Summary of GR’s New Censorship Policy

*****LAST UPDATED OCTOBER 4, 2013*****
***Please let me know if any of the links are broken.***

Created by Cassi aka Snow White

See the announcement with multiple updates.

Thousands of comments and questions have mostly gone unanswered, leaving users confused, angry and frustrated, partly because this policy appears to have been inconsistently applied. Ironically, this change in policy was implemented just a couple of days before Banned Books Week.

All of Kara’s comments in the Feedback group, for future reference. (She’s the only member of staff to comment in that thread.) Kara’s first response to comments.


21 members had reviews deleted without prior notice on Friday. Any shelves or reviews made after then won’t receive any notice about deletions. All content that has been deleted has been deleted for good and will not be reinstated and no copy is available for the reviewer to save.

1. JennyJen had 78 reviews deleted without notice.

2. Ridley had 36 reviews and 2 shelves deleted.

3. Archer had 6 reviews deleted.

4. Steph Sinclair’s due-to-author shelf and 13 reviews were deleted.

5. Bitchie had reviews and shelves deleted.

6. Kara had 20 reviews deleted.

7,8,9. Howdy YAL, Miranda, and Linda had shelves and reviews deleted. Underneath Linda’s post in the announcement thread are a few posts from Kara about how harassment from authors isn’t tolerated, they haven’t been hacked, and that it’s okay to talk about the author within the context of the book review.

10. rameau’s had 5 reviews and 1 shelf deleted. (Her comment’s underneath my post.)

11. Katiebabs had 76 reviews and 1 shelf deleted, most of which were of pulled to publish (P2P) fan fiction. Karma♥Bites~Bookin’ Freely has a theory:

“My sense is that, now that the buyout is completed, Amazon is looking to streamline things such that GR becomes the primary marketing and selling platform for books (interesting that P2P shelves were deleted, given the forthcoming Kindle World) and Kindle products.”

12. Blythe also had content deleted with notice.

At this point I should mention that the new Kindle Paperwhite possesses Goodreads integration. Having information on badly behaving and pulled to published authors on the book page isn’t going to sell books, but it will give readers the power to make an informed decision on who they choose to support with their money.

Ceridwen is collecting all the info on the 21 members who had their shelves and reviews deleted. UPDATE (Oct 3): Here are her results with brilliant analysis. The most striking statistic: 65% of the sample of deleted reviews were for self-published books. She also touches on GR’s new and inadequate FAQs about Reviews & Shelves on Goodreads, which only states one change: a copy of reviews deleted on September 20th will be sent to the reviewers. And Steph’s due-to-author shelf is within guidelines. But, sadly, even comments underneath a review aren’t safe.

Most of these people have been targeted, harassed and threatened by Stop the GR Bullies [this link won’t take you to their website but to a place where you can safely learn about them]. It makes one wonder if this is GR’s offenders list in the background of their shelfie?

Carol is not one of the 21 but she received an email regarding her author-behavior-unacceptable shelf which includes the following titles:

David Gilmour (recent publicity on why he doesn’t teach women authors)
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (active anti-gay crusader)
Mein Kampf (Adolf Hitler, genocidal maniac)
Touched, by Jerry Sandusky (convicted child rapist)
The Destruction of Dresden (convicted Holocaust denier)
Birth Control is Sinful in the Christian Marriages…(I can’t even characterize this book)
Josey Wales, Two Westerns (KKK member and segregationist)

Kara said:

Liz wrote: “The biggest example being “Due to Author” which has many meanings and not all of them are negative.”

Ala wrote: “What the hell do “taa” and “icy-hex” even mean? “

We don’t comment publicly on individual cases, but in general, what we do is look at a shelf and see how it is used in context. In any case where we have decided to remove that shelf, we are confident that the shelf was being used in a way to review author behavior.

So it’s not just shelf names but how they’re being used.

