TROLL TOLL

Amazon has quietly restricted reviews for its most controversial products

Amazon seems to be putting extra effort toward keeping trolls and fake reviewers off the page for Michael Wolff’s controversial new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Reviews have been unexpectedly civil and almost entirely from verified purchasers—both highly unusual for such an inflammatory book.

The company is taking an extra step regarding comments on some of its more hot-button offerings, requiring reviewers to make bonafide purchases before they can rate an item. Fire and Fury is one such product:

Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 9.41.24 AM
(Quartz/Thu-Huong Ha)

“Our systems are designed to detect and prevent reviews that violate our guidelines, and when certain conditions are met, we suppress all non-Amazon Verified Purchase (AVP) reviews on the product,” an Amazon spokesperson tells Quartz over email. “[Amazon Customer Reviews] are meant to help customers by providing real feedback on a product from other customers who have tried it.”

Amazon declined to comment on when it started using this system, or to provide detail on how it decides which items are eligible. It’s not clear if these restrictions are placed permanently.

Here’s a look at what appears to be affected at the moment, and what’s not:

Books that can’t be reviewed without a verified purchase

  • Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff
  • To Siri with Love, by Judith Newman

Items that can’t be reviewed without a verified purchase

  • Donald Trump Toilet Paper
  • Make America Great Xmas: Porcelain Circle Ornament

Controversial books that can be reviewed without a verified purchase

  • The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer
  • Handbook for Mortals, by Lani Sarem
  • A Birthday Cake for George Washington, by Ramin Ganeshram, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
  • What Happened, by Hillary Clinton

Amazon has been trying to crack down on its reviews problem overall, not just in its vulnerability to trolls, but also to bots and paid reviews. But the fact that Amazon doesn’t implement a review system based only on verified purchases across the entire site is a testament to how important it has become as a central place for reviews. People who use Amazon like Yelp for stuff—by reviewing things on the site regardless of where they have been purchased—would miss out on a place to put their ire and enthusiasm; so would the people who go looking for those comments.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search