The Road to Hell and All That Paving or the Amaz(on)ing Disappearing Reviews

Modern life, as reviewed by Blur, can be rubbish. There is a lot of stuff that gets in the way of us enjoying ourselves, or indeed being as productive as we might. So, for the writer, as for any attempting to operate in the modern world, computers and the Internet are all designed to make life easier, and are constantly trying to allow us to skip all those pesky barriers and become one.

Computers operated by Windows, for example, that use the same password as your online OneDrive or Office 365 accounts so you don't forget it – great huh? All those social media sites that let you login on one password, so you only need it stored once – fabulous! All your devices linking up each other to the point Google knows your tablet is on the internet as well as your computer and can help you unlock accounts like YouTube at the tap of a button.

All very helpful.

All very sinister.

I wanted to focus briefly on one of these very nasty habits of these online services and that I've seen talked about plenty - and repeatedly - on Goodreads. The fact it's talked about repeatedly means that people are either still unaware it's happening, or are allowing it to happen to themselves regardless and don’t bother going into those threads to divulge. This habit is… have you ever put up a review on Amazon for another indie author's work and found it removed?

It may be that you haven't bought or reviewed enough times on Amazon in the first place. This can happen. Amazon likes buyers of lots of things to tell other people how good things are. Or maybe you aren't that active across social media, and so an easy target for companies who think you might be a troll or spammer. Fair enough. Ish.

However, in short, this usually happens for a very simple reason. When you sign in to Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, or any other company online with the same email and password - and let us remember they are all companies, not our friends - you are effectively giving them consent to each access your data across all of those platforms, because your account is merged. These aren't the only ones, but they are the biggest. And the reason your review might mysteriously disappear, and why they might think you are somehow connected with the human whose work you have reviewed, is because of that very small thing.

It is not always a human (and generally not) on the other side in the first instance. It is usually a computer algorithm searching for connections between you and that reviewed work. You're friends with the author on Facebook. You liked the author's tweet on Twitter. You've got the author's work on your follow list on Goodreads. Same account. Same harvested data. Easy connections for the algorithms.

All of these - EVERY SINGLE ONE - is a way that Amazon makes a call about your review. And yes, it is creepy. Unfair. Intrusive. But YOU made the call when you linked your online accounts and didn’t read their terms. You allowed these mega-corporations to take your data and do with it what they will.

Let's make it clear: you agreed to Amazon's, or Facebook’s, or Twitter's or other' T&Cs. They didn't agree to yours. You gave them control over how they use your data, and they gave you the choice in the T&Cs to step away.

Moral or not, I repeat, these corporations are not your friends. Apart from the data mining Facebook has been taken to task for, if you think your participation in Amazon reviews, or Goodreads reviews, or anything else online leaves even a speck of humanity on these companies you are greatly deceived.

So, what do you do?

Though it may seem incredibly old-fashioned and long-winded, don't link up your online accounts, and unlink them if you have. And if you can, to be perfectly sure, use different email addresses for the major ones, or at least independent sign-ins (i.e. only email sign-in, and different passwords). That way you are REMOVING any implied permission to share your data between themselves that these companies have over you and your public profiles. And most browsers now will be able to offer you unique passwords, AND storage of those passwords, so there is no excuse for having too many and not being able to remember.

You won't be invisible online (a much deeper and more complex subject) but you will be able to put a spanner in the works of the algorithms to ensure that reviews you post legitimately are not removed by mere association. I would also advise posting reviews on Amazon of other products you’ve bought, to show you’re an active user (which they love) and not just there to post a book review once and never again.

The rest, as Neo once said, I leave to you.


Loyal Lyre
An Indie Publisher
Gloucestershire, UK

©Jessica O'Toole 2021 All Rights Reserved