Goodreads, censorship, and the First Amendment

As if there is anyone in the book world that hasn’t heard yet, the website Goodreads has established a new policy about book reviews and comments posted to their site. To save you from clicking and reading their whole post on the subject, it really boils down to one thing:

Review the book, not the author.

This, of course, caused many people to start screaming “censorship” because how dare Goodreads tell them what they can say in a book review. It also caused one of my favorite lines to pop up, the one where people say that Goodreads is violating their right to free speech. I love it when people hide behind the First Amendment because most people have no idea what it means. So for those that might not have seen it in awhile, here it is in all its glory:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Congress.

That’s the key word. Congress. The government can’t pass laws abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, but nothing there says Goodreads can’t on their website. Goodreads, just like every other website out there, establishes what it allowed on their webpages and what is not. Their webhost likely has limitations that Goodreads has to follow, which is their webhosts right under the First Amendment. Goodreads in turn decides what’s acceptable on their site, which is their right under the First Amendment.

This blog is hosted by WordPress. There is a litany of things that’s not allowed on their site. By signing up for the site I agree to follow their rules. In the comment section here I can decide what’s allowed and what is not. Yet no one I know is complaining when I don’t allow a particular comment here, nor do I hear much chatter about WordPress not allowing certain content on their site. What would make Goodreads any different?

If you feel you need to attack a writer as opposed to their works, there are lots of sites that allow that. Goodreads has decided they will no longer accept that sort of content. The saddest part of this is they felt they needed to change their rules to ban that sort of content. Wouldn’t it just be better if people didn’t bother to post those worthless kind of reviews anyway?

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One thought on “Goodreads, censorship, and the First Amendment

  1. The way I get around not talking about authors on Goodreads is stop reading their books if they turn out to be not to my taste. There have been a few and a couple that seem to have lost their way over the years.

    I won’t name names of course, but that’s how I do it.

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