Amazon redacts one-star reviews of Hillary Clinton’s new book What Happened

Hundreds of damning verdicts on memoir of 2016 presidential race, posted within hours of publication, have been removed by the online bookseller.

I saw this on The Guardian this morning. It might be highly unlikely that all of the people read the book overnight, but I’m not sure if I agree with the removal of the ratings if they can’t prove that the people indeed didn’t read the book.

This made me think of The Black Witch, a book I read earlier this year. Many people rated it 1-star without reading it because they said it was racist after reading one person’s damaging review. I have to wonder why Goodreads refuses to remove 1-star ratings from users who openly admit to NEVER reading the book? 


From The Guardian:

Hundreds of one-star reviews of Hillary Clinton’s memoir What Happened, which appeared online within hours of the 512-page book’s publication, have been removed from Amazon.

What Happened, in which Clinton gives her account of the 2016 presidential campaign, was published on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, there were more than 1,500 reviews of the novel on Amazon.com, the majority either glowing or scathing.

The book’s publisher at Simon & Schuster, Jonathan Karp, told the Associated Press: “It seems highly unlikely that approximately 1,500 people read Hillary Clinton’s book overnight and came to the stark conclusion that it is either brilliant or awful.”

Quartz, which tracked the reviews in detail, said that of the 1,500-odd original reviews, “only 338 were from users with verified purchases of the book”. At the time, What Happened had an overall rating of 3.2 stars, but Quartz points out that “average rating for reviews from unverified purchases was a 2.3, while the average from a real purchase of the book was 4.9”.

By Thursday, only 581 customer reviews remained, 95% of which were five-star. Amazon said on Thursday morning that “we remove customer reviews that violate our community guidelines”. These include the stipulation that “when we find unusually high numbers of reviews for a product posted in a short period of time, we may restrict the number of non-Amazon Verified Purchase reviews on that product”.

Amazon said customers’ reviews “must be related to the product and are designed to help … purchase decisions. In the case of a memoir, the subject of the book is the author and their views. It’s not our role to decide what a customer would view as helpful or unhelpful in making their decision. We do however have mechanisms in place to ensure that the voices of many do not drown out the voices of a few.”

Karp said that Simon & Schuster had hoped that online commentary would “reflect opinions of people who have actually read the book”.

On Thursday morning, the latest reviews included a one-star write-up from a user who felt that “she lost and the best person in the world won, President Trump”; a two-star review from one who wrote that “I would’ve given this one star but didn’t want my review deleted”; five stars from a customer who simply wrote “#StillWithHer” and five stars from another who wrote: “When I hear people criticizing [sic] the book on TV or on the radio or giving it a poor review, I can tell right away that they haven’t read it. Buy the book. Read it. You might just be pleasantly surprised. Great book, Hillary. Congrats!”

Read the rest at The Guardian HERE.

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What are your thoughts on this? Is it fair to remove ratings when there’s speculation that reviewers never read the book? What do you think about people that rate books based on others reviews and damage a book’s reputation without ever reading it and openly admit that they’ll never read the book?

29 thoughts on “Amazon redacts one-star reviews of Hillary Clinton’s new book What Happened

  1. Good morning. What a great topic! My initial thought is that it is fair to remove them if they are posted suspiciously all at once in an obvious way where the reviewer didn’t actually review the book. If it’s in doubt, the review should stay even if it’s likely it’s a fake. Unless there is evidence, I’d leave it. That said, I just can’t imagine the audacity of someone to post a review without reading a book with the intent just to harm the author because they don’t agree with them. Even if someone wrote a book about things that are awful, I’d hope the reviewer would explain why they gave it a low rating and what was wrong with the book, not a dislike for the author or who they are. But that’s my opinion.

    I love how you bring up great posts and topics to really make us all think. Thanks, Mischenko.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, James. It happened with the Black Witch and a few others! Many reviewers said they would never read it because of the content and rated it one star. I watched the ratings plummet below two stars over just a few days. These reviewers admitted to never reading it.

      I suppose because it’s Hillary Clinton’s book, they are taking it more seriously, but I don’t understand why GR, being an Amazon company, doesn’t do the same. There are tons of 5-star reviews on the book from people who you know didn’t read it, they just support her. Those were not removed though. Interesting!

