My friend Steven R. McEvoy has suffered the signature nightmare of our age. His long-term passion as an Amazon reviewer appears to have been “cancelled” by the powerful tech platform whose gatekeepers are unwilling to explain themselves.
Until a month or so ago, Steven was a Top 500 Amazon reviewer. In fact, I think I remember seeing him described as a Top 100 reviewer at one point. Reviewing books isn’t what he does for a living, but his 5,000+ reviews do represent countless hours of hard, honest work that’s added significant value to the reading world. And this writing isn’t quick and formulaic. From just the reviews he’s written of some of my technology books I can tell that he reads and thinks carefully about each book before writing about it.
So what happened? About a month ago, Amazon informed Steven that all of his reviews had been removed from the platform and he would no longer be permitted to use his account to leave new reviews, ratings, customer questions, or comments. he was initially told that his reviews broke “community standards.” When pushed for an explanation, Amazon changed their wording, now referring to “suspicious reviews” and accusing him of permitting other reviewers to use his account.
Now I’m fully aware of how much damage the fake review industry does to the book world and to Amazon’s platform in general. I generally support Amazon’s efforts to identify and crack down on those who try to game the system. But I just can’t see what how anyone could imagine that Steven’s reviews are in any way dishonest.
Steven assumes the “permitting other reviewers to use his account” suspicion is a product of the simple fact that he writes some reviews at his Canadian home, and others at work where his company uses a US-based IP address. His explanation – and insistence that he never takes payment for writing reviews – made no difference.
By the way, I can testify that I’ve never given Steven anything more than free review copies of my books (although if the rules did allow it, I would have been happy to pay him for his good work).
But he’s also deeply suspicious that that’s not what this is all about. You see, these days, being accused of breaking “community standards” sets off warning bells. Especially for Steven, considering that the majority of the books he reviews aren’t technology-oriented like my titles, but are books that serve as expressions of Steven’s own Catholic faith.
It seems likely that the complaints that sparked this cancellation were an attempt to silence the free expression of reasoned and reasonable religious inspiration. I’m not a Christian, but I would hate to live in a world where Christians are prevented from sharing thoughts of inspiration, morality, social responsibility, and love of community.
This isn’t the first time for Steven. Just a few months ago users “reported” 20 of Steven’s Catholic-related blog posts to Google. He appealed and won. He also beat an earlier Amazon ban back in 2017 via an email sent directly to Jeff Bezos. That hasn’t worked this time. But perhaps there’s someone reading this who can help. If enough calm, reasonable, and insistent voices are heard, perhaps we can help give Steven his full voice back.