BY PETR SVAB March 1, 2021 Updated: March 2, 2021

Amazon has adopted a rule against books that contain anything the company labels as “hate speech.” It appears there was no announcement of the new rule. It was only noticed by media after the online retailer recently banned a book that criticizes transgender ideology.

People stand in the lobby of Amazon offices in New York on Feb. 14, 2019. (Mark Lennihan/AP Photo)

It isn’t clear what Amazon means by “hate speech” or even if it used that label to drop that particular book. In general parlance, Americans hold widely diverging views on what constitutes hate speech, a 2017 Cato poll found. Some tech platforms describe it as speech that disparages people based on characteristics such as race, gender, and sexual proclivities. But insider evidence indicates the companies aren’t clear on where to draw the lines, perpetually redraw them, and at least in some instances ignore violations when politically convenient.

“As a bookseller, we provide our customers with access to a variety of viewpoints, including books that some customers may find objectionable,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.

“That said, we reserve the right not to sell certain content as described in our content guidelines for books, which you can find here. All retailers make decisions about what selection they choose to offer, and we do not take selection decisions lightly.”

The statement omitted that the $1.5 trillion company changed the rules sometime after Aug. 10, 2020, apparently without telling its customers.

Previously, Amazon prohibited “products that promote, incite, or glorify hate or violence towards any person or group,” but explicitly stated the policy didn’t apply to books.

Its book policy used to contain no mention of “hate speech,” according to a version of the page archived on Aug. 10. It mentioned that Amazon reserved “the right not to sell certain content, such as pornography or other inappropriate content.”

The current “Content Guidelines for Books” includes a section against “Offensive Content” that reads: “We don’t sell certain content including content that we determine is hate speech, promotes the abuse or sexual exploitation of children, contains pornography, glorifies rape or pedophilia, advocates terrorism, or other material we deem inappropriate or offensive.”

The Amazon spokesperson wouldn’t respond to emailed questions on when the policy was adopted, what constitutes “hate speech,” and how Amazon’s customers were informed about the change.

The change apparently occurred prior to Feb. 24 when JustTheNews reported on the new policy. The report followed the banning of “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment,” a 2018 book by Ryan Anderson, president of the Washington-based think tank Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Amazon purged the book around Feb. 21, though the exact timing is hard to pinpoint since the book’s author only learned about the move from people who were looking for the book, he told the Daily Caller.

Anderson couldn’t get an explanation from Amazon on why his book was banned.

“A week after they removed my book, Amazon still refuses to say which aspect of their ‘content policy’ the book violates (after three years of not violating that policy). And they refuse to say which page of the book commits the offense,” he wrote in a Feb. 26 tweet.

The book argues that the push to encourage individuals who feel like a different gender to undergo sex-change procedures is driven by ideology rather than sound medical advice, according to Princeton University politics lecturer Matthew Franck, who reviewed it in 2018.

The book disappeared around the same time Anderson published an op-ed in the New York Post critical of a bill pushed by the Biden administration that would insert sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Amazon didn’t respond to a previous inquiry by The Epoch Times as to why the book was removed.

Transgender ideology has become one of the focal points of far-left, progressive politics. It fuses discussion of the severe quality-of-life issues faced by transgender individuals with the quasi-Marxist “intersectional” critical theories that divide society into “oppressors” and the “oppressed” based on characteristics such as race and “gender identity.”Follow Petr on Twitter: @petrsvab