Latest Censorship News: Goodreads Can’t Take Criticism, Badly Behaved Social Network?

Taking censorship to a new level…

(1) Reviews are being deleted for being “potentially off-topic” – code for “being critical of GR”:

Stefani’s case


Let’s add another thing to the list of mind reading that GR is doing. They already sent me an email telling me a list of my reviews they would delete for being about the author. I changed all of them to a generic message that there should be a review there but it’s been censored by GR because reader’s minds are just too fragile to handle anything that is not strictly about the book.

Now, by my definition, that is not about the author. Yet, I just got an email from GR that they were deleted. Ahhhh, the double standards are awesome aren’t they?

Ruby’s case


….and my review of Giving Offense: Essays on Censorship got deleted without prior warning. My review on censorship WAS actually censored. Nice work GoodReads.

Here’s a screenshot of the email and the text of Ruby’s review.

Paul’s case

[screenshot of review text]
He’s the 12th “Most Popular Reviewer” in the world on GR. His censorship protest review of “Logic : A Short Introduction” was deleted.

mark monday’s case

He’s the 15th “Most Popular Reviewer” in the world on GR. He received an email notifying him that the following reviews had been deleted: “All Flesh is Grass”, “The 5th Wave”, “The Void”, “Moomins Cookbook”, and my personal favourite “An Uncommon Whore”. [screenshot of the text of his reviews]

Jonathan’s case

[screenshot of email and review text]
He’s the 7th “Most Popular Reviewer” in Australia. Two censorship protest reviews of “Unannounced” and “Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung” were deleted.

(2) Reviews deleted for being “non-original content” despite permission given from original reviewers:

Alfaniel’s case

mark monday’s deletions prompted “The Hydra” reaction, a response detailed by Manny in his now deleted review of a book of the same name (8th “Most Popular Reviewer” on GR). If a review is deleted on censorship grounds, then other members have permission from that reviewer to repost that review:

In the shower just now, I suddenly had a Eureka moment. The aspect of this current censorship war that’s been upsetting us most is the feeling of powerlessless. Goodreads can arbitrarily change the rules on us, and they hardly even bother to respond when we complain. But we are not powerless. There are twenty million of us, and only a few dozen of them. We just need to get a little more organized, and we can easily resist.

So here’s one concrete way to do it, based on the legend of Hercules. You will recall that Hercules had a difficult time against the Lernean Hydra; every time he cut off one of its heads, ten more grew back. We can do the same thing if we adopt the following plan:

1. Back up all your reviews, so that you have a copy of everything you have posted.

2. If you think that one of your reviews has been unreasonably deleted by Goodreads, repost it with an image of the Hydra at the top.

3. If you see someone else posting a Hydra review, make a copy of it and post it yourself.

We can improve this basic scheme with a little thought; for example, it would be better to have a place where we keep HTML marked-up source of reviews, so that they can immediately be reposted with the same formatting, and we need a plan for duplicating deleted shelves. But we can sort that out later. Without getting too bogged down in the details, I’m sure you see what will happen. The net result of Goodreads unreasonably deleting a review will be that it immediately comes back in many different places.

People who know their Greek mythology will be aware that Hercules did in fact defeat the Hydra, and Goodreads can use the same method if they dare; they can close down the account of anyone who participates in the scheme. That will work, but I am not sure that anything less drastic will be effective. I think Goodreads will be reluctant to escalate to this level. A large proportion of the most active reviewers are now part of the protest movement, and they would be losing much of the content that makes the site valuable. Even more to the point, the media have already started to get interested (maybe you saw the article in the Washington Post). They would love the story, and it would create a mountain of bad publicity for Goodreads and Amazon.

I’d say the odds are heavily in our favor. Why don’t we try it? I promise now to respond to any Hydra calls.

[Edit: Apparently Manny’s review was the most popular review of the week and therefore was receiving publicity as such. GR’s problem was too many eyeballs were seeing it? Embarrassing them? Screenshot of web cache of the review.]

Alfaniel reposted two reviews and less than two hours later they were deleted. [Alfaniel’s BL post]

Ceridwen is now accepting messages and emails from anyone who’s had reviews deleted, not just the first 21.

If you’re just joining us, here’s a quick summary of GR’s self-destruction so far:

Stage 1

First, out of the blue they deleted shelves and reviews by 21 reviewers consisting of comments about author behaviour without notifying them or providing a copy of the text, which they said was unrecoverable once deleted.