Kara said:

Brandi wrote: “Posters Rachael and Iola had questions that I was hoping we could get clarification on please?
Rachael wrote: “So I can’t have shelves of African American authors, or LGBT authors, or of Nobel Lau…”

The shelves you mentioned above (african-american-authors, lgbt-authors, nobel-laureates, ya-authors, na-authors, male-authors, christian-authors) are all fine and fit within our guidelines.

Strangely, not all author-based shelves will be deleted.

GR finally figured out author blog posts aren’t flaggable – will look into it, despite this issue being raised multiple times in Feedback. Shows they don’t read all the threads. Update: We can now flag blog posts!

Statement by GR from this article:

“Over time we plan to better use all of the data we have around reviews so that we are putting the best reviews – the ones that will be most interesting and useful – at the top. This is a big data problem, and we are hiring a data scientist to work on it. At the same time, we already personalize how you see reviews – you see your friends’ reviews first and then you see reviews by people you follow, all people that you know and trust.”

Screenshot of Otis (founder of GR) following THT (#84 most popular reviewer in the world) on BookLikes – LMFAO! Looks like even he’s abandoning GR, or just checking out the competition. And his account looks legitimate:

(Click to enlarge)

Some irony for you. Otis once said:

(Click to enlarge)

This has now been immortalized in GR’s quotes database.

This isn’t the only controversial policy to be implemented by Goodreads. July 2012 saw the same types of reviews now being deleted being hidden or pushed down on the book page. And later that same month, they introduced a new button to shelve books which was dubbed the “UGB” = Ugly Green Button, that didn’t work properly and impeded on many users’ ability to use Goodreads. Few compromises or good will gestures were made, and for many members this was the beginning of the end.

In March 2013, Goodreads announced they were “joining the Amazon family” which left many extremely unhappy. And now Amazon, a few days ago, has removed hundreds of self-published erotica titles based on these Content Guidelines, which appears to be another inconsistently applied policy. Therefore, Amazon may be behind GR’s new censorship policy. Or as Ceridwen postulates: GR got tired of STGRB’s flagging campaigns motivating them to implement these policy changes.

Member Reactions

Most feel GR have caved into the demands of badly behaving authors and those at STGRB by imposing this censorship.

I agree with Christine: “I remain far more concerned about your stated policy of reading my mind and deleting shelves based on your perception of what I was thinking when I created it. That is so far over the line of appropriate or reasonable that the line has ceased to exist.” and “I’m sorry, but I am still reeling from the announcement that this isn’t about shelf names at all. It is about the information contained on the shelves, and whether or not the authors fit the profile of BBA’s. Goodreads is seriously PROFILING our shelves for permissiblity.”

Top user leaves who had 3,000+ ratings, 1,000+ reviews and was a Goodreads Librarian. The Feedback announcement thread is littered with [deleted user] posts, though you do have the option to remove all your comments when you delete your account.

Post from Wendy Darling 5th most popular review in the world (on GR)

Miss Jessie’s contributed 275,000 librarian edits, as an example of how much us members are worth to GR.

People are receiving sponsored emails from GR.

GR is sending out emails asking people how likely they are to recommend GR to others.

Many are choosing to reduce their activity on GR: some librarians have gone on strike, some are no longer posting reviews, some are replacing the text in their reviews with links to their blogs, some are only staying for the groups, some are abandoning their accounts or deleting them altogether. But what they aren’t doing is keeping quiet about these changes.

There are tons of reactionary protest blog posts, avatars, reviews and shelves as well. See Carol’s post for ways in which you can protest.

Emily May’s avatar.

Tangential threads have been created in the Feedback group in an effort to clarify the situation:
Response from GR
disappearing reviews
Ability to download updates created by me and has both Emily and rivka responding.
way to download reviews
Private notes, private reviews and private shelves also created by me in an effort to compromise.

