to immunize themselves, kind of like what happened to the Indians after 1492.

Bonus trivia: smallpox was the gift by the Conquistadors to the Indians, but syphilis was the gift by the latter to the former. Cross-cultural exchange to warm Jared Diamond's heart.

If these books are so bad that people shouldn't read them, why doesn't the government just ban them? And imprison anyone who continues to write in support of the bad ideas? Let the government, and the big corporations, work out a list of ideas which should not be read by ordinary people. Propagating these ideas would be a criminal offense. I've even got a name for this new violation of the law: Thoughtcrime.

'why doesn't the government just ban them'

Thanks to the 1st Amendment, that is impossible in the U.S. However, the American government is also thankfully not able to tell book sellers what to sell, or to tell authors what to write, in major part due to the 1st Amendment.

Anybody concerned that private people get to decide what to write and sell is clearly someone unaware of the 1st Amendment, or not living in the U.S.

That an American academic is concerned about the free market working precisely in the framework of the 1st Amendment is not really surprising, is it, if the opinions of many of the commenters here are taken into account.

The line between the "public sector" and the "private sector" is often quite fuzzy. Amazon is not really a fully private company, in the way a small internet bookseller is. I expect this will get much worse in the future.

And it was almost less private in New York. We dodged a bullet thanks to a bunch of plucky pierced Maoists!

Please, God of Thunder, "pierce Maoists" is culturally insensitive. The preferred nomenclature is "Maoists of alternative topology".

'I expect this will get much worse in the future.'

Tough - Amazon has every right to decide what to sell, and thankfully the 1st Amendment prevents the U.S. government from having any say in the matter.

And boycotting is protected by the 1st Amendment - if you wish to start calling for an Amazon boycott due to it book selling policies, please, be my guest.

Amazing to see how many people have no faith in the free market, or the 1st Amendment.

Awesome job pretending not to understand the issue!

What issue? The 1st Amendment is not particularly threatened, and how private businesses respond to the marketplace pressure is a not new subject. Just ask the company that manufactured napalm during the Vietnam war how it felt to have many American citizens call them bad names and call for boycotts of all their products, not just napalm. And the line between The line between the "public sector" and the "private sector" is even fuzzier when it comes to a company manufacturing arms, one would have thought.

For the purpose of this discussion (e.g. what a company decides to sell or not sell) the line is starkly clear: Amazon is the government. If it is so profitable to sell these items, someone else will do so.

I agree with Scott's sentiment, but I think it's not so much an issue of public or private as it is apolitical vs. explicitly political. Amazon generally holds itself out as an apolitical entity and benefits from associated goodwill from investors, customers, and others that appreciate wide swaths of life free from politics. For example, investors in a retailing business do not expect to be supporting any particular political agenda unless such business *explicitly* characterizes itself with a political identity.

However, there is a set of political views whose adherents view as so correct that they insist on elevating those views above all others so much so that those views, and those views alone, may intrude into apolitical spaces. Hence, the term "political correctness". That's what's happening here and in other ostensibly apolitical organizations: banks refusing to serve gun manufacturers, Google refusing to serve the US military, Facebook/Twitter/Google/universities asymmetrically censoring right wing vs. left wing content, NBA players deciding to turn a pre-game ritual into a political forum (but only for one permitted issue), etc.

Of course, the woke are free to found organizations to advance woke politics. What's objectionable is to build apolitical institutions, with support from people with wide ranging political views that support the apolitical mission, then once the institution is large and successful, hijacking it to advance a set of self-declared "correct" political views. If one wants to launch a new woke-Amazon with like-minded investors, go ahead. But, surreptitiously converting Amazon to woke-Amazon without explicit permission of shareholders is securities fraud.

The vaccine skeptics believe that excessive vaccination and Thimerosal, in particular, is the root cause of the rapid increase of Autism and many other medical conditions (including obesity). Mainstream medicine and society deny this. It seems to me that significant arbitrage possibilities will emerge in the coming years if the vaccine skeptics are correct.

Don't hold your breath.

There is very little to suggest that the anti vaxxers are even close to correct.

If you know something about anti vaxxers demographically speaking you’ll know that they are concentrated in Vermont, Oregon and Marin County. A considerable number of them are white, educated mothers with a decent net worth and income. My suspicion is that they overlap strongly with the anti gluten crowd, and a large part of their anti vaccination ideology has to do with a visceral emotional aversion to their toddlers being injected by pointy metal syringes. Quite possibly many of them came of age around the time the Lancet published Wakefield.

I am torn on this, of course I believe in free speech, but since Amazon is a private company they can not sell any stuff that they like at their discretion. But I wouldn't want for instance Amazon to stop selling books say arguing against the AGW hypothesis, just because people were lobbying against them for this. Worse is if the credit card companies start to give in to this kind of lobbying, it is pretty hard to do online purchases if you can't use your credit card. In the longer term of course the free market will take care of the problem, with things like bitcoins and dark web.

That's your subconscious telling you these denials are in the same category.

Scientist in Chief: "You take this little beautiful baby, and you pump — I mean, it looks just like it's meant for a horse, not for a child, and we've had so many instances, people that work for me,” he said. “ Just the other day, 2 years old, 2 1/2-years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic."

FYI, I didn’t vote for him to be Scientist in Chief, or even dogcatcher. I voted for him because he was running against someone I deemed more unpalatable.

May all the women in your family be forever surrounded by men such as him.

I can promise you very few women would mind, if it entails always traveling by private jets, whether the women be from Trumpist or Li family.

Trump's two ex-wives would seem to disagree with that, but maybe they are not typical of 'most women.' After all, they did marry him.

I think libertarians would make a better long-term case for themselves if they did not flip-flop this blatantly.

Freedom was good.

Monopolies were good.

But suddenly a monopoly acting with freedom is worrying because .. they took down some bad stuff.

This not just a chink in the original libertarian armor, it tears the whole thing down.

Did you just suggest that monopolies might have higher responsibilities to the public? Yes, in a weird way you did. But for you their responsibility is disinformation rather than public health.

+1, Amazon should have the power to decide what they want to stock

And Bakeries should be able to tell Gay's they won't make a special cake for them.

That is definitely the weeds, because retail products and public accommodation have different legal frameworks.

I personally find cakes pretty trivial, but the courts have not found a way to distinguish between cakes and restaurants saying "we don't serve your kind, (epithet deleted)."

But of course that wasn’t the issue.

If Nazis walk into a Jewish Deli on the UWS, they can’t demand a swastika sandwich.

If Neo Confederates walk into a black bakery, they can’t demand a confederate flag cake.

It was a narrow ruling, and the correct one.

