The book, When Harry Became Sally by Ryan T. Anderson, was an Amazon bestseller. Its description says it provides “thoughtful answers to questions arising from our transgender moment” and “a balanced approach to public policy on gender identity, and a sober assessment of the human costs of getting human nature wrong.”
The book has been on sale for three years.
Amazon has banned books in the past, the works mostly focused on conspiracy theories and debunking the Holocaust. The Amazon web services also recently banned conservative website Parler from its services, and has deplatformed other conservative websites.
In the letter to Bezos, the Republican senators asked for further information on why Amazon pulled the latest title. It is also no longer on Kindle or Audible.
The senators claimed Amazon was “openly signaling to conservative Americans that their views are not welcome on its platforms.”
Amazon has not commented on the letter or given reasons on the removal.
The company has previously said that it reserves the right not to sell certain content based on its content guidelines for books. “All retailers make decisions about what selection they choose to offer and we do not take selection decisions lightly,” a statement read.
A spokesman for Encounter Books, the publisher of When Harry Became Sally, told the Wall Street Journal it had been removed for violating Amazon’s content guidelines.
Amazon outlined in its publishing guidelines what it won’t sell: “We don’t sell certain content including content that we determine is hate speech, promotes the abuse or sexual exploitation of children, contains pornography, glorifies rape or pedophilia, advocates terrorism, or other material we deem inappropriate or offensive.”
The Amazon ban has had a salubrious effect on the books sales at other outlets. The print edition of the book is sold out on Barnes and Noble’s website and reached number 3 on their list of the top 100 digital books earlier in the week.
The full letter by the Senators to Bezos:
Dear Mr. Bezos:
We write regarding Amazon’s recent political censorship activities, particularly the decision to remove the book When Harry Became Sally by conservative scholar, Ryan Anderson, from the Amazon website, Kindle, and Audible platforms. Over the past 72 hours, Amazon has been unable to provide a sufficient explanation as to how Anderson’s book, which reached the top of two of Amazon’s best-seller lists before it was even released in 2018, supposedly violated a vague, undefined ‘offensive content’ standard.
When Harry Became Sally prompted important discussions in the national media and among policymakers in 2018, and remains one of the most rigorously researched and compassionately argued books on this subject. By removing this book from its marketplaces and services, Amazon has unabashedly wielded its outsized market share to silence an important voice merely for the crime of violating woke groupthink.
The internet is at its best when it is an open marketplace of ideas that brings people together to share, learn from one another, and engage in a range of commercial activities. Many Americans have come to rely on online retail more than ever before to meet their basic needs, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In its decision to remove Mr. Anderson’s book from its platforms, Amazon has openly signaled to conservative Americans that their views are not welcome on its platforms. Amazon’s shortsighted censorship of this well-researched and thoughtful contribution to modern American discourse is not just a decision made in poor taste, but an assault on free speech that carries weighty implications for the future of open discourse in the digital age.
In its decision to remove Mr. Anderson’s book from its platforms, Amazon neglected this duty and openly signaled to conservative Americans that their views are not welcome on its platforms. We request answers, along with supporting documentation, including communication with other technology companies and members of the Biden Administration, to the following questions to clarify the intentions and extent of the actions taken by Amazon to censor speech:
Did Amazon have any discussions in 2018 before When Harry Became Sally was first published regarding the content as it related to your community standards? If so, please provided documentation that explains why the book was allowed on the platform at the time.
What was the motivating factor behind Amazon’s decision to remove access to this book after hosting it for sale for over three years? Is this action part of a broader campaign against conservative material and voices on Amazon’s platforms?
Did the book violate an Amazon policy? If so, please provide documentation related to the policy, which passages Amazon identified as ‘offensive content,’ and the step by step process under which the determination to remove the book was made.Did the policy change between 2018 and now? If so, please provide documentation that led to the change and how publishers and sellers were notified of the change.
Was the author or the publisher of the book or given advance warning of the book’s removal from Amazon’s platforms? Were they provided with a reason for the removal or a form of recourse?
Amazon Web Services hosts countless websites related to religious, politically conservative, classically liberal, and other content that falls outside the realm of acceptable woke groupthink. Are these sites at risk of being denied service by Amazon? How does the determination of which site to host compare to that of which books to remove from Amazon’s platforms?
We would appreciate a reply no later than March 9, 2021. Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.
Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Mike Braun (R-IN)
Josh Hawley (R-MO)