Amazon redacts one-star reviews of Hillary Clinton's What Happened

Hundreds of damning verdicts on memoir of 2016 presidential race, posted within hours of publication, have been removed by the online bookseller

Hundreds of one-star reviews of Hillary Clinton’s memoir What Happened, which appeared online within hours of the 512-page book’s publication, have been removed from Amazon.

What Happened, in which Clinton gives her account of the 2016 presidential campaign, was published on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, there were more than 1,500 reviews of the memoir on, the majority either glowing or scathing.

The book’s publisher at Simon & Schuster, Jonathan Karp, told the Associated Press: “It seems highly unlikely that approximately 1,500 people read Hillary Clinton’s book overnight and came to the stark conclusion that it is either brilliant or awful.”

Quartz, which tracked the reviews in detail, said that of the 1,500-odd original reviews, “only 338 were from users with verified purchases of the book”. At the time, What Happened had an overall rating of 3.2 stars, but Quartz points out that “average rating for reviews from unverified purchases was a 2.3, while the average from a real purchase of the book was 4.9”.

By Thursday, only 581 customer reviews remained, 95% of which were five-star. Amazon said on Thursday morning that “we remove customer reviews that violate our community guidelines”. These include the stipulation that “when we find unusually high numbers of reviews for a product posted in a short period of time, we may restrict the number of non-Amazon Verified Purchase reviews on that product”.

Amazon said customers’ reviews “must be related to the product and are designed to help … purchase decisions. In the case of a memoir, the subject of the book is the author and their views. It’s not our role to decide what a customer would view as helpful or unhelpful in making their decision. We do however have mechanisms in place to ensure that the voices of many do not drown out the voices of a few.”

Karp said that Simon & Schuster had hoped that online commentary would “reflect opinions of people who have actually read the book”.

On Thursday morning, the latest reviews included a one-star write-up from a user who felt that “she lost and the best person in the world won, President Trump”; a two-star review from one who wrote that “I would’ve given this one star but didn’t want my review deleted”; five stars from a customer who simply wrote “#StillWithHer” and five stars from another who wrote: “When I hear people criticitizing [sic] the book on TV or on the radio or giving it a poor review, I can tell right away that they haven’t read it. Buy the book. Read it. You might just be pleasantly surprised. Great book, Hillary. Congrats!”

Away from Amazon, professional reviews are mixed. The New York Times describes “a candid and blackly funny account of [Clinton’s] mood in the direct aftermath of losing to Donald J Trump”, but adds that it has moments where it is “wearying, canned and disingenuous, spinning events like a top”. The Washington Post found it “sometimes corny” but also “a raw and bracing book, a guide to our political arena” that veers “between regret and righteous anger, sometimes in the same paragraph.”

President Trump himself has yet to give a verdict on Clinton’s memoir. On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Saunders said that she wasn’t sure he would. “I would think he’s pretty well-versed on what happened, and I think it’s pretty clear to all of America,” she said. “I think it’s sad that after Hillary Clinton ran one of the most negative campaigns in history, and lost … the last chapter of her public life is going to be now defined by propping up book sales with false and reckless attacks, and I think that that’s a sad way for her to continue.”

  • This article was amended on 14 September 2017, to correct a description of the book to “memoir”.


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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