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Tuesday, 14 April 2009 03:20

Hacker claims credit for Amazon "glitch"

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The removal of gay-themed books from Amazon's sales rankings was apparently the result of a hacker manipulating Amazon's complaint mechanism.

The delisting was first noticed by author Mark R. Probst , who noticed that lots of gay- and lesbian-themed books -- including one of his -- had lost their Amazon sales rankings.

Amazon's initial explanation was that "adult" material was excluded from sales rankings.

The question for Probst was why all gay-themed books seemed to have been suddenly caught up in the "adult" category, even if they weren't sexual in nature.

Word spread quickly once book critic Bethanne Patrick tweeted about it, and the hashtag #amazonfail quickly became one of the top Twitter topics.

The news was picked up by gay and mainstream media alike, who besieged Amazon with question about why the company seemed to be targeting such books regardless of their actual content.

Amazon eventually issued a statement blaming the de-rankings on a "glitch" that they were working hard to correct.

CONTINUED Page 2



Now comes the news that a hacker calling himself "Weev" is claiming responsibility for the assault on gay literature.

Posting on LiveJournal , the hacker explained how and why he messed with Amazon's rankings.

To hear him tell it, his motivation was to get back at homosexuals on Craigslist who would flag his ads looking for women to do heroin with. (Seriously.)

According to his boasting post, he wrote a script to extract the IDs of gay- and lesbian-themed books on Amazon.

Armed with those, he then created hundreds of dummy accounts on Amazon and used another script to report all the books as inappropriate content. The result: automatic de-ranking.

Amazon has not yet confirmed that this was the source of the issue, though it has been reported that the "inappropriate content" tagging feature has been removed from the site.


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