Gossip and Rumors

Has the NSA Commandeered Amazon?

A year has gone by since Edward Snowden first came forward to blow the whistle on the incredibly fascist, heavy-handed, democracy-destroying NSA spying.

Indeed, so pernicious is the level of US spying that leading security expert Bruce Schneier–who has access to the Snowden docs–has declared that the NSA has commandeered the Internet.

He writes:

There it is. If you run a business, and the FBI or NSA want to turn it into a mass surveillance tool, they believe they can do so, solely on their own initiative. They can force you to modify your system. They can do it all in secret and then force your business to keep that secret. Once they do that, you no longer control that part of your business. You can’t shut it down. You can’t terminate part of your service. In a very real sense, it is not your business anymore. It is an arm of the vast U.S. surveillance apparatus, and if your interest conflicts with theirs then they win. Your business has been commandeered.

Microsoft? Apple? Intel? Commandeered. Your computer is government spyware with an operating system attached. Twitter has been commandeered. Even a company as inconsequential as DropBox has now gone over to the Dark Side.

But nowhere, at any time, have I heard any commentators talking about the elephant in the room: Amazon.

Controlling the flow of informationand manipulating discourse online–is a major part of what the sick, sociopathic vermin do at the NSA, GCHQ, and elsewhere. If they’re inflitrating World of Warcraft, you think they aren’t inflitrating Amazon too?

And if they were, what would be their objectives?

The goal of the spy agencies is to suppress dissent of any kind. This means government agents are surely leaving positive and negative reviews for titles they like/don’t like. They are also no doubt sucking up the entire data flow of who buys what and when, when they read it, and probably recording your breathing via your smartphone’s microphone while you read it. (Maybe they’ll be able to analyze it for signs of thought crime at some point in the future. Who knows.)

But here’s where things get interesting. They can do all of the above passively or in a plausibly deniable way. But as the Snowden docs make clear, the United States wants to own the Internet–and users, readers, and authors be damned. This means the NSA–in conjunction with the FBI–have secret court orders forcing Amazon to change their algorithms to suit the feds.

If you were a fascist, democracy-hating, privacy-destroying psychopath who works for the US government, what would you order Amazon to do?

Amazon’s ranking and recommendation algorithms are secret. So is their accounting. Hmm….

Books that contain dissent we don’t like? Amazon, we want you to de-promote such-and-such author or such-and-such book. Make it harder for new readers to discover this thought crime.

And accounting! Books sold? What books sold? You didn’t sell any books last month. The money vanished! Or it was never there. Who knows? All completely opaque from an author’s point of view.

Do I have proof of these accusations? No. But all the signs are there. We can only hope that the Snowden docs contain evidence of Amazon’s collusion with the NSA. Then, and only then, can Amazon begin to rebuild our trust.

 

Written by: J.M. Porup

Novelist J.M. Porup is An American Dissident in Exile. Read More

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