Retail products and personal services are different, but it seems like they should be the other way around. The store shouldn't be able to refuse to sell you socks because you are black, but if I have built up an expertise in treating the hair of white people, and honestly don't know how to treat black people's hair, that sounds like I should simply decline the job.

"That is definitely the weeds, because retail products and public accommodation have different legal frameworks."

No, that's wrong. Retail stores are considered public accommodations.

Geez dude, for entry. Not that they must stock everything.


Do you even know what we are talking about?

It is a sudden demand by libertarians that Amazon provide them net neutrality, access to everything.

Category error. Amazon is just a website. Make sure the internet has public access and free speech.

Now on your unrelated and strange turn into public accommodations:

I can go into a restaurant and not be denied for race, color, or creed. I can say "swordfish please." When they say "sorry we are vegan" I can't claim my rights, moral or legal, have been infringed.

Tyler gave you a bad setup, but geez. This CYA is crazy.

You are stranger than normal.

There aren't any libertarians demanding Amazon provide them with net neutrality. You are the only person who's talking about the topic.

You consistently seem to believe that people are writing things that they clearly didn't write. If you aren't actually trolling then maybe you need to seek counseling.

"Now on your unrelated and strange turn into public accommodations:"

There's nothing strange about it. The Supreme Court ruled that the baker did not have to create or sell a cake specifically for a gay couple. A private business chooses the products it sells. This is consistent with Amazon having a right to decide which books they list for sale.

If you oppose bans, you are for neutrality.

That's just math.

This is why the obvious conclusion is that you’re strawmanning liberal positions to make them look ridiculous.

Maybe you can't do math.

Tyler started this with a concern about bans, others continued about censorship and free speech.

It is silly and not at all libertarian to put that burden on a bookseller.

Put it instead in the network itself. Net neutrality.

Like I said, you’re either an idiot or you’re literally attempting to strawman liberal positions.

I’d put the odds that you got past calculus 3 at zero.

How happy Tyler must be to have you defend the idea that bans by private monopolies are worrying, but the internet as whole may be trusted to the care of monopolies.


Traditionally, public accommodations were limited to monopolies (and some oddball traveler-service stuff). The vast majority of businesses had freedom of association.

Freedom does not imply, in any way whatsoever, that criticism of a company should be illegal.

Freedom does not imply criticism of a behavior, whether said behavior is done by a corporation or an individual, should be illegal.

Freedom means we can and should criticize Amazon for violating the principles of free speech.

It also means that a law prohibiting Amazon from violating the principles of free speech would be wrong.

Your strawman Liberty/freedom is the “freedom” to be not criticized, which of course is insane.

Tldr: you’re an idiot.

I am not the one who misused words "ban" and "censored" on this page.

Indeed, we would be having a very different conversation if Tyler had said I would encourage this private company to make a different decision on these products because ...

Did you forget what he actually said? it's this:

"I cannot say I am entirely happy about that (grossly underreported) development."

'we can and should criticize Amazon for violating the principles of free speech'

This is absurd - Amazon is not the government, and is not subject to the 1st Amendment the way the government is.

Unless, for some reason, you think that a private company should be told by the American government what it can and cannot sell (leaving aside things like pornography involving children, where a crime was committed by using children in its production). Luckily for the U.S., the 1st Amendment prevents the government from telling book sellers what books they can or cannot sell.

And unlike Prof. Cowen, I am entirely happy that the 1st Amendment exists, and prohibits any possibility of the American government making any laws regarding a book seller's decisions.

"This is absurd - Amazon is not the government, and is not subject to the 1st Amendment the way the government is."

He didn't mention the 1st Amendment, he said the principles of free speech. Those aren't the same.

There are no 'principles of free speech' that apply to private individuals.

You are completely free to kick out anybody for any reason from your own home, including what they say.

You are completely free on your web site to delete anything on it for any reason you wish.

And a book seller is completely free to decides what it sells, without anyone possibly claiming that a company's decision of what books to sell or not sell violates any 'principles of free speech.'

The various government institutions found in America are bound to the principles of free speech found in the 1st Amendment. This does not - and cannot, actually, thanks to the 1st Amendment prohibiting any laws in this regard - apply to anyone else.

In other words, anyone claiming a right to force people to listen to them or to sell their books is living in a delusion. Even if they say that someone ignoring them or not selling their books violates the principles of free speech.

-20 points to clock for reading comprehension failure.

Of course I believe Amazon has the right to sell whatever they wish to, and not sell anything they do not wish to sell.

I find it fascinating that greens, liberals, and certain conservatives immediately jump to :

“Person Y believes X is wrong” therefore: “Person Y believes X should be illegal”

But that does not necessarily logically follow. Free speech is codified in our constitution, yes. But that’s a piece of paper.

Much more important are norms and principles regarding free expression, norms against censorship, and high tolerance for the presence of ideas with which we strongly disagree. I can criticize Amazon for attempting to censor books with (in this case obviously false) ideas/information with which it disagrees.

Here is what you wrote - 'Freedom means we can and should criticize Amazon for violating the principles of free speech.'

Amazon did not violate any principles of free speech. See above.

'Of course I believe Amazon has the right to sell whatever they wish to, and not sell anything they do not wish to sell.'

I was responding to the quoted point about 'we can and should criticize Amazon for violating the principles of free speech.' Amazon is not violating any principles of free speech, regardless of what they sell or do not sell.

'Free speech is codified in our constitution, yes'

Only regarding the government. It is impossible for a private person to violate the principles of free speech.

'norms against censorship'

The 1st Amendment prevents censorship by the government. Someone kicking you out of their house because they don't want to listen to you is not, and never has been, censorship. The same applies equally to whether a book seller carries a book or not.

'I can criticize Amazon for attempting to censor books ...'

Amazon is not censoring books by simply deciding to sell or not sell them.

',,,ideas/information with which it disagrees'

Every citizen of the U.S. is completely entitled to ignore - to the point of forcing someone to leave their house, turn off the radio, close a book or newspaper, etc. - anything they wish, for any reason they wish, including disagreeing with the ideas/information.

You have a right to speak or write a book, guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. You have no right for anyone to listen or sell your book. People who feel free speech principles mean people have to listen to them or sell their books are clearly unaware of the meaning of free speech in the U.S.

"It is impossible for a private person to violate the principles of free speech."

Completely and utterly false. You seem to have a mental illness where you think free speech can only mean the first amendment, which is absurd and frankly stupid.

"You have a right to speak or write a book, guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. "

Absolutely false, the first amendment guarantees no such thing

"You have no right for anyone to listen or sell your book."

