Amsterdam – Selling antisemitic books is a criminal offense, but in recent years these books have been available at the largest online bookstores. That would change at the largest online bookstore, but research by Zembla shows otherwise.
Zembla investigative journalist Jeroen Pen talks about the latest state of affairs in De Nieuws BV.
Research by Zembla from 2021 already showed that antisemitic and right-wing extremist titles are easy to obtain through online bookshops, such as Bol.com. After this came to light, Bol.com made an agreement with the National Coordinator for Combating Antisemitism to ban these types of books from the platform. Bol.com could filter these types of books from their range by means of an algorithm.
Now, two years later, despite the agreements made, antisemitic books can still be ordered from online bookshops, concluded Zembla. According to Pen, Bol.com’s current algorithm does not work optimally. For example, the algorithm should pick out certain keywords that indicate right-wing extremism and antisemitism, but many books slip through. Pen recently