Amazon Recommends Adoption Over Abortion

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.

Comments

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  1. Danilo says:

    Man.

    “And why didn’t he know he’d have an easier time in the dumpster behind the nearest sorority?”

    Awful. Beyond. Words.

    You know you’re dealing with something special when you find anything at all on the internet that can still red-line your written-in-poor-taste-o-meter.

    If last week’s Pizza Church angry letter was any indication, you’ll probably hear a word or two about this post. But while I cringe as I read that bit, I exhort you to keep doing what you’re doing. Yeah, I’m pretty sure a line was crossed there, but I think that’s okay. Everything is funnier when nothing is sacred.

  2. airship says:

    I recently searched for ‘The Consumerist’ on Amazon, and it asked ‘Did you mean an abortion?’ Just what the heck are they trying to imply by that?

  3. CTSLICK says:

    I’ll admit the “And why didn’t he know he’d have an easier time in the dumpster behind the nearest sorority?” pushed me over my personal poor taste limits…but I also have to recognize that the folks at The Consumerist do try to be fair and give everyone an equal opportunity to be offended. Mission accomplished!

  4. Transuranic says:

    Jokes aside (I know, is there EVER a time for jokes to step aside)…

    Amzn’s explanation is quite defensible. The two words adoption and abortion occur at different frequencies in search results, and one does likely occur in conjunction with the other from a semantic standpoint.

    As for the discrepancy, I’m pretty sure that their usage environments will bear out why one is suggested and the other isn’t adoption has bigger currency. “Adoption” can occur in reference to humans and pets both, but “abortion” occurs solely in reference to people (“Did you mean PET ABORTION?”) To be fair, we do use the verb “abort” – alongside “rocket launch” or “mission” – but I’d argue you’d hear the unmodified verb more often than the noun in this context.

    Unless you’re in South Dakota maybe.

  5. Kat2 says:

    I can’t get over that it was a minister who complained that it was offensive. What, does he support abortion? Or does he feel it’s “shaming” to his parishioners who have had abortions and repented? Or maybe this:

    Expanding on Transuranic’s comment, in nursing school we were taught to be very careful, because the word “abortion” on a patient’s chart means any aborted pregnancy, which includes miscarriages.

  6. x23 says:

    “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.””

    to the reactionary layman that may seem wholly offensive… until you realize a major subtext of the movie “Planet Of The Apes” dealt with racism. hell… the entire movie is basically an allegorical tale of a racist society.

    Wal-Mart was stupid to remove it. and anyone who complained was even more stupid.

    it is almost more offensive / racist having removed seeing as it forces the statement of “black people are like apes” … wherein before you could have simply explained to the idiots complaining that they are just dense and that the movie IS about racism. just not in a blatant dumb-downed way.

    though i always thought it was pretty freaking clear. nuclear war / space travel / racism … a veritable cornucopia of ’60s themes.

  7. OkiMike says:

    No doubt, the minister was seeking to “know thy enemy”.