And no one said otherwise.

"People who feel free speech principles mean people have to listen to them or sell their books are clearly unaware of the meaning of free speech in the U.S."

Obviously you have no clue what the meaning of free speech is. Here's a hint, the concept was not created whole cloth by the first amendment.

The principle of free speech is that society is best served by a free and open airing and exchange of ideas, and that rational discourse rather than the naked application of power will have the best eventual outcome, and that the best ideas will tend to win out over time in such an environment. As such, it is wrong to punish someone for having a belief that you believe is wrong.

That means not punishing someone for having beliefs you disagree with- by firing them, refusing to allow them to publish on your open platform, etc. It's not ILLEGAL to do so or prevented by the first amendment. It's just wrong and contrary to the principle of free speech.

'The principle of free speech is that society is best served by a free and open airing and exchange of ideas'

Sure - and yet, no religious person need listen to an atheist, nor does a religious institution have to sell an atheist book.

'and that rational discourse rather than the naked application of power will have the best eventual outcome'

The above example has nothing to do with the 'naked application of power' and perfectly illustrates that free speech principles include not listening to someone, nor selling their work.

'That means not punishing someone for having beliefs you disagree with'

You can always disagree with someone, and not listening to someone or not selling their book is not punishment.

'It's just wrong and contrary to the principle of free speech.'

No it isn't - no one is required to listen to someone else, without fear of 'punishment,' ever - that is the bedrock principle of free speech, by the way. Censorship comes after government determining what people must listen to or agree with.

First of all, congratulations in moving the goalposts and implicitly conceding my position, though I admit that is par for the course from you

"no one is required to listen to someone else, without fear of 'punishment,' ever - that is the bedrock principle of free speech, by the way"

Wrong. It's nonsensical. What does it mean to be required to listen to someone without fear of punishment?

"not selling their book is not punishment"

Of course, it is. This is an open platform publisher who takes all comers, so specifically removing them from your marketplace is punishment. If you are a small bookshop and you choose not to place an order for a book, then I agree it's curation not punishment. I struggle to understand how de-listing is not punishment but firing someone is. Why wouldn't you say "choosing not to associate with someone you disagree with is the bedrock principle of free speech".

Sure, legally you should be permitted to do it. But it is not in keeping with the principle of free speech, which extends well beyond what is legal.

'What does it mean to be required to listen to someone without fear of punishment?'

That without punishment being involved, everyone is free to not listen to whatever they want.

'Of course, it is.'

Someone not listening to you is not punishment, and a bookseller not selling a book is not punishment either. Why do you think anyone has the right to anyone else's attention?

'I struggle to understand how de-listing is not punishment '

It is exceedingly obvious you struggle with the idea that a bookseller is the only entity that gets to decide what books to sell or not.

'but firing someone is'

I'm not really sure how to put this to you, but in at will employment states, your employer can fire you at any time for any reason. Why would you consider an employer terminating employment punishment? That is just bizarre, as employers are free to decide who to hire and who to terminate. Or if we turn this around, when an employee quits to take another job, are they punishing their employer?

'But it is not in keeping with the principle of free speech'

You seem to think that people paying attention to what somebody says is part of the principle of free speech. It isn't.

You seemed to be confused between the concept of principles and laws.

You mean there is a principle that says I can not close a book I disagree with because that is violating free speech principles? You seem confused with the very idea of free speech in an American context, which is the ability to speak or write a book as you wish. There is no principle saying anyone needs to listen or buy your book.

(And a pro tip - those societies where governments actually force people to listen to speeches or buy books about the leader's struggles? They are not places with free speech.)

-10, Clock for lack of reading comprehension

"You seem confused "

Clock, you are the confused one and you are just making a series of strawman attacks. I didn't make any of the claims you are arguing against.

Nowhere did I say that Amazon should be forced to sell these books or that anyone should be forced to buy them.

He’s mentally incapable of comprehending the difference between free expression norms/free speech norms and the 1st amendment speech protections.

Hey Clock, get this:

I also believe we should criticize private universities for refusing to let invited speakers have a platform! If an agnostic student club at a religious college invites a prominent atheist, the school is wrong if it decides to cancel the event.

Cue the wall of bullshit text about how private universities are not bound to the first amendment.


'between free expression norms/free speech norms '

There is no norm that requires anyone one to listen to you, or to sell your book. That is the bedrock principle of free speech - everyone is free to ignore whatever they want, any time they want.

Anyone claiming that someone needs to listen to someone else, or to someone's book, clearly has no respect for 'free expression norms/free speech norms.'

'I also believe we should criticize private universities for refusing to let invited speakers have a platform! If an agnostic student club at a religious college invites a prominent atheist, the school is wrong if it decides to cancel the event.'

Which is your opinion, of course. And if the private religious university decides that your opinion is worth nothing to them, that too is the university enjoying its right to determine who it listens to, and who it doesn't. You really seem to have difficulty imagining that two people can disagree - or do you really think your opinion concerning that invitation is the only one that matters? Because of free speech principles? Many people disagree, for whatever reason, and you are as free to ignore them as they are to ignore you, all due to free expression norms/free speech norms.

'Cue the wall of bullshit text about how private universities are not bound to the first amendment.'

Apart from the reality that they are not bound by the 1st Amendment, of course. Neither is Amazon, nor the people that run this web site.

"'Cue the wall of bullshit text about how private universities are not bound to the first amendment.'

Apart from the reality that they are not bound by the 1st Amendment, of course. Neither is Amazon, nor the people that run this web site."

WHOOSH. He knew that of course, but you couldn't resist.

"There is no norm that requires anyone one to listen to you, or to sell your book. That is the bedrock principle of free speech - everyone is free to ignore whatever they want, any time they want."

False and backwards. The bedrock principle of free speech is not safe zones and ignorance. The principle of free speech is free exchange of ideas. De-platforming and coerced silence is not free speech, it's the opposite of that. You don't have to listen to the speech and you don't have to read the book. But doxxing and harassment and intimidation and violence to prevent speech is contrary to free speech principles, even if you're not the government.

The constitution of course can only bind the government, so it enshrines the principle of freedom of speech as far as the government. But applying the same principle to private parties would be- take no action abridging freedom of speech. If the government doing it would violate the first amendment, you doing it violates the principle of free speech. The government is not required to read any books or listen to any speeches, but it is also required to be content neutral


Which is undoubtedly the sound that comes from needing to jump over a line and a half 'wall of text.'

'The principle of free speech is free exchange of ideas.'

Nope, that is the hoped for result involving what is considered a marketplace of ideas. If I don't want to listen to you, I most certainly don't have to. And that choice is my alone to make, not yours because you think I need to listen to someone. I don't. Most people call exercising that right freedom, by the way.