Stage 2

After major uproar from members, they began to send notifications of deletion of reviews and shelves with a copy of the text attached. And somehow managed to return the text of reviews deleted to the first 21 members. After that change they ignored further protests from users.

Stage 3

Goodreads shamefully declared war on BookLikes, blaming them for someone stupidly including the ability to delete reviews by outside organisations and a glitch in GR’s IT network that was randomly deleting added books and reviews from accounts.

Stage 4

And now the above.

Welcome to the Badly Behaving Social Network.

29 thoughts on “Latest Censorship News: Goodreads Can’t Take Criticism, Badly Behaved Social Network?

  1. The links shown weren’t reviews or anything about the book, though. I’m not for censorship or deletion in the first place, but those were against the site’s TOS


    1. Erin, that was the point. To show GR that the most active members weren’t happy with the way they’re now arbitrarily deleting reviews. They were also a way to test the new policy because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of reviews which say nothing whatsoever about the book. Think of the many “I can’t wait for this to be released” reviews – they say absolutely nothing about what’s inside the book, and are irrelevant – yet they exist and are not being deleted. Why not?


    2. That’s not entirely true. In Manny’s review of The Hydra, he makes mention of the mythical beast, and how the story inspired him. Maybe you’d like more elaboration, but you can’t say it was entirely unrelated to the book.


  2. Aha. That is why my inbox blew up. I will take the lists though, even though it seems Goodreads’s ability to delete things may quickly surpass my ability to catalog them.


    1. Oops. Sorry. I probably should’ve asked you first if it was okay to include that. My enthusiasm to post has affected my manners.

      Let me know if you want me to take it out.

      And wow, it’s disheartening to learn that there are so many reviewers with deleted content.


    1. Ugh. How embarrassing for them. Not all publicity is good publicity, then. This just means that more people will be aware that it was deleted, making it easier for people to find out what GR is really like now.


  3. Someone should take this back to the press again, using the “Badly Behaving Social Network” slant. That’s a good one!


  4. I am so saddened by all this. I truly am. I loved GRs. As someone who’s not big on most social media, GRs was where I spent most of my time online. Though a lot of my friends are still there, nobody’s posting. Nobody’s talking. For the most part, nobody’s having fun. Though I totally get why, it still sucks. I hate them for ruining that.

    Also, I was one of the original 21 and had 4 shelves and 11 reviews deleted. Without notice. I received the email saying they’d try to recover my data but the problem is, I never reviewed those books they deleted. Not a single one was rated and there was not a single word in the body of the review.

    There was, however, pages of comments including screenshots, links, and loads of other pertinent information that, in most cases, was promptly deleted by the author or fanpoodles or whoever, right after it was posted.

    So, yeah. Since I’m not getting anything back, their sorry little olive branch means about F***all to me.

    Thanks for the post, though. It’s nice to see so many people still speaking about it. 🙂


    1. That’s awful and absolutely devastating. All that evidence, gone. I’m so sorry this has happened to you. I can’t see how they can justify deleting those comments, since there was no review to delete, when they weren’t breaking the ToS.


  5. I found this website after signing on to Goodreads this morning and noticing a handful of reviews I posted last week are now missing. I thought I was losing my mind, but then I remembered that one of the reviews had generated a like and comment from another user (and I have that email notification), but there’s no sign of either on Goodreads. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt with everything that’s happened recently, because I like the site and did think a small segment of the population was making the site inhospitable to meaningful dialogue. Plus, I’ve found several of their features (especially the monthly “new books by authors you’ve read”) incredibly useful and have discovered quite a few authors and books I never would have otherwise discovered. I was willing to put up with some hijinks if it meant I could continue finding out about new authors and books, because I like supporting the publishing industry and authors.

    But if Goodreads is going to start arbitrarily deleting reviews (even civil, well-written ones that do not run afoul of their TOS), well, there’s not much reason for me to continue using the site.


    1. Goodreads have been facing all sorts of problems with bugs and broken features lately, one of them being deleted reviews that weren’t purposely deleted according to their new policy. They’ve unfairly blamed BookLikes (for synchronizing their accounts with Goodreads ones), but also Goodreads site glitches.

      I’m also reluctant to stop using the site for the same reasons you state. BookLikes isn’t the same but they’re working hard to make it a welcoming home and I greatly appreciate that.


    1. Exactly. Authors all ready have their own social sites – Amazon’s boards, for one, after driving out most readers, and others like Absolute Write. They don’t need another.


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