Reviewers hoping to share their thoughts on former FBI director James Comey’s new book A Higher Loyalty will have to have the conversation somewhere other than Amazon. The massive online retailer is limiting the ability to post reviews to those who purchased the book directly through its platform.
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Deadline first pointed out the limitation, which is preventing anyone who isn’t a “verified buyer” from leaving feedback on Comey’s tell-all autobiography. Reviewers who did not purchase the book from Amazon and try to leave a review are greeted with a message that reads, “Sorry, we are not able to accept your review of this product.”
According to the notification, only verified buyers can leave their thoughts on the book because Amazon has “detected unusual review behavior.” Amazon’s Community Guidelines explain the company sometimes limits non-Amazon Verified Purchase reviews when it detects “unusually high numbers of reviews for a product posted in a short period of time.”
It’s not the first time Amazon has implemented the reviewer restriction. Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff’s account from inside the Trump White House, and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election autopsy What Happened were treated with similar limitations.
While it’s not ideal to restrict who can leave a review on a product, there is a pretty clear reason why Amazon has instituted the policy. When it comes to major, politically charged releases like these, there is almost always a brigade of commenters ready to drown their political opponents in negative feedback, whether it is earned or not.
For evidence of that, look no further than the wildly pro-Donald Trump subreddit r/the_donald. Members of the community, who already object to Amazon because of Trump’s penchant for attacking the company, have been complaining about the inability to trash Comey’s book. It’s become a reliable source of upvotes to post a screenshot showing Amazon restricting reviews.
There has been some suggestion that Amazon is only restricting negative reviews on the book, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Attempting to leave a five-star review is greeted with the same message about reviews being limited.
At the time of publication, A Higher Loyalty has a total of 554 reviews and an average rating of 4.8 out of five stars. Eighty-nine percent of the reviews gave the book a five-star rating. Just five percent left a review of three stars or less.
That’s not significantly different from the scores it has received elsewhere. Over on Goodreads, which is owned by Amazon but does not have the same “verified buyer” restriction on its review process, Comey’s book has—for the time being—a 4.4-star rating with 1,492 reviews.