'But doxxing and harassment and intimidation and violence to prevent speech is contrary to free speech principles'

So which one of those four terms applies to a bookseller's decision to sell or not sell a book?

'But applying the same principle to private parties' would be absurd, to be honest. Are you saying that due to the principles of free speech, no owner of a web site can never delete anything anyone ever wrote there? That is simply an amazingly distorted view of the rights of private people to have the sort of speech they want in a place where they alone decide what is allowed or not allowed. You have no right to invite yourself into someone's home to have them listen to you. They, however, always have the right to slam the door in your face (or kick you out) because they have no interest in listening to you.

'but it is also required to be content neutral'

No private individual needs be content neutral, ever. And they also have no need to justify themselves to anyone else for making their own decision concerning what they do or don't do - such as sell a book or not. Again, this is an example of someone being free to decide for themselves what they do.

On one hand, this feels wrong. Amazon should not be censoring those books in spite of the idiocy.

On the other hand, this is business as usual. Remember when WalMart was the largest seller of music (CDs) and refused to sell albums with "objectionable" lyrics or covers? Or how cinemas continue to refuse to screen R movies because it's bad for business?

A year ago Spotify and Apple Music came with a strange approach to R. Kelly's music. His music will still be available on the services, but will not be actively promoted on playlists. They said it's not censorship, they just wanted the pre-made playlists to reflect "the company values".

It seems Amazon just acted as a result of external pressure. A senator started the pressure, if Amazon didn't act it could become something larger. In the case of music censorship, it's always a concerned parent's association.

Walmart choosing not to sell certain music didn't bother me at all, and here you guys call me the socialist.

I'm so slow, I know what the problem is.

I just compared Amazon to WalMart, Blockbuster or cinemas....which are old business with shady practices. Amazon is new and good and should not behave like the bad people. This is the problem.

I would have expected Prof. Cowen to be less naive on big business, old and new, but the new book.......time to update the priors?

The problem is that in the U.S., censorship is only relevant in the context of government action. Companies are free to sell or not sell weapons as they wish, even if the 2nd Amendment allows Americans to own weapons. Just because a large chain store refuses to sell AR-15s does not mean that they are 'censoring' weapon sales (yes, a less than perfect analogy, but still in the ballpark).

True. When dick's decide to stop selling certain guns, it was completely within their rights. I've cut down going there because they hired lobbyists to fight against the 2nd amendment.

I would be somewhat doubtful that Amazon did this based on external pressure. The market loss for them is negligible and the anti-vaxxer movement is so obviously wrong and with potentially direct impact on the executives at Amazon and their families, it is not difficult at all to imagine this coming effectively as an internal business decision.

Yes. they independently arrived at this conclusion right after a government official started pressuring them.

Sorry, not plausible.

Have they banned books on Baking Cakes for Gay Weddings?

There seems to be an inconsistency in modern thoughts. I think philosophically more inclined to agree with a world view that either:
a) Allows a private company to do what they want OR
b) Restricts a private company from excluding certain groups (gays, anti-vaxxers)

But I have less agreement with a world view where the decisions are more arbitrary and based primarily on affiliations.

Brilliant troll. After all, so many children are hospitalized by gay cakes.

So ignoring the principle entirely.

Sounds about par for the course.

Maybe if someone pays you $10 you can work harder on a better answer.

Maybe for $10 you could buy some principles.

That's an easy one.

For simplicity frame it as a dilemma. The entity that is Amazon seeks to make a moral decision. On the one hand, they would like to support all authors, and on the other they know that some mis- or dis- information is harming children.

Should it really worry anyone, including libertarians, that in this dilemma they favor the safety of children?

You seem to have an extreme inability to process abstract thought and logic chains.

The meta-logic is :

Do we want large distributors of information (ISPs, domain hosts, Amazon, B&N) to make editorial decisions on what information the public has access to.

Especially as the channels condense into a few, this issue becomes more relevant.

The libertarian position is : they have the right to do it, but they should be ridiculed, mocked, and denounced mercilessly. If they rely on government lease, that lease for bandwidth or etc it should be revoked on 1st amendment grounds.

Amazon should have the legal right to ban whatever it wants, just as Hobby Lobby refuses to pay for birth control. And we should denounce and mock both with abandon.

I split the difference.
The private company can do what they want, and we can all criticize them for excluding certain groups, depending on if we think the group in question ought to be excluded or not.
So the real question is: "Are anti-vaxxers sufficiently bad people that they warrant shunning?"

'So the real question is: "Are anti-vaxxers sufficiently bad people that they warrant shunning?"'

Nope - the real question is does Amazon get to decide what books it wants to sell, or doesn't it?

I already answered that one in the affirmative.
The meta-issue is "What things should we criticize Amazon for?"

The meta-issue is "What things should we criticize Amazon for?"

Anything anybody wants to. Is that a trick question somehow? Thanks to the 1st Amendment, you can also call for a boycott of Amazon, again for any reason you wish.

I recognize that this is an American perspective based on the Bill of Rights, a political framework so radical in human history that many people still have problems with it, apparently.

And this discussion is about selling books, in terms of the 'press' - clearly, talking about Amazon in another context (electronics, say) does not particularly involve the 1st Amendment. Though you are still welcome to say anything you wish, and call for a boycott concerning Amazon's decisions regarding electronics, of course.

Of course, anyone can legally criticize Amazon for whatever they want. the question is should you? Is this action worthy of criticism? My suggestion is that the answer to that depends on whether you think anti-vaxxers are worthy of shunning.

I think there are multiple aspects that favor Amazon's decision.

One, anti-vaxxers aren't making a very rational decision. Two, their decision is potentially harmful to their own decision. Third, it's potentially harmful to other children. Four, it could put additional costs on to other people to deal with the externalities of their decision.

It does concern me to some degree that Amazon is making a "father knows best" type decision, but overall I agree with it.

" think anti-vaxxers are worthy of shunning."

I would literally shun anti-vaxxers, at least when it comes to having their kids near mine. But I don't really have specific moral outrage for them. Statistically smoking & drinking around your children is probably worse.

I agree. I would actually shun anti-vaxxers in terms of not letting their kids near my kids either. Thus, I'm ultimately not going to criticize Amazon's decision.

'the question is should you?'

If you wish, be my guest. 'Should you' is a bit misleading, possibly - the only person that should decide is the individual making the decision.

I will admit this discussion is making me feel very old fashioned, all these people questioning things I thought were obvious. Such as criticizing a company for any reason one wishes. 'Should' is a personal decision, but in the age of social media, this seems to be somehow no longer obvious.

