In 2013 a huge firestorm erupted on the popular e-book discovery and social media website, GoodReads. According to some reports from actual users, there were roving bands of “bullies” on the site, some of them actual moderators approved by Goodreads, who seek out eBooks or ARC titles to destroy with artificially low rankings and ratings. This resulted in an anti-bullying website to be established called StopTheGRBullies. Apparently the GoodReads bullying crisis has ended because the STGB website has closed it’s doors.
The website StopTheGRBullies.com had listed updates with Goodreads users by name as well as screen shots of some of the comments that have been made about authors personally, and not just about their books. In many cases, they also link back to other accounts a user has on Goodreads, demonstrating that a number of these reviewers are using more than one account to continue in the same vein.
When STGB first launched one of the site’s moderators, who goes by the screen name Athena told Good e-Reader that “GoodReads’s laissez-faire policy toward its users is really what has led to the bullying on their site and to be honest, we’ve seen much worse than online, written threats of rape and murder. We’ve seen the GR bullies actually cyber-stalk authors by digging up their PII online and then calling them on the phone to threaten them in their own home. We have police reports to prove this as well as screenshots. And it’s not just GR’s ‘open-use’ policy, either, that has led to this behavior. We’ve seen the Goodreads managers and moderators actually foster this kind of environment. We have a screenshot of Patrick Brown telling a user that she should feel free to say what she wants about an author. This kind of do-what-you-want message from the GR community manager himself has led to cases of libel and career-destroying. For example, one author we know was wrongfully accused of intentions of rape because of something one of the characters in his book said about another character. This is the kind of behavior that needs to be discouraged and stopped. And until it is, we will continue to blog about it on our site.”
GoodReads has done their best to stop the bullying problem, primarily to maintain the overall health of their website, but also to curb international media outlets from covering the issue. They have made changes to their terms of service, which allows moderators to delete inflammatory remarks. Authors and reviews battling each other will never end, but at least GoodReads has properly addressed the issue, resulting in the largest anti-bullying website to quietly sunset.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.