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‘The author is an a**hle’: Goodreads Bans Behavior-based Comments

By Harriet Staff


We awoke today to find that Goodreads, the site dedicated to community book reviews, has changed its terms of service and deleted comments focused on author behavior. And what sort of behavior, pray tell? Kara Erickson, Goodreads’s Director of Customer Care, spells it out: “The reviews that have been deleted — and that we don’t think have a place on Goodreads — are reviews like ‘the author is an a**hole and you shouldn’t read this book because of that.’” Melville House’s Kirsten Reach covers the story, writing:

[Deleting content focused on author behavior] raises a question about the role of authorship: how much does author behavior change a reader’s experience? If the author comes off as an idiot online, do we dismiss the work? What about behavior offline — how important is an author’s behavior in relationship to his work?

Likely intended to be a step to protect authors from online bullying, the new policy didn’t go over well with the Goodreads community. In over 2,000 comments, users argued that an author’s behavior is a valid reason for leaving a negative review of a book, and articulated some variation on the point that authors might harass readers themselves with no recourse from Goodreads.

Issues around comment moderation seem to always hover around the dreaded “c” word (censorship). Erickson addresses this by writing: “Someone used the word censorship to describe this. This is not censorship — this is setting an appropriate tone for a community site. We encourage members to review and shelve books in a way that makes sense for them, but reviews and shelves that focus primarily on author behavior do not belong on Goodreads.” If you think the latest move to take down behavior-based comments is a bummer, remember that users are still reeling from this previous ban. Bummer.

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Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.