To some of these, Kara, Emily, and rivka all responded too fast and enthusiastically; anything to seem helpful and responsive. I think they’re all helpless and scared that they don’t want to touch on the new policy. There are also other threads in which they are closing and redirecting people to the excessively long announcement thread in which they’re not responding to questions posed, and have persistently refused to make a site-wide announcement detailing these changes in policy.

GR also appears unwilling to address the increasing level of author spam, paid for reviews, and sock puppet accounts.

Created by KarlynP.

Author Reactions

Is Goodreads Mocking Us On Banned Books Week? – I think they are. Those Quotes of the Day cannot be a coincidence.

Shiloh Walker’s post on the Feedback thread. [She has since deleted her account along with her comments.]

Authors encouraged to flag reviews.

GR trying to prevent author meltdowns at negative reviews.

Ilona Andrews asked what was going on at GR and said this site can’t be for both readers and authors.

News Coverage

This has made the Washington Post and CNN, but the Washington Post is being sold to Jeff Bezos who founded Amazon.

From MediaBistro:

“If there’s one thing most readers find controversial – it’s censorship. If you mix a bunch of highly literate, well-informed readers on a social network like Goodreads and tell them they can no longer express their opinions on authors of said books – well, you’re just asking for trouble because that’s censorship.”

From Gigacom:

“But the vast majority of users on Goodreads are likely people who don’t have time to leave many reviews or get involved in discussions. They may spend a few minutes on the site a week, and they’re not tracking the site’s new policies closely (if they’re even aware of them in the first place). And while Goodreads will try to appease both sides, it is likely betting that its real growth will come from the users who spend a few minutes a week on the site and are primarily just looking for something to read.”

From The Hooded Utilitarian:

‘Will authors benefit longterm? No. Eventually one of two things will happen.

A) Readers will cave under pressure/fear and begin self-censoring reviews, the way I did with the flame-thrower-author. That will sound appealing to some authors, but remember. Consumer confidence depends on mixed reviews. Otherwise, consumers will assume the site is one big infomercial and ignore all the positive praise. If the dampening happens, the objectivity will be lost, and the objectivity (created by removing financial conflict of interest) will vanish. No objectivity, no marketing value.

B) Readers will crowdsource some other method of recording, tracking, and discussing authors whose behavior upsets them. People do not cease to react just because you remove the megaphone from their hands. This may mean that the primary users of GoodReads will go to a competitor who does allow them to make these lists. Or maybe they’ll use blogs. Or start a newsletter. I have no idea what the method is, but I am sure it will happen.’


BookLikes having an orgasm over “HUGE amount of users registering and using” their site

BookLikes welcoming Goodreaders – Carroll Bryant has commented underneath. He’s a STGRB member and has done some shameful things. [Since I wrote this Bryant’s comment has either been hidden or deleted by either him or BookLikes. His account also may have been deleted.]

If you have questions or need tips a new GR group has been created to deal with them: Everything BookLikes

Here’s BL’s official blog:

They’re going to introduce lots of new features to keep GR refugees happy.

However, BookLikes CEO has posted on STGRB:

Taken from Angie.

Interpret this how you will, but he did comment twice on this post, further clarifying his position:

“Just to clear the air: EVERY potential “troll” will be monitored by us first before changing the status. Don’t worry!”.

Now I know the STGRB story and I can say that we are 100% against their community!!! [Screenshot]

And tweeted:

“We don’t support or are linked in any kind with STGRB community!”

He has also defended his users against STGRB:

(Click to enlarge)

And BL have updated their Community Guidelines and Official Statement to reflect this.

Acknowledging STRGB’s existence, and publicly taking a stance against them, is more than Goodreads have ever done.

Some have chosen to start blogs so they can control their data because, ultimately, what’s happened at Goodreads could happen again elsewhere at some point down the road.

It’s entirely up to you where you go from here.

This is my BookLikes post you can reblog.


*This an updated version of my original post.
**This post has been referenced, with permission, on an excellent blog, Censored By Goodreads


11 thoughts on “Summary of GR’s New Censorship Policy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s