Removing anonymity isn’t the answer for negative reviews

Chris Meadows wrote about Anne Rice and other authors signing a petition asking Amazon to do take care of forum trolls. There are people who want Amazon reviewers to write under their real full name when giving reviews. News sites have transitioned to do this in comments sections, making people sign up with Facebook to leave comments. But that hasn’t stopped people from being rude or nasty.

As I was lurking through the Amazon forums, I came upon a thread where reviewers discussed why they didn’t like the idea of taking away their anonymity. The reasons ranged from keeping their interests private from would-be Google searchers such as employers to not allowing the few to ruin everything for the rest. Another interesting point was brought up when some asked why authors were allowed to use pseudonyms but the reviewers would have to leave their full information.

There were also those that were concerned that a negative review with a real name could create a bigger problem from authors “fans” who bash negative reviewers. For now, those negative reactions to one- and two-star reviews stay online. But could they be taken offline if real names are used?

A negative review isn’t enough to out people’s names, but Amazon, which already has all the information on a person at its disposal, should handle abuse.

One of the forum members pointed out recent attacks on people who left negative reviews. A book “Crashed” came out a few days ago and already has 1,200 reviews with 1,151 (at the time I checked) of them five-star reviews. There were just seven one- and two-star reviews and those negative reviews were bashed by other Amazon accounts.

Here are examples of comments left to one-star reviewers:

You’re definitely reading the wrong genre. Do you see how many 5 star reviews that this books has? That should be a clue to you. Maybe you should stick with children’s books, I only know of children who use the word “yuck”.

The rest of your review has about has much substance as your first sentence… so I am sure anything else you’d have to say is equally as useless.

Judging by your other reviews I’m not totally sure why you read at all? Wouldn’t you be better off watching Nickelodean? You could sing along and dance and smile to your hearts content!

You obviously do not know a good story when it slaps you in the face..

Those weren’t all the comments; Amazon or the author deleted many of them. It’s nice to have people who are passionate about your work, but if I were an author whose fans acted that way, I would be embarrassed. People have a right to their opinion, and negative reviews are just part of what happens when you put something subjective – like a book – out for public consumption.

Rather than putting public names on these reviews, Amazon should take a harder stance on those whose comments are not constructive but belittling or rude. If 98 percent of the people like a book (that was the percentage given on Goodreads for Crashed) that should be more than enough for the fans. Instead of calling out those who didn’t care for the book, spend your time talking to people who did. You will greater enjoyment out of it that way.

3 Comments on Removing anonymity isn’t the answer for negative reviews

  1. You seem to miss the whole point here. This isn’t about legitimate reviews and reviewers.
    If a person leaves a comment that is a personal attack on an author that is not a book review and the person who left it is not a reviewer but a troll/bully. If a person leaves a 1-star no-read review, that is a fake review and the poster is not a reviewer but a troll.

    Due to the victim rich environment in the Amazon forums and Amazon’s refusal to address the troll problem there for six years the trolls have organized into stalker gangs who seek targets who are mostly indie authors and persue them across the internet.

    There is now a troll/bully culture that infests both Amazon and their property goodreads. The problem with anonymity is that many people can leave reviews for books they have neither bought or read. They game the system and have multiple accounts and use them all to post multiple bad reviews and ratings.

    The situation over at goodreads is even worse. Here they can rate books they have neither bought or read with multiple accounts. They do this to intentionally damage sales. If they get the rating on a book down to 3.5 stars it basically won’t come up in a search unless you specifically search for the title or the author. If I search for new horror my books will not appear. That is because my seven books on goodreads have over 250 malicious 1-star ratings all by people and socks who have neither bought or read a word I’ve written. The situation is so bad the goodreads API is a complete fraud. Neither goodreads nor Amazon will do a thing about it.

    So the problem as you report it is inconsequential to the damage done to sales by the organized attacks of troll/bullies who use the shield of anonymity as a weapon against authors in addition to the vicious personal attack in the Amazon forums and goodreads by people hiding behind aliases. As with other bully situations online Amazon won’t act until some poor soul is driven to suicide.

  2. Susan Lulgjuraj // March 9, 2014 at 6:15 pm //

    Thanks for the comment, Rick.

    I understand what you’re saying, but I think it should fall on Amazon to protect the people. Some of the above comments were left to reviewers who were listed as a verified purchaser of the product — meaning they bought it through Amazon and then left a comment. Does that guarantee they read the book? No, but it still shows they bought the book, which should entitle them to the right to their opinion.

    The other thing is that Amazon has the information on most of these people. You can’t leave reviews on the site until you make a purchase, which you would need a CC to do so with a name on it.

    I think opening it up and making people have to use their real name will limit the amount of reviews that show up on the site, and also open it up to people becoming more hostile offline. It may sound far-fetched, but this world is a crazy place.

    Goodreads is a different animal altogether.

  3. I absolutely agree that something needs to be done with the rabid fan-girls, trolls, and sockpuppets. Unfortunately, I have a pretty personal reason for not wanting my real name attached to reviews. I live in a very small community abound with judgmental people. I read/review, primarily, romance and erotic romance. If I were to attach my real name to my blog or my reviews I fear that with a simple Google search the simple-minded headhunters in my community would be out calling for my blood. It’s sad that I worry about things, but I have a school-aged child that I worry would be ostracized because of my reading tastes.
    *I know it may seem like I’m being dramatic, but, I assure you, I am not*

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