Censorship on Amazon?
A curious thing happened following the recent publication of my book, “Cancer and EMF Radiation.” I hit an unforeseen snag that hampered my ability to spread the message that non-native electromagnetic fields are a significant human carcinogen.
Being my first book, I’ve had to learn a great many things about the book industry. The time had come for the promotion stage of the book launch, and I became busy implementing various marketing strategies from self-publishing experts. One decision was to invest a small daily budget through Amazon Advertising for the book to appear as a sponsored product should a customer search for keywords associated with the content of the book.
The process is simple and cost-effective (charging only for clicks instead of impressions as with Facebook advertising). After the book was uploaded and the metadata complete, I began with a single basic ad. Amazon Advertising offers the option of creating a “standard ad” or “custom ad text,” the latter granting 150 characters of space for a short blurb. Most authors choose custom ad text and employ their copywriting skills to pique the interest of curious readers. After several revisions I settled on this question/statement text for an ad:
Is the signal from a cellphone a carcinogen? Review the science and learn evidence-based strategies to lower your cancer risk.
A reasonable assertion—or so I thought. It didn’t take long to receive a response letting me know my ad was rejected. Confusion set in: Why would these two sentences be rejected? I’m simply stating the thesis of the book.
Amazon Advertising moderates all ads following submission, reserving the right to reject any proposal. Befuddled (and a little belligerent), I settled myself to compose an email to ascertain Amazon’s rationale for rejection. Here’s the response I received:
Thanks for contacting us. We’ve determined that your ad is not appropriate for all audiences.
We review ads on a case-by-case basis and reserve the right to not run ads that contain elements that may not be appropriate for all audiences. This may include non-fiction content on preventing/fighting/healing/curing sensitive diseases such as cancer, personal health issues, etc.
Your book titled “Cancer and EMF Radiation: How to Protect Yourself from the Silent Carcinogen of Electropollution” is a non-fiction book related to the prevention of cancer. Since cancer is a sensitive health [issue], ads related to it may not be appropriate for all audiences, and therefore your ad is not suitable for advertisement as per a recent update in our policies.
Apparently language pertaining to the prevention of cancer is not appropriate for all audiences. Seriously? How is preventing cancer NOT appropriate for EVERYONE?!
Acknowledging that Amazon is a private company that makes and changes policies as it sees fit, I don’t view the ad moderation as infringement of freedom of speech. I don’t think it’s censorship either. Amazon is responding to external pressures that reflect the legal stickiness surrounding cancer. Anything outside of the conventional orthodoxy for the diagnosis, treatment, or in this case even prevention of cancer is off limits.
What are these external pressures, and what purpose do they serve? Information about cancer is disseminated to the public via the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with input from the National Institutes of Health (biomedical research). Policy is influenced formally and legally through lobbyists from various sectors of the medical industrial complex, including pharmaceutical companies (business) and organizations such as the American Medical Association (advocacy) and National Cancer Society (charity).
Collectively, these powers tightly regulate public perception of cancer’s cause and treatment. Presumably the rational is to ensure that only evidenced-based, conventional oncology is proffered—the sanctioned standard of care. Information outside the paradigm that inhibits strict adherence to the standard of care is a failure of that platform.
Although I accept this seemingly well-intentioned position (and by extension Amazon’s policy), I don’t agree with it. Information is power, and freedom of information is the freedom to be self-empowered—not because any one system of thought is right or wrong but because autonomy over one’s body and healthcare decisions should not be policed.