Horror writers are made of stern stuff, you’d think. But apparently they find online bullying as creepy as anyone. The Horror Writers Association (HWA) (www.horror.org) has just added its voice to the series of calls on Amazon to end aggressively negative – and anonymous – reviewing online. Under the HWA’s own very atmospheric online banner, it looks like “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore … anonymity’.”

In the form of a “Public Letter to Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon.com,” the call, attributed to Rocky Wood, President, states that: “We are writing to bring to your attention the fact that Amazon’s customer review policy does not go far enough to protect authors and publishers from bullying, harassment and inappropriate reviews.” The HWA focuses particularly, “beyond profanity and spitefulness,” on practices such as reviewing without reading or from small samples, including spoilers, personally insulting the author, or criticizing the price.

Additionally, the HWA letter continues, “we recommend that Amazon strengthen its customer review policy to address the above issues and also require customers reveal their actual identity, which removes the cover of anonymity that enables trolling and the ability to simple re-enter the system under a new identity once banned.” Arguing the benefits, it states: “Enacting a stronger policy to ensure greater fairness in customer views would deliver significant benefits to Amazon. Publishers and authors will be more supportive of Amazon. Amazon’s customers will appreciate more useful reviews. Amazon itself will convey a more positive shopping experience and public image. By protecting its suppliers against those few who have exploited its reviewer policies and anonymity to engage in and bullying behavior, Amazon will be protecting its customers and itself.”

The HWA letter makes no mention of the benefits of anonymity as detailed elsewhere by Joe Konrath and others, only linking this level of online privacy to “anonymous people who are exhibiting trolling behavior.” Anne Rice, herself essentially a horror author, is one of the highest-profile advocates so far of a more restrictive Amazon reviews policy, so it is probably no surprise to see the HWA essentially endorsing her point of view.

It’s also interesting to note that what originally started off on Change.org as a petition linked to abuse of self-published authors publishing through Kindle Direct Publishing now appears to have broadened into a push to tighten policing of all Amazon review boards of any kind at all. Watch this (review/comment) space …


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