I have a lot of very dark thinking that goes back decades on the apparent human need to be part of a mob - but unlike Jordan Peterson's fixation on just one ideology, I believe it has nothing to do with ideology, per se - and it seems as if this desire to be part of a mob is growing among many, for whatever reason.

and it seems as if this desire to be part of a mob is growing among many, for whatever reason.

I feel that too. I don't know why.

Well, no need to explore the subject in detail, it does not lead anywhere good.

And no reason to discuss why, or how.

To try to make a silly joke - thinking too hard about all this could lead one to an all beef diet, and who wants to end up like that?

Thanks Hazel for clarifying this distinction. Unfortunate how consistently people fail to make this distinction. I'm not even a libertarian and it's not that hard.

As for anti-vaxxers, to me this isn't a very hard call. If Amazon is doing any censorship at all, banning these books is fine. If they're not doing any censorship, not sure if this is worth crossing that line for, but I can definitely see the argument for doing so. I guess this is maybe TC's perspective as well.

How can a libertarian be upset about this? Isn't it literally an example of the free market working as intended?

Fear of a slippery slope I guess. Too little trust in the existence of sensible Schelling fences.

Or fear that the 1st Amendment is too radical to protect the freedom of press, so the government needs to step in to tell book sellers what they can and cannot sell.

I seem to recall that libertarians scorn such government actions mercilessly.

Literally no one has asked the government to step in, let alone a libertarian

"How can a libertarian be upset about this? "

Being libertarian doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't criticize a company for making a decision you don't agree with.

But it's confusing to non-libertarians when libertarians say one thing then criticize a private company for doing a very libertarian thing.

Hazel said it best above, Amazon deserves no criticism for this, because of her feelings about anti-vaxxers. If she was one, she would believe Amazon deserves criticism. But not on libertarian grounds.

"But it's confusing to non-libertarians when libertarians say one thing then criticize a private company for doing a very libertarian thing."

I'm confused. What is the "one thing" that libertarians are saying and the "very libertarian thing" the private company is doing?

Concern about Amazon abusing it's market power, something that libertarians have long been concerned about.

I'd even estimate that this very concern motivates about 75% of libertarian political theory.

Question for the quorum:
Would it be permissible for Amazon to ban neo-Nazi literature? Why or why not?

Answer: Yes.

You use the word: ban.

How about use the word: sell.

Amended: Should it be permissible for Amazon to decline to sell neo-Nazi literature?

Same answer. But, notice that if you frame it as decline to sell something, you get a different emotional response.

Should you be required to sell someone's 30 year old Playboy collection at your yardsale? It's the only yardsale in the neighborhood that day.

No. You didn't answer the why or why not part? Show your work!

It's your burden. Show your work.

My answer is in general Amazon can do whatever they want, and it's up to the public to reign them in if they exercise their market power in harmful ways. Amazon exists in a society and a market and will respond to incentives in the market, whether those incentives point to delisting anti-vax books or listing them. The real question is whether we "the public" should take the stand that anti-vax books be shunned or protected from shunning. We're all free to make our own decisions about that, of course.

'is whether we "the public"'

What 'we the public'? Again, this makes me feel so old-fashioned. Different people have different reasons for their decisions, and there is no 'public' unless is willing to simplify the complexity represented by a myriad of individuals into a deceptively simple grouping.

A grouping which further allows one to feel that 'the public' is all that matters, without seemingly being aware that 'the public' is a construct (a reasonable one in many ways, of course).

Hazel, I am glad you agree with me, but am puzzled why you challenged my position if you agree with it.

Because you didn't answer the question or contribute to the discussion

Oh, give me a break. You can't read a post, my reply to her statement.

Frankly, I thought her statement was a troll when she revealed she agreed with me. Your comment is a troll as well.

False. Someone can agree with you but want to know your reasons for agreeing. Trolling is saying outrageous things to get a reaction.

I was just interested in exploring the philosophical implications of the notion that Amazon has some obligation to carry or not carry certain books. It seems like many people do not hold consistent positions on the subject, like if you're ok with them de-listing Neo-nazi literature, but not anti-vaccine books, where do you draw the line.

it's also a great platform to talk about what "freedom of speech" actually means. For instance, is social shunning free speech, or is it censorship?(People come down on both sides of this seemingly at random depending on the circumstances.)

Social shunning may be a bit ambigous - but saying that no one needs to pay attention to or sell whatever someone else said or wrote is distinct from 'social shunning.'

Simply ignoring (in the sense of not listening or not selling) is not what I would consider social shunning - though again, this may feel old fashioned these days.

But on the other hand, a boycott could certainly be called 'social shunning,' and boycotts are fully protected by the 1st Amendment.

And a boycott is never censorship, it is simply an attempt for people to use the free market and free speech to change someone else's behavior. That someone may not agree with a boycott for any reason is perfectly fine, of course.

(Notice how many commenters here compain about Amazon, without even suggesting alternatives as a way to cause Amazon to change its behavior - only two people have posted links to get around Amazon, and both of us are completely fine with Amazon not selling whatever it wants. Well, definitely myself at least.)

'Amended: Should it be permissible for Amazon to decline to sell neo-Nazi literature?'

Of course. And in precisely the same fashion it is 'permissible' (a meaningless term in the context of the 1st Amendment, by the way) for Amazon to sell neo-Nazi literature. The only one that gets to decide what books Amazon decides to sell or not sell is Amazon.

The 'work' regarding that answer is spread above, over multiple comments responding to people who seem to not only have no faith in the free market, but also no apparent awareness of the 1st Amendment.

By "permissible" I mean "morally permissible", not what is legal. As in, in an abstract moral realm, is it moral for Amazon to decline to sell certain books?

'As in, in an abstract moral realm, is it moral for Amazon to decline to sell certain books?'

Or course. There is a comment above relating to some aspects of that answer, but morality is a completely acceptable criteria for individuals or companies to use when making decisions. Why shouldn't it be?

And of course it is completely fine to disagree with someone's morality. (Thanks to the 1st Amendment, theocracy is also not a serious concern in today's America either, without trying to simply conflate morality and religion.)

Not a hypothetical. Amazon has already delisted books by various white nationalists (for example Jared Taylor, Kevin MacDonald).

I wrote my "easy one" answer above before I saw this question. This is a harder one, because "neo-Nazi" is a fuzzy category with less 1:1 association with harm. Maybe someone just likes the clothes. So I would say no .. I wouldn't ask for that, and I would worry about such a "ban" leading to other fuzzy categories with less direct harm.

