News, Culture & Society

Senators write to Jeff Bezos to know why Amazon pulled book that ‘challenges transgender movement’

The book When Harry Became Sally came out in 2018 and was a bestseller and looked at ‘public policy on gender identity and the human costs of getting it wrong’

A group of Republican Senators have written to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demanding answers as to why a book that ‘challenges the transgender movement’ has been pulled from the site.

When Harry Became Sally was on the site’s bestseller list with the book providing ‘thoughtful answers to questions arising from our transgender moment’ while offering ‘a balanced approach to public policy on gender identity, and a sober assessment of the human costs of getting human nature wrong.’ 

But the book by Ryan T. Anderson has been removed after being on sale for the last three years.  

In a letter to Jeff Bezos, the Republican senators who include Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Braun of Indiana and Josh Hawley of Missouri are demanding further information as to what led to the pulling of the title which is also no longer on Kindle or Audible.

Sen. Marco Rubio

Sen. Mike Lee,

Sen. Marco Rubio, left, and Sen. Mike Lee have both signed the letter to Bezos

Sen. Mike Braun

Sen. Josh Hawley,

Sen. Mike Braun, left and Sen. Josh Hawley, right have also signed their name to Bezo’s letter

The decision to pull the book came in for harsh criticism from Twitter users unhappy at what many said was akin to censorship

The decision to pull the book came in for harsh criticism from Twitter users unhappy at what many said was akin to censorship

The senators have accused Amazon of ‘openly signaling to conservative Americans that their views are not welcome on its platforms.’   

‘When Harry Became Sally prompted important discussions in the national media and among policymakers in 2018, and remains one of the most rigorously researched and compassionately argued books on this subject,’ the senators wrote in a statement. 

‘By removing this book from its marketplaces and services, Amazon has unabashedly wielded its outsized market share to silence an important voice merely for the crime of violating woke groupthink.

It's not known exactly when the book was pulled from the site but the company has so far not responded to the Senators' letter. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, pictured

It’s not known exactly when the book was pulled from the site but the company has so far not responded to the Senators’ letter. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, pictured

Author, Anderson, tweeted about the books sudden removal from the site

Author, Anderson, tweeted about the books sudden removal from the site

Anderson advised people to head to Barnes & Noble where the book is still for sale

Anderson advised people to head to Barnes & Noble where the book is still for sale 

‘Amazon has been unable to provide a sufficient explanation as to how the book supposedly violated a vague, undefined offensive content standard,’ they wrote. 

Amazon has not commented on the letter or on its reasons behind the removal of the title with the company stressing that it reserves the right not to sell certain content based on its content guidelines for books.

‘All retailers make decisions about what selection they choose to offer and we do not take selection decisions lightly,’ a statement read.   

Author, Anderson, tweeted about the books sudden removal from the site. 

‘I hope you’ve already bought your copy, cause Amazon just removed my book ‘When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment’ from their cyber shelves…. my other four books are still available (for now),’ Anderson tweeted on Monday.  

‘While you can’t buy the book on Amazon, you can still get it (for now?) at Barnes and Noble. Given the aggressive push on trans policies coming from the Biden admin, now is a great time to read it. Buy it before you no longer can,’ Anderson added in a second tweet. 

The senators claim Amazon is 'unable to provide a sufficient explanation' as to how the book 'supposedly violated a vague, undefined 'offensive content' standard'. An Amazon distribution center in North Las Vegas is pictured

The senators claim Amazon is ‘unable to provide a sufficient explanation’ as to how the book ‘supposedly violated a vague, undefined ‘offensive content’ standard’. An Amazon distribution center in North Las Vegas is pictured

A spokesman for Encounter Books which publishes ‘When Harry Became Sally,’ told the Wall Street Journal it had been removed for violating Amazon’s content guidelines. 

Amazon describes ‘offensive content’ in its publishing guidelines: ‘We don’t sell certain content including content that we determine is hate speech, promotes the abuse or sexual exploitation of children, contains pornography, glorifies rape or pedophilia, advocates terrorism, or other material we deem inappropriate or offensive.’ 

