Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sorry, Its Not a Free Speech Issue

Amazon is under fire for selling a book titled The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure.  They defend their decision to sell the e-book on the grounds that not selling something a book because of the content is censorship.


I am definitely on the side of free speech, but Amazon has got this one wrong.  I believe that censorship by the government is wrong.  If the U.S. or another government tried to censor such a book, then there would be real free speech questions involved.  I might even find myself in the position of defending the legal right to publish of such a repulsive 


This is plain and simply about Amazon's choice to sell a product or not.  While they have the legal right to sell this book, they are not required to do so.  Just as it is Amazon's legal right to sell the book, so is it the legal right of consumers to show their displeasure with that decision.  If that displeasure is in the form of boycotting Amazon and its products, it could be a costly one for the online retailer.


Amazon may think that it is defending an important principle; that a book should be available even if it deals with an extremely unpopular or even repulsive topic.  Ultimately, however, Amazon is not an advocacy group, it is a business with shareholders and customers.  If decides to keep selling this title, which will likely sell very few copies, it might find that its principles are very expensive indeed, and those don't go well on the balance sheet.   

1 comment:

rackedout said...

Apparently Amazon already pulled the title.