So, an association with harm is the standard? That's pretty vague. How do we determine what books are harmful?

If I owned "anonymous books" I might be pretty subjective in that, and not worry, because I wasn't really banning or censoring anyone. I would be choosing my inventory.

Note also Hazel that the Usual Suspects who oppose Net Neutrality have flipped on this too. They want a private company to *be* net neutrality.

If you seriously want to keep all information out there, and protect freedom of speech, the appropriate level to do it is to guarantee everyone internet access and to allow everyone the ability to become a

You obviously have no idea what net neutrality even means, despite it being your cause celebre

'How do we determine what books are harmful?'

Well, you can determine that any way you wish, as can everybody else in the U.S. However, the American government is not allowed to make that determination due to the 1st Amendment.

You can also call for a boycott of Amazon too, based on your determination of harmful, just anyone else can call for a boycott based on their own determination of harmful.

Why keep repeating the same irrelevant points over and over?

Are you just trying to confuse people into thinking everything is fine? When Google, Facebook and Amazon are filtering out all left-wing political discourse, that will be totally fine with you and you will be insisting that the first amendment gives no protection to leftists and you have no concern but if someone wants to organize a boycott that's their right?

'Are you just trying to confuse people into thinking everything is fine?'

What, you have a problem with the 1st Amendment, or think it is under threat because a bookseller decides what to sell and not sell? I don't, not that you have to listen or agree with me. Any private individual is free to choose to ignore anyone or anything thing they wish. This same idea applies to a bookseller, of course.

'When Google, Facebook and Amazon are filtering out all left-wing political discourse'

Of course they can filter any content they want, including anything described as left-wing - it is for Google, Facebook and Amazon to decide what they offer.

'and you will be insisting that the first amendment gives no protection to leftists'

In terms of private companies deciding what they do or do not decide to sell? Of course leftists have no more protection than anyone else - that is, no protection at all.

'but if someone wants to organize a boycott that's their right'

Of course.

You are one of a number of commenters here who seem to feel that the 1st Amendment means that people need to do what you think, simply because you say that is how it is supposed to be - thankfully, the 1st Amendment means you are not in a position to use the power of the government to force people to agree with such a ludicrous belief.

"You are one of a number of commenters here who seem to feel that the 1st Amendment means that people need to do what you think, simply because you say that is how it is supposed to be - thankfully, the 1st Amendment means you are not in a position to use the power of the government to force people to agree with such a ludicrous belief."

You seem to be blind or mentally ill and unable to comprehend the posts in which I very explicitly explain that the first amendment has nothing to do with my position. Your willful ignorance is exasperating and frankly dropping to the level of shitposting.

You seem pathologically incapable of separating legal protections from cultural norms. I frankly don't believe you that you would be totally fine with the scenario of widespread censorship of left-wing speech by private companies, even though you claim that. I get and agree with the idea that it should be LEGAL, but that doesn't make it RIGHT. I guess being a German now you are incapable of separating the two but I and "many other commenters" are not.

Private companies may be LEGALLY ALLOWED to do this, but they shouldn't do it. They should support freedom of speech.

'You seem pathologically incapable of separating legal protections from cultural norms. '

Whose cultural norms? It is absurd to claim 'cultural norms' when everyone is free to decide which cultural norms they accept or reject. And a bookseller deciding which book to sell or not sell is not about 'cultural norms,' it is about a private person exercising their freedom to decide what to sell or not.

'I frankly don't believe you that you would be totally fine with the scenario of widespread censorship of left-wing speech by private companies'

Well, a company deciding not to sell a book is not censorship, but apart from that - why should I care in the least what decisions a company makes when it comes to what books to sell or not? And why wouldn't you believe it?

'I guess being a German now you are incapable of separating the two'

I am an American citizen, and certainly expect to remain one until I die. No idea how that makes me German now.

'but they shouldn't do it'

Thankfully, no company needs to pay the least attention to your opinion.

'They should support freedom of speech.'

They do - but deciding what speech they support, and what speech they don't, in terms of listening to it, or selling books. This really shouldn't be hard to understand.

Unless you think people need to be made to listen you, of course, regardless of how many times they try to walk away as you tell them they are not supporting the principles of free speech every time they try to leave.


You've stated in the past that discussing black IQ is bad bad bad. Should Amazon take down The Bell Curve because it's a gateway drug to neo-Nazism?

We all know anti-vaxxers are wrong, but lots of loopy equally wrong left wing stuff is on Amazon, so its probably just mood affiliation behind the decision. The same mood affiliation could be used to exclude facts that are correct as facts that are wrong, and the censor will of course provide some rationale as to why excluding such ideas is a public good (they will also probably claim they are false whether they believe it or not).

Back to the harm thing. There may be a book that is plausibly benign, that informs another, and another, until you do get incitement to violence.

In "anonymous books" I might cut that off early, but someone trying to be the world's bookstore might have a harder problem.

I really hope "but we want to be racist" isn't at the back of too many minds here, because it isn't a clean answer that "all speech is good."

The people with too many guns in the closet are always listening.

Amazon is free to do whatever they want IMO. Personally, I'm happy with them delisting neo-Nazi literature, and I probably would not object if they chose to delist The Bell Curve too.

If they started delisting Ayn Rand or Bjorm Lomborg (people that are wierdly hated by the left, but actually pretty reasonable thinkers), that's where I would begin to protest.

Mood affiliation all the way down.

In a world where everyone is free to say or not say whatever you want, you're free to simply affiliate with the ideas you agree with, and not affiliate with the ones you don't.

Isn't it nice?

Your specific goal is to silence those you disagree with

I'm silencing people by not criticizing Amazon's decision to not sell their books. OK.

+10 to Ravensclaw_Hazel, for winning this subthread argument.

-1 for msgking, for clearly not understanding that "Hazel Meade" would be in Gryffindor.

"Gryffindor values courage, bravery, nerve, and chivalry."

Weekend assignment: Read "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" and "The Philosopher's Stone ".

It's a fair verdict.

+1 Hazel, Not criticizing Amazon is not equivalent to silencing anti-vaxxers.

If Amazon begins declining to sell whole categories of books, it creates an opportunity for someone to launch an Amazon of banned books, using Amazon's sales techniques.

As we all know, nothing boosts a book's sales like censorship. And the Jeff Bezos of this banned books enterprise would be morally off the hook for selling possibly nasty content, because - freedom of speech.

Recently Amazon already banned books by various white nationalists (Charles Taylor, Kevin MacDonald) and books by the Nation of Islam. Democracy dies in darkness indeed.

Does this help?

The goal isn't to burn every single copy Farenheight 451 style. It's to make ideas unavailable enough that they can't effect society.

