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AmazonFail: The truth behind Amazon's homophobic weekend

Over the weekend, hundreds of gay and lesbian-themed books vanished from Amazon.com's search listings. The Internet cried censorship, but the truth is far more hum-drum

Last year, Microsoft was accused of censoring 'gay-sounding' gamertags on Xbox Live. A few months later, Apple's iTunes suffered a glitch that accidentally censored some song titles and artist names, despite neither being explicit. And now in 2009, it's Amazon's turn to wear the think-of-the-children hat.

Over the weekend, hundreds of gay and lesbian-themed books -- such as Heather Has Two Mommies and everyone's favourite, Daddy's Roommate -- vanished from Amazon.com's search listings. It appeared that the company was trying to make best-seller lists more family-friendly, and that the sales rank, which Amazon uses to list search results in order of popularity, of over 50,000 books were nullified.

Amazon, however, has since stated officially that it was merely a "ham-fisted cataloging error", and reports from anonymous Amazon.com employees confirm they were dragged from their Easter celebrations to fix the "screw-up".

A butterfly flapping its wings in Amazon's office...

In a world where putting a single full stop in the wrong part of a URL can send you to gay porn instead of your local police department's homepage, we're inclined to believe Amazon.

But our own conclusions didn't occur to thousands of angry Internet users over the weekend. And it didn't prevent a weekend of Amazon bashing, viral complaint-making via Twitter, and even the creation of a 20,000-member strong petition against the company's apparent hatred for all things gay.

"What's up Amazon? I used to love you! Are you now owned by Walmart?" asked one commenter, who should've known we'd have reported on such an enormous acquisition had it happened.

"It's bad enough when school children use the word 'gay' as a pejorative," another woefully presumptuous signatory argued, "[but] when a global Internet firm like Amazon does it, there is no excuse." We're yet to find out exactly who this person overheard Amazon calling gay. We thought this argument was about Amazon de-listing gay literature. But whatever.

Problem solved, stop whining

It seems the online retail giant has been making steps to rectify the fault. Titles reported to have previously been de-listed -- including Brokeback Mountain -- are now showing up in search results.

If there's one lesson Amazon should learn from the incident, it's that with Twitter around, your PR monkeys need to be scanning for hashtags faster than ever, and officially responding even faster still. And in a classroom close by, maybe the Internet could learn to jump to more logical conclusions than 'AMAZON HATES GAYS! OMGWTF!'