Amazon Gay Book Removal Was Massive Prank, I Did It, Claims Troll

UPDATE: Former Employee Says AmazonFail Caused By The French (Well, By One Of Them At Least)

An online miscreant named Weev is taking credit for this weekend’s fiasco where reams of GLBT books were removed from Amazon sales ranking, sparking a massive online riot. Weev, pictured, says he organized an army of off-shore computer users to make a bunch of fake Amazon accounts and flag all the gay and lesbian books they could as inappropriate. Also, he got several friends with high-trafficked websites to embed an iframe code that made their visitors automatically send the flags without their knowledge. If true, this recent post by a formerly profligate troller provides insight. However, no one can verify Wee’s claims as Amazon appears to have deactivated all the ways he used to ply his prank. It’s hard to trust a professional liar like Weev, even the idea’s plausibility doesn’t speak well for Amazon.

This is how he said he did it:

Via Gawker:

Hay dude. Amazon removed its customer-based reporting of adult books yesterday. I guess my game is up! Here’s a nice piece I like to call “how to cause moral outrage from the entire Internet in ten lines of code”.

I really hate reputation systems based on user input. This started a while back on Craigslist, when I was trying to score chicks to do heroin with. My listings like “looking to get tarred and pleasured” and “Searching for a heroine to do the paronym of this sentence’s lexical subject” kept getting flagged. The audacity of the San Francisco gay community disgusted me. They would flag my ads down but searching craigslist for “pnp” or “tina” reveals tons of hairy dudes searching for other hairy dudes to do meth with. So I decided to get them back, and cause a few hundred thousand queers some outrage.

I’m logged into Amazon at the time and see it has a “report as inappropriate” feature at the bottom of a page. I do a quick test on a few sets of gay books. I see that I can get them removed from search rankings with an insignificant number of votes.

I do this for a while, but never really get off my ass to scale it until recently.

So I script some quick bash.
#!/bin/bash
let count = 1
while true; do
links -dump ‘http://www.amazon.com/s/qid=0/?ie=ASCII&rs=1000&keywords=Gay_and_Lesbian&rh=n%3A!1000%2Ci%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3AHomosexuality&page=’`echo $count`|grep /dp/ >> /tmp/amazon
((count++))
done

There’s some quick code to grab all the Gay and Lesbian metadata-tagged books on amazon. Then I pull out all the IDs of the given books from those URLs:

cat /tmp/amazon |sed s/.*dp/// |sed s//ref.*//

and I have a neat little list of the internal product ID of every fag book on Amazon.

Now from here it was a matter of getting a lot of people to vote for the books. The thing about the adult reporting function of Amazon was that it was vulnerable to something called “Cross-site request forgery’. This means if I referred someone to the URL of the successful complaint, it would register as a complaint if they were logged in. So now it is a numbers game.

I know some people who run some extremely high traffic (Alexa top 1000) websites. I show them my idea, and we all agree that it is pretty funny. They put an invisible iframe in their websites to refer people to the complaint URLs which caused huge numbers of visitors to report gay and lesbian items as inappropriate without their knowledge.

I also hired third worlders to register accounts for me en masse. If you ever need a service like that, you can find them in a post like this advertising in the comments:

http://ha.ckers.org/blog/20070427/solving-captchas-for-cash/

Then they would log into the accounts, save the cookies in a cookie file and send it to me.

Then I used the cookie files like so to automated-report all the books:

for i in `cat /tmp/amazon |sed s/.*dp/// |sed s//ref.*//`; do lynx -cookie_file=/home/avex/cookie1 http://www.amazon.com/ri/product-listing/`echo $i`/;done

The combination of these two actions resulted in a mass delisting of queer books being delisted from the rankings at Amazon.

I guess my game is up, but 300+ hits on google news for amazon gay
and outrage across the blogosphere
ain’t so bad.

Why It Makes Sense That a Hacker’s Behind Amazon’s Big Gay Outrage [Gawker]
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