I'm in favor of net neutrality!

That is what keeps ideas available. The strange thing here is that libertarians of all people want a private actor to provide net neutrality for them.

anonymous: "I agree with you but I'm going to argue against you anyway so I can beat my dead hobby-horse here that's totally irrelevant!"

So.... you're worried about Amazon delisting neo-nazi literature because ... you think it's bad that it won't be able to affect society .... ?

I don't recognize these authors or know if they are Neo-Nazi's or not. I do know there are lots of books with nationalistic themes that don't want to revive the Nazi movement that would want to get the same treatment though and probably be called Nazi's. I do hope their ideas become more mainstream because it would be good for society.

If they are good ideas and society wants them, Amazon will either decide to cash in by selling them, or lose profits to those that do. Purest libertarian commerce in action.

"Purest libertarian commerce in action."

Uh, what? What does libertarianism have to do with it?

Sure, Amazon loses some profits... but society as a whole still loses out on the ideas they ban.

Amazon is exercising its liberty to sell or not sell whatever it wants to. 'Society' (do libertarians even believe in such a thing?) has the liberty to buy and sell anything anyone writes about anything.

Any of Amazon's competitors has the liberty to take money from them by selling these items, and the authors can even self publish. If 'society' wants to hear these ideas, they will.

"If 'society' wants to hear these ideas, they will."

Obviously not. Did "society" hear about all the things they wanted to pre-Internet? Of course we know now that they didn't, because there is a large audience for ideas that were unavailable then.

The rest of your comment up until that is just stating the obvious.

Indeed, my point about Amazon behaving in a most libertarian manner is quite obvious, but you seemed confused about it above.

How are these ideas 'unavailable' if Amazon doesn't sell them? Please save the 'they are a monopoly' bit. They aren't even close, especially when it comes to selling books or publishing essays.

The market is speaking here. If a lot of folks want to pay for these ideas, someone will sell them.

Man, all this concern from loyal readers, all who have apparently forgot about Prof. Tabarrok, and contribution to helping solve this problem - 'LBRY Inc., the startup employing Bitcoin's blockchain technology to revolutionize how the world distributes and consumes digital media, has added another renowned advisor to its team.

Economist Alex Tabarrok has joined LBRY as the company's Economic Advisor. Tabarrok is Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and director of The Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason. He is a well-published author in the field of law and economics and is perhaps best known for his blog Marginal Revolution, a collaboration with fellow GMU economist Tyler Cowen. Tabarrok will provide expert guidance in creating incentives to maximize the utility of the LBRY content marketplace.

Alex Tabarrok, Economic Advisor to LBRY

LBRY is the first decentralized, open-source, encrypted content distribution service. It allows content producers to connect directly with consumers, bypassing middlemen like Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, and YouTube. LBRY addresses many of the flaws inherent in top-down, centralized content distribution systems, and could fundamentally alter the way we share media.'

One difficulty for Amazon may be its "recommendation" algorithm. There is a chance that it will spit up some of these books as a "you may like this.." to some customers.

They surely don't want to be in the position of seeming to recommend anti-vaccine books.

And yes, that can happen. Something like that happened to me about a year ago. I got recommendations that simply should not have been made, and was actually angry enough to write a "Dear Mr. Bezos" email about it. The books were removed.

They could have put these books on a "never recommend" list and just not recommended them. That's not what they did.

Booksellers and librarians have traditionally been very free speech. I am sorry to see that this bookseller is not.

Booksellers and librarians have traditionally been very free speech.

Uh, no. Librarians just don't like other people second-guessing their half-assed decisions.

That is probably the most tasteless user name used here.

And a disgusting one.

The issue at the bottom of this whole thing is the medical community coming up with a bogus disease indicated by a variety of unrelated symptoms they call autism spectrum disorder. It is, in fact, the perfect disease for the medical community, many different symptoms, no effective testing, no legitimate diagnosis, no cure, endless medical attention and expense. Somebody needs to write, publish and sell books about the supposed disease itself.

Good point, though nowadays it's called a spectrum disorder. Some very intelligent people "seem like" they have a disorder, yet in some cases we all benefit by the work of such people. Maybe we are the free riders on the backs of the autistic.

We should take better care of them.

Techies: net neutrality is one global rule, that any node may talk to any node, and content may be blocked by intermediaries.

Libertarians: Oh no, government rules are bad and we trust monopolies to self-police.

(Time passes, and one website adjusts its contents in a tiny corner of the Internet.)

Libertarians: OMG no, how could this happen? Censorship!

Not that bright, boys.

Oops, may *not* be blocked, of course.

These two positions are 100% consistent, of course. If ISPs actually put into place discriminatory practices, they would be criticized just as Amazon is. If the government wanted to pass laws requiring amazon to list all books, they would likewise be criticized as the "net neutrality" legislation was.

Well, net neutrality is more than that. It is in it's crudest formulation a rule that all packets be treated alike regardless of content.

The problem is that is impossible to follow and nonsensical if taken literally. There's already all sorts of CDNs that make sure that Netflix packets get to you faster than other websites. What net neutrality advocates really want is not "net neutrality" but "non-discrimination" by last-mile ISPs among content providers. Calling it "net neutrality" and trying to regulate packet-level transactions is micromanaging. Keep it simple.

People have abused the definition, but net neutrality was basically IETF standards up until the rebellion of the ISPs.

The IETF allowed priority by content type, not by vendor. The idea was that email could be slow while video was fast. This was agreed among parties at the time, and offered no business advantage to any one.

The old rules are not hard to follow, they are what built the internet.

In the rebellion, ISPs wanted to tread packets from competitors differently. That was a world change.

Don't net-neutrality the thread man.

As engineers don't we ask where in the protocol stack to put the requirement?

Requiring Amazon to carry all books is a bad design. It is a requirement at the wrong level.

Amazon is 1 of N.

You want freedom N to N. Then you can never run out of books, or bookstores.

Shorter: you may have been lied to, by people who didn't understand the IETF role, or wanted to hide it for political purposes.

"Shorter: you may have been lied to"

Or she just might understand the issue better than you do....

She's repeating ISP disinfo, but I don't really blame her. A lot of libertarians got cought up in that. It fit their priors.

The arpanet and then internet regulatory committees all predate public access to the internet and certainly predate public access ISPs.

The rules were all peer-to-peer without vender discretion without content filtering.

One significant bit of that:

"Simply put, the Internet Society believes net neutrality means that ISPs should ensure Internet users have unhampered access to the legal content they want. We believe these principles should lead the way for the Internet’s continued growth and success globally. Further, we firmly believe that a multistakeholder process is the best way to develop the policy tools needed to preserve the open Internet in the future."

