In what many have dubbed a flagrant intervention by Amazon itself to seemingly boost the rating of Hillary Clinton's new book "What Happened", the Telegraph first reported, and subsequently many others observed first hand, that Amazon has been monitoring and deleting 1-star reviews of Hillary Clinton's new book "which was greeted with a torrent of criticism on the day it was released."
Reviews of What Happened have been mixed, with some accusing Clinton of using it as an opportunity to blame others – such as former FBI head James Comey, Bernie Sanders, Vladimir Putin, social media and pretty much everything else – for her failure, rather than herself. Even The New York Times, which supported Clinton's campaign, wrote that the book is "a score-settling jubilee".
What is fascinating, is how few one-star reviews have remained on the website amid reports and screengrabs showing that reviewers used the space to criticise the former First Lady. One 1-star review, which remained on the website earlier today, read: "Read all the promotional excerpts, which combined come close to book length – pretty good novel. It is fiction, isn't it? Surely, someone is playing a joke." Another wrote "Picked this book up at Wal-Mart out of sheer morbid curiosity. Returned it, claiming I bought the wrong book"
While this is not the first time Amazon has intervened to "adjust" the ratings of its products - in November negative comments under a book by anti-Trump broadcaster Megyn Kelly appeared to be removed by the retailer - it has rarely "adjusted" reviews of such a prominent product so publicly.
Speaking to Fortune, an Amazon spokesperson said: "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 and we remove customer reviews that violate our community guidelines."
And for those who find such intervention hard to believe, here is what Amazon's intervention looks like chronologically on Wednesday.
First, courtesy of the way back machine, here is the rating breakdown as of 10:31am:
... As of 14:55pm
... and what it looks like right now: over 97% of the reviews are now 5 star, with over 1,000 reviews deleted. As of 5:30pm, of the 445 total review, 438 reviews were positive, and 7 (as of 5:30pm_ were critical. The latter number inexplicably keeps doing down.
To be sure, one can claim that neither the 1-star nor the 5-star reviews are legitimate, and were merely a partisan effort seeking to amass an either extremely negative or positive view of Clinton's book, however Amazon's decision to engage in a wholesale deletion of what appears to be uniformly low ratings will likely raise at least a few eyebrows.