"Amazon Glitch Unmasks War Of Reviewers"
Close observers of Amazon.com noticed something peculiar this week: the company's Canadian site had suddenly revealed the identities of thousands of people who had anonymously posted book reviews on the United States site under signatures like ''a reader from New York.''
The weeklong glitch, which Amazon fixed after outed reviewers complained, provided a rare glimpse at how writers and readers are wielding the online reviews as a tool to promote or pan a book -- when they think no one is watching. . . .
Mr. Rechy is in good company. Walt Whitman and Anthony Burgess both famously reviewed their own books under assumed names. But several modern-day writers said the Internet, where anyone from your mother to your ex-agent can anonymously broadcast an opinion of your work, has created a more urgent need for self-defense.
Under Amazon's system, any user may submit a review without publicly providing any personal information (or evidence of having read the book). The posting of real names on the Canadian site was for many a reminder that anonymity on the Internet is seldom a sure thing.
''It was an unfortunate error,'' said Patricia Smith, an Amazon spokeswoman. ''We'll examine whatever happened and make sure it won't happen again.''
But even with reviewer privacy restored, many people say Amazon's pages have turned into what one writer called ''a rhetorical war,'' where friends and family members are regularly corralled to write glowing reviews and each negative one is scrutinized for the digital fingerprints of known enemies. . . . .