It sounds like the ultimate defense against censorship, doesn't it?

"The problem is that is impossible to follow and nonsensical if taken literally. "

Exactly. Web traffic has always been subject to prioritization.

" but "non-discrimination" by last-mile ISPs among content providers. "

They wanted a very pure form of non-discrimination. Not only would it have been illegal to degrade access to rivals (which most people would agree with) it would also be illegal to pay a premium for better access (which is common practice in a lot of industries.)

So, to make an analogy with package shipping, expedited priority shipping would be illegal.

And literally any service where you pay for faster download speeds involves discriminating among packets. It's just totally insane to try to have a rule that says "all packets are equal!" You would have to make everyone pay for premium service and then just live with really shitty video quality.

'involves discriminating among packets'

Protocols, not packets. UDP is almost 40 years old at this point - 'UDP is suitable for purposes where error checking and correction are either not necessary or are performed in the application; UDP avoids the overhead of such processing in the protocol stack. Time-sensitive applications often use UDP because dropping packets is preferable to waiting for packets delayed due to retransmission, which may not be an option in a real-time system'

Net neutrality is not about 'prioritizing' packets - it is about having sufficient bandwidth. American ISPs (like ISPs in many countries) advertised things like 'unlimited 10mps service,' without ever believing that their customers would actually use 10mps for the entire billing period. And in the U.S., ISPs decided that attempting to change the rules would be cheaper than actually building the infrastructure required to meet the contract terms of their paying customers for 'unlimited 10mps' service.

There is no discussion of net neutrality in Germany, because if an ISP advertises 'unlimited 10mps' service, they have to be able to provide the service they advertised, and the customer paid for.

It really is that simple from a basic technical perspective. More complicated is how some American ISPs are also content providers, and are thus completing with other content providers - and trying to position themselves in this area to their advantage, while attempting to have people forget completely that ISPs started out, from a regulatory perspective, within the framework of common carriers.

Lies. And you should certainly take the Internet Society position on that.

After all, who are they?

Oh yeah they designed and built it.

That was meant for the rat.

"On 15 May 2014, the FCC decided to consider two options regarding Internet services: first, permit fast and slow broadband lanes, thereby compromising net neutrality; and second, reclassify broadband as a telecommunication service, thereby preserving net neutrality."

Is Wiki lying too?

That is covered in my link. The IETF recognized both variant definitions and imperfect proposals.

When the FCC voted on the Open Internet Order in 2015, we were concerned about whether an outdated statute like Title II was the right vehicle to preserve these core principles. At the same time, we knew that after a long and, at times, tortured proceeding, the U.S. Internet market needed a stable legal foundation, of which net neutrality is a part, that would generate the confidence to support growth, investment, competition, and opportunity. With the latest announcement from the FCC, the U.S. is once again faced with instability and lack of regulatory certainty. On the one hand, we have consensus on the principles, but on the other we have no clarity on how or if they will be enforced.

Seriously, read and trust the smart guys at the Internet Society.

I knew the trolls would be out in force, suddenly adopting the position that criticizing a private entity is equivalent to calling down the power of the state to silence that entity. By their own newly-adopted standards, of course, Tyler is free to say whatever he wants on his blog, and their criticism of his writing necessarily means that they are calling for him to be censored by the government. Shame on them.

Many years ago there was a Barnes & Noble store near me, and during Banned Book Week the employees wore buttons that said "Censorship is Bad!" Which struck me funny (O brave bookstore! Though by the end of its run it was effectively "censoring" books in general). And now Amazon is seeking favor by announcing it is censoring the books of one strand, out of thousands, of American nutters.* Interesting mainly for what it indicates about conformist culture as revealed by female consumer preferences, changing over time.

*Probably nutters - though the arrogance of the opposition is interesting too, in its way, given we have no idea what causes autism, or what the hell it is: if it even exists as "defined" remaining completely unanswered ...

Arrogance? There have been so many studies done. We may not know what is causing the increase, but we DO know it's not vaccines. This is like saying believers in evolution are arrogant.

By the way most mental illnesses are like that.

What comes next? Amazon won't carry books promoting 'climate change denial.'

I suggest that those who are concerned about Amazon's book banning behavior complain to Amazon. I just navigated through their complaint maze and got to a chat where I explained my concerns. I demanded that Amazon do the following:
1. Be transparent about which books are banned from sale and why.
2. Minimize the number of books to the extent possible, with due consideration for public safety.
3. Consider adding an additional free add-on book to those buying a "problematic" book. Perhaps, in some cases, this could be funded by those who are now complaining about the problematic books.
4. Avoid banning books on the basis of political, religious, ethical, or corporatist grounds.

I've been amazed by recent calls by some on the left to prosecute google, amazon... for anti-trust. I doubt that it will actually happen should one of them take power since doing so is so strongly against their interests.
Some years ago, I was excited to think that the internet would allow many more people to state their opinions than previously. Until the late 1970s, American dialogue was dominated by two or three television networks and a few newspaper. Cable TV changed that a bit by allowing the creation of Fox News (Many times, I've heard leftists claim that it should be banned.) Then, the internet opened things up further. But, the recent monopolization of many sectors of the internet has created the opportunity for the leftists to use a quasi-government monopoly company to carry out censorship that would be prohibited by the first amendment if the government did it directly.

181 comments by now, and not a single mention of the public square, and the distinction between it, and private entities.

Amazon is not a public square.

For a good overview of the concept (including how Amazon is in no, way, shape, or form a public square), this link would likely be useful -

STOP IT. Everyone understands this distinction and has made that very clear to you.

Where does anyone use the term public square?

And to be honest, people who clearly have no idea what they are talking about in terms of free speech principles are only making clear that they are completely ignorant that private people are always free to ignore anyone they want, for any reason. A freedom that most definitely extends to those in a position to decide which books to sell and which books not to sell.

Wrong on multiple counts, per usual:

Everyone in this thread knows that Amazon is free to not sell whatever books they want. What some of them are doing is criticizing their choice. A few of those are incorrectly claiming it's a 'free speech' issue when it is not, but that doesn't mean they think Amazon is breaking a law or even a norm.

In addition, you are NOT free to ignore anyone you want, for ANY reason. For example, you may not ignore the black guy who wants to eat at your restaurant for the reason that he is black.

Tyler, you've got to be kidding me. Anti-vax crap is pure evil with massive negative externalities. How could a marketplace allow drivel like that to be sold? EBay removes counterfeit goods. Amazon is well within its rights (I would argue it eve has some obligation) to remove dangerous misinformation.

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