Amazon Bans, Then Reinstates, Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ The retailer is trying to do two contradictory things: Ban hate literature but allow free speech.

Can’t be on both sides of the fence, particularly given its size and dominance, and company clearly has difficulty in being clear about its content guidelines, admittedly hard to develop and apply consistently:

Amazon quietly banned Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf” late last week, part of its accelerating efforts to remove Nazi and other hate-filled material from its bookstore, before quickly reversing itself.

The retailer, which controls the majority of the book market in the United States, is caught between two demands that cannot be reconciled. Amazon is under pressure to keep hate literature off its vast platform at a moment when extremist impulses seem on the rise. But the company does not want to be seen as the arbiter of what people are allowed to read, which is traditionally the hallmark of repressive regimes.

Booksellers that sell on Amazon say the retailer has no coherent philosophy about what it decides to prohibit, and seems largely guided by public complaints. Over the last 18 months, it has dropped books by Nazis, the Nation of Islam and the American neo-Nazis David Duke and George Lincoln Rockwell. But it has also allowed many equally offensive books to continue to be sold.

An Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement on Tuesday that the platform provides “customers with access to a variety of viewpoints” and noted that “all retailers make decisions about what selection they choose to offer.”

“Mein Kampf” was first issued in Germany in 1925 and is the foundational text of Nazism. The Houghton Mifflin edition of “Mein Kampf,” continuously available in the United States since 1943, was dropped by Amazon on Friday.

“We cannot offer this book for sale,” the retailer told booksellers that had been selling the title, according to emails reviewed by The New York Times.

After disappearing for a few days, “Mein Kampf” is once again being sold directly by Amazon. But secondhand copies and those from third-party merchants appear to be still prohibited, a distinction that sellers said made no sense.

But on Amazon’s subsidiary AbeBooks, which operates largely independently, hundreds of new and used copies of “Mein Kampf” are available.

“It’s ridiculous how the greatest e-commerce company in the world has such lousy control of their platforms,” said Scott Brown, a California bookseller who sells on Amazon. “They somehow can’t prevent price gouging and they can’t prevent people from selling counterfeit goods and they can’t manage to — or don’t want to — effectively implement a Nazi ban.”

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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