‘This harms the entire culture of book authoring, publishing, and reading–as it will have a chilling effect on all aspects of the book market,’ Anderson told The Independent. 

Ross Douthat, a columnist with the New York Times suggested Amazon was 'conducting an experiment in what they can get away with.'

Ross Douthat, a columnist with the New York Times suggested Amazon was ‘conducting an experiment in what they can get away with.’

American political commentator, David French, who is a Republican said the move was both 'absurd and unacceptable'

American political commentator, David French, who is a Republican said the move was both ‘absurd and unacceptable’

‘Likewise it cuts off important political and cultural discussion about important matters when we need it most.’ 

American political commentator, David French, who is a Republican said the move was both ‘absurd and unacceptable’.

Ross Douthat, a columnist with the New York Times suggested Amazon was ‘conducting an experiment in what they can get away with.’ 

In the wake of this week’s publicity, the print edition of the book is sold out on Barnes and Noble’s website and reached number 3 on their list of the top 100 digital books earlier in the week.

REPUBLICANS LETTER TO BEZOS

Dear Mr. Bezos:

We write regarding Amazon’s recent political censorship activities, particularly the decision to remove the book When Harry Became Sally by conservative scholar, Ryan Anderson, from the Amazon website, Kindle, and Audible platforms. Over the past 72 hours, Amazon has been unable to provide a sufficient explanation as to how Anderson’s book, which reached the top of two of Amazon’s best-seller lists before it was even released in 2018, supposedly violated a vague, undefined ‘offensive content’ standard.

When Harry Became Sally prompted important discussions in the national media and among policymakers in 2018, and remains one of the most rigorously researched and compassionately argued books on this subject. By removing this book from its marketplaces and services, Amazon has unabashedly wielded its outsized market share to silence an important voice merely for the crime of violating woke groupthink.

The internet is at its best when it is an open marketplace of ideas that brings people together to share, learn from one another, and engage in a range of commercial activities. Many Americans have come to rely on online retail more than ever before to meet their basic needs, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In its decision to remove Mr. Anderson’s book from its platforms, Amazon has openly signaled to conservative Americans that their views are not welcome on its platforms. Amazon’s shortsighted censorship of this well-researched and thoughtful contribution to modern American discourse is not just a decision made in poor taste, but an assault on free speech that carries weighty implications for the future of open discourse in the digital age.

In its decision to remove Mr. Anderson’s book from its platforms, Amazon neglected this duty and openly signaled to conservative Americans that their views are not welcome on its platforms. We request answers, along with supporting documentation, including communication with other technology companies and members of the Biden Administration, to the following questions to clarify the intentions and extent of the actions taken by Amazon to censor speech:

Did Amazon have any discussions in 2018 before When Harry Became Sally was first published regarding the content as it related to your community standards? If so, please provided documentation that explains why the book was allowed on the platform at the time.

What was the motivating factor behind Amazon’s decision to remove access to this book after hosting it for sale for over three years? Is this action part of a broader campaign against conservative material and voices on Amazon’s platforms?

Did the book violate an Amazon policy? If so, please provide documentation related to the policy, which passages Amazon identified as ‘offensive content,’ and the step by step process under which the determination to remove the book was made.Did the policy change between 2018 and now? If so, please provide documentation that led to the change and how publishers and sellers were notified of the change.

Was the author or the publisher of the book or given advance warning of the book’s removal from Amazon’s platforms? Were they provided with a reason for the removal or a form of recourse?

Amazon Web Services hosts countless websites related to religious, politically conservative, classically liberal, and other content that falls outside the realm of acceptable woke groupthink. Are these sites at risk of being denied service by Amazon? How does the determination of which site to host compare to that of which books to remove from Amazon’s platforms?

We would appreciate a reply no later than March 9, 2021. Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

Sincerely,

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Mike Lee (R-UT)

Mike Braun (R-IN)

Josh Hawley (R-MO) 

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