According to the New York Times,
- “Until a few days ago, a search of Amazon’s catalog of books using the word “abortion” turned up pages with the question, “Did you mean adoption?” at the top, followed by a list of books related to abortion.”
But faster than you can scream “Gestalt!”:
- “Amazon removed that question from database after receiving a complaint from the Rev. James Lewis, a retired Episcopalian minister in Charleston, W.Va. “I thought it was offensive,” he said. “It represented an editorial position on their part.”
But questions remain, like why was a minister searching for abortions on Amazon.com? And why didn’t he know he’d have an easier time in the dumpster behind the nearest sorority?
Find out the “real killer” after the jump…
- “Patty Smith, an Amazon spokeswoman, said there was no intent by the company to offer biased search results. She said the question “Did you mean adoption?” was an automated response based on past customer behavior combined with the site’s spelling correction technology.
She said Amazon’s software suggested adoption-related sources because “abortion” and “adoption” have similar spellings, and because many past customers who have searched for “abortion” have also searched for “adoption.””
Amazon seems to have deactivated their search recommendation system as our searches for things like “clingcling” and “pontole” resulted in nothing more humorous than “No results match your search for “someonetoholdme” in Amazon.com.”
Walmart ran into trouble in January, issuing a rare apology and taking down its entire cross-recommendation system when shoppers for “Martin Luther King: I Have a Dream” and “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson” were contextually recommended to buy “Planet of the Apes.”
Undoubtedly we’ll be seeing more of this type of stuff. More people with overdeveloped senses of righteous indignation will enter the market. They’ll bring along with them an inversely proportional sense of how online shopping works.