On the Goodreads Censorship

If you were on Twitter this afternoon, you probably saw your feed explode with rants and comments about Goodreads. In case you missed it, in this post Goodreads announced that it will now be deleting reviews and shelves that contain content related to author behavior. Many bloggers received emails that informed them their reviews/shelves had been deleted without any warning. 

To say this latest development on Goodreads is troubling is an understatement. Goodreads is supposed to be a reader community, a safe place where readers and reviewers can post their thoughts and opinions on the books they read and discuss books further with other users. Obviously, this is no longer the case. 

When Amazon purchased Goodreads back in March, many of us wondered what changes would occur and how they would affect us as readers. It is widely known that Amazon censors its reviews, so I suppose it could only be expected that Goodreads would follow suit after being acquired by Amazon.

What really makes me angry, however, isn’t just that Goodreads is deleting content without warning. It’s the fact that the censorship is arbitrary and very obviously pro-author. Steph and Kat from Cuddlebuggery said on their Twitter account that Goodreads deleted thirteen of their reviews and a “due to author” shelf, but NOT a “cool author” shelf. So apparently Goodreads users are only allowed to be complimentary and promotional towards authors now. 

I’m not saying that Goodreads should be a free-for-all with no monitoring whatsoever. As with any online environment, there is legitimately inflammatory, derogatory content that should be carefully monitored. But from what I can tell, that’s not the content Goodreads is censoring with this new policy change. Many users have shelves such as the ones Cuddlebuggery mentioned for personal use to keep track of what they do and don’t want to read. These shelves were in no way attacking authors.  Every reader has different reasons that contribute to his or her decision to pick up a specific book. Goodreads should NOT be deciding what is and isn’t a valid reason for choosing what to read. 

This just feeds into an alarming online trend that has people claiming that every single piece of critical analysis of a book is somehow bullying authors and should be censored. Saying that you don’t want to read a book because that author has fundamental views you disagree with or because that author has behaved poorly towards a reviewer IS NOT BULLYING. Negative reviews ARE NOT BULLYING. I get so upset when I see people tossing around the word “bully” at every little negative sentence when there are actual, legitimate cases of online bullying that harm individuals. For example, Ana of The Book Smugglers was recently falsely accused of bullying because of an interaction with an author. Does my saying that I won’t be picking up any of that author’s books because of how he acted count as bullying? NO. If I added his name to an “authors-to-stay-away-from” shelf on Goodreads, should it be deleted? NO NO NO NO NO.

Goodreads wasn’t supposed to be a place where authors sell you their books. That’s what online retailers and bookstores are for. Goodreads was supposed to be a place for readers to make their own decisions about whether or not they want to purchase a book based on WHATEVER REASONS THEY WANT. 

I have a feeling this censorship will drive away many of Goodreads’ top reviewers, the ones who supported the site and made it as popular as it is today.

If this is the final straw for you and you want to leave Goodreads, The Bookish Brunette compiled a great list of alternative sites. Of the ones mentioned, I’ve only tried Riffle and Libib and wasn’t satisfied with either. But with Goodreads alienating its users, perhaps these sites will be improving in the near future to meet the demand of people migrating their books and shelves over. 

What do you think of Goodreads’ latest announcement? Will you be sticking around or trying out an alternative? 

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16 thoughts on “On the Goodreads Censorship

  1. I 100% agree with everything you say here. It’s a shame that Goodreads is no longer a site for readers. It’s been taking steps away from that for a while, but this is a giant leap. I’ll be checking out that link of alternatives, but I already sorta did that back when Amazon bought them out, and I just don’t really like many of the other sites out there. So… I honestly don’t know what I’ll be doing. The new policy doesn’t (*shouldn’t*) affect me anyway, but I think it’s farther than they needed to go to combat the legitimate nastiness that is a SMALL part of the site, and I hate the sneak-attack way they went about doing it. Bad form, GR.

  2. I’m trying out Riffle. I really liked Goodreads, but I don’t want to support bad author behaviour (which is essentially what these new changes do).

    I’m probably not allowed to say that, either. :P

  3. I’m completely furious about the new changes, honestly. I feel like Goodreads has placated small children (badly behaving authors) having a temper tantrum in a supermarket. What happened to freedom of speech? I also follow Cuddlebuggery’s reviews, and I have never seen them bashing authors, they just explain why they didn’t like a book and give valid reasons to explain their complaints.

  4. I am actually a HUGE supporter of Goodreads but when I heard this, I was shocked and appalled… And I don’t even think I have any content like that. Deleting people’s content is taking it one step too far, ESPECIALLY without warning. I was really, really unhappy with that. I’ll stay on Goodreads because I do love the site itself, despite its management and really… I haven’t seen ANYTHING that comes close as far as content & organization go. Hopefully they’ll decide to change their policy to at least WARN people before deleting anything (not that that’s much better, but still)… I can understand eliminating comments that are legit bullying, but I don’t think they’ve clearly defined what that means and I also don’t think they’re really targeting ONLY “bullying” reviews. I’m just not happy with how they handled this at all.

    • Oh, but according to the Monday morning apology, they realize that “in retrospect” they should have given warning. From now on they will, and they apologize to the “21 members who were impacted.”

      Right… because THAT doesn’t smack of manipulation. There’s no way they couldn’t have seen this reaction coming, and there’s no way that only 21 people had reviews in “violation” of the new guidelines… so looks to me like they purposely only deleted things from a few users (high profile users, I’m sure… gotta get the word out), so they could come back and make it look like we’re overreacting.

    • I agree, they handled it terribly and their policy definitely needs to be more clearly defined. I’m sticking with Goodreads too because there just ins’t a comparable site out there yet.

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  7. Honestly, I’ll probably stick around. My reviews are all backed up on my blog, so if they start deleting them, I won’t lose anything for good. I will be paying attention to other sites to see if something better comes up that I could switch too, but for now I like goodreads functionality the best so I’m not in any hurry to move.

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