Amazon bows to social networking pressure on pedophile book

Angry customers take to Twitter, Facebook to call for boycott

Amazon.com may be one of the largest online retailers in the world, but it apparently doesn't want to risk the ire of people who use the world's top social networks.

The online retailer found itself in some very public hot water this week after shoppers realized that it was selling an e-book entitled The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct. The book was available for the company's popular Kindle e-reader.

As news of the book spread, Amazon.com seemed reluctant to stop selling it. A company representative told the high-tech blog TechCrunch on Wednesday, "Let me assure you that Amazon.com does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts; we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions. Amazon.com believes it is censorship not to sell certain titles because we believe their message is objectionable."

But then irate customers and others took to Facebook and Twitter, even starting an online call for a boycott of Amazon until it removed the book from its virtual shelves.

On Facebook, people created two pages related to the controversy. By noon today, more than 10,700 people had "liked" the page Boycott Amazon.com for Selling Guide for Pedophile. And a second page called "Boycott Amazon for Selling Pedophile Guide" had more than 4,500 followers.

And people were quick to take to Twitter not only to vent their frustrations but to call for a boycott there as well.

Debt_Princess tweeted, "I will be boycotting @Amazon until this is removed. Will you join me?? #BoycottAmazon". And wandabooty tweeted, "c'mon people, boycot AMAZON, god bless our children! We can put these people out of business! Take a stand for our children!"

Amazon.com, which did not respond to a request for information, halted sales of the book late Wednesday.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research, said he's not surprised that Amazon bowed to the force of social networking.

"Online social networks are about people talking to each other, only bigger and faster than can be done with earlier technologies, like face-to-face, telephone, posters and newsletters, even e-mail," said Gottheil. "When there's a topic that a large number of people will feel strongly about, social media will lead the pack."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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