Amazon Sells Everything… Or Do They?

Amazon Sells Everything... Or Do They?


Yesterday’s article by Michael Brown at The Stream brings to attention an interesting development about Amazon. Amazon has banned the sale of the book Mohammed’s Koran: Why Muslims Kill for Islam. Brown quotes Robert Spencer, who has authored his own scholarly works critiquing the Koran, who says that the banned book “endeavors to illustrate how violent jihadists justify their actions by referring to Islamic texts and teachings—and that’s all. [The authors] call for no violence. Their book is accurate.”

Brown asks: why did Amazon choose to ban this book, as opposed to numerous other books that are much more aggressive, violent, and offensive? Will they stop with this book, or will they ban more and more books that teach politically incorrect ideas?

This case raises questions about interacting with culture. Doesn’t Amazon have the right to sell, or not sell, whatever books they want? What does their decision to ban this book mean for how interact with the market? Should we, as Christians, do business with companies who may be hostile towards what we believe? Does refusing to sell books one disagrees with count as hostility?

Similar cases have come up with other major companies, such as when Facebook and YouTube have blocked or restricted content produced by PragerU and other conservative groups. YouTube and Facebook have, on multiple occasions, apologized for these restrictions, suggesting that they were mistakes in the system. It’s interesting that these “mistakes” keep happening with heavily-trafficked conservative videos.

There are many questions to sort out and many different cases to look at, each putting its own twist the story of cultural interaction. It’s important to keep in mind that these major companies, who seemingly host all of the world’s content, may not be showing us everything.

Brown says:

“By banning this book, Amazon is opening up one of two possibilities: Either Amazon will not be consistent, thereby demonstrating extreme hypocrisy. Or Amazon will start banning many other books, leading to a very dangerous precedent.”