      Thanks for the warm comments as well. Hope you have a fab weekend! 😊💖

      Liked by 1 person

  2. David R. Dowdy

    This is why it’s so hard for me to trust institutions. They have grouped their power and assets and put them to work playing the most egregious tit-for-tat games. When I stand here in the middle and shudder at how divided we’ve become, I just want to walk away.

    On the one hand, anyone can read whether a purchase was verified and anyone can read a mass of stinker ratings and draw their own conclusions without Amazon censoring. On the other hand, it’s wonderful that great numbers of people have come back to reading a 512 page book overnight and want to share their feelings.

    Over time, the ratings of any book will find a normalized place.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nel

    Like I say all the time, there are SO many review trolls. I think it’s a case by case basis but Amazon definitely did the right thing. If that book was only released in the Kindle store, which a lot of authors do at first, then I believe it’s completely fair to remove reviews from people who didn’t even buy the book be wise there is no other way they could have read it.

    As for Goodreads, they don’t have the same right because people don’t buy books from Goodreads they just rate them so you can never prove if anyone actually bought the book or not. However, there are a ridiculous amount of trolls on there especially when it comes to a book everyone hated versus a book everyone loved. People are almost scared to rate a book wrong in comparison to someone else’s opinion. It drives me insane but doesn’t surprise me anymore.

    Great post Mischenko!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, I don’t think it’s wrong to remove them when people flat out say they didn’t read it. I know some people rate books on Amazon solely though, and I’m not sure about the verified purchase issue. I’ve had authors ask me to buy their books so the review goes down as verified. It seems wrong in a way though when I already have a physical copy anyhow? I guess that’s a post for another day, lol!

      You’re so right, there will always be trolls. I just think that it isn’t fair that they leave the 5-star reviews when some of those people never read it, they just want to support her.

      Regardless, I suppose if people want to read it, they will. I don’t always let ratings control my choice in reading…

      💖 Have a great weekend, Nel, and thanks for sharing your thoughts on it! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t know that this was something that had happened!! It’s an interesting topic! It does seem highly unlikely that many people would have read such a huge book in one night, but with all the craziness of the election…..I have no doubts that there were probably some people who did. I don’t think it’s fair to rate a book you’ve never read based on not liking the author. You can’t say that everything they ever wrote is awful just because you don’t like them. On the other hand though, I don’t know how I feel with Amazon just removing all the reviews. I see their point….but I just don’t know if it’s right or not. Great post and so thought provoking for 9 am on a Saturday😉🤓😅

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, it is thought-provoking isn’t it? I can’t say for sure what’s right because I suppose you can’t prove who read or didn’t read it. I would say yes to removing the reviews if they know for sure, like if the person says,”No, I didn’t read it.”

      It is a big book to read over night and I’d be willing to bet most of the people never read it. This happens too often though and those other authors have no-one to come to their aid!

      Thanks so much for letting us know your thoughts on it. It’s interesting reading the reviews on the book. Guess we’ll see how it all pans out. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think they removed the reviews if they didn’t say “something” specific about the book. I guess that’s what made it seem controversial even more, for me, because they were guessing. The rating system drives me nuts too when it comes to stuff like this and I’m not even an author! ❤ Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. starjustin

    Great post! Thoughts on the rating subject will more than likely always be a controversy. As far as the content of the book is concerned, not including any thoughts towards the author, I think the majority know why Hillary lost the election without reading the book. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. such things make me mad! i don’t understand why people would harm an author just because they don’t agree with them. why? just read the book and then rate it! but why that way? i don’t get it. if i don’t agree then i leave it at that.
    it’s kind of the same thing with hateful comments on booktube videos just because the booktuber doesn’t like the book. they get hateful comments and dislikes although people didn’t even watch the videos and heard the reasons from the booktuber.
    i don’t get that. if they didn’t read the book and even say that they didn’t, the review should be removed in my opinion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. Rating without reading is totally wrong and I’ve always felt that way. I think the reviews are going both ways with this book as far as 5-star ratings as well. It just isn’t fair, but what’s even more unfair to me, is that they are removing the reviews because it’s Hillary’s book, but what about every other book that’s been unfairly rated? It’s happened multiple times and they don’t seem to care about those books. That seems wrong to me… I guess it’s hard to control. Thanks so much for letting us know how you feel about it! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a fab post! I don’t know so much about Amazon.com but certainly .UK this is happening more frequently now across the board. They seem to be really hot on clamping down on “fake” reviews even to the point of removing some done by people who are genuine but just aren’t verified purchases. I know in an email they sent me they said they now monitor how many reviews you leave for products you haven’t purchased through them. I try and make sure I balance my reviews with a regular purchase review in there to keep them happy!
    Assuming that this book has only got the coverage of the removals because of who it is by, and equally the number of removals is because of who it is by. I would guess they removed a similar number of five star reviews as well. They certainly don’t discriminate in this policy from what I have seen over the months they have been doing it and I’m sure her fans had a lot to say as well as those who hate her!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, they sure have changed a lot about their review system in the last year. They’ll remove your review if you say you got the book for free too. It’s way more strict.

      I guess you pretty much figure most books have some fake ratings. I wish GR was as strict as Amazon, because too many authors are bashed for no reason. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Claire. 💜💖🖤

      Like

  8. Excellent post and reading the comments section here has been illuminating too- I entirely agree that no one should write a review for *any* book that they haven’t read, regardless who wrote it or what it’s about. That said, I do not think that they should remove the ratings- 1) because how can they tell who has and has not read the book unless someone directly says they haven’t (which sometimes people do) they might have preordered it on another site after all and 2) because they chose not to remove the positive ratings which were equally likely to have been fake. I find it interesting that someone in the comments also said that things like this is what makes them distrust institutions (I’m paraphrasing, hope I haven’t got it wrong), cos funnily enough, a quote I saw on many many sites both praising and criticising the book was from 1984- and someone with a literature degree, regardless of anything else, I wanted to thump her over the head with a copy of 1984 because she entirely misses the point of the book, saying: “The goal is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust towards exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence, ourselves” (of the scene when Winston is told to make 2+2=5) NO!! The book is anti-authoritarian at its heart- it is not designed to make you trust the media (or politicians who have been in power for 30+ years). Nor is that scene about trying to make you question logic- it is about making you blindly obedient so that you accept whatever the authority tells you is the truth. Seriously, if nothing else her literary analysis leaves a lot to be desired (and, had I read the book, I would have rated it one star for that alone- no one gets to insult Orwell’s memory like that) Sorry for the long comment!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was actually about say the same re your point 2… If they’re removing 1* reviews because the review or comment says they haven’t read the book, they should do the same for 2/3/4/5* reviews…
      The book, as well as the author is bound to pull a lot of contradicting comments here (see how I refrain from using reviews? 😀 ) and if anything, they should just go with Ryanair’s slogan here- bad publicity is publicity as well… hehehe 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I totally agree! I think removing ratings has to be tricky. How can they know that any of the people that rated it overnight truly read it regardless of the ratings they left? I’m all about fair, but I wish that these actions would be standard for all books and not just because of the author.

      Good point on the 1984 review as well. A lot of people don’t read reviews and in some cases, it’s obviously better that way. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post topic. I hadn’t heard about this. I have to say I agree with you about removal of both one star and 5 Star reviews, if they are from people who they cannot confirm bought or read the book. I also think the topic and the author are very hot button across the board. That probably explains the amount of publicity as well. But if they do it for one author they should do it for them all. Excellent piece and thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow, this is such a great topic. I read the comments above and they all have great points. I agree that in certain situations, such as this one, removing unverified purchases would be warranted. It should be all unverified users, not just the low rated ones. This is a very tricky thing though. Why for one book and not another? What about people who get the book from the library? Obviously if someone says in their review that they did not read the book, then remove it. A lot of questions come up and answers are not easy. I definitely need to think about this some more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carla, it’s so hard because how can they prove who read it and who didn’t? I rate on Amazon a lot and many are not verified purchases. It’s a tough one. This happens a lot and authors get slammed with bad reviews. I hope one day they’ll have it figured out. 💜 Thanks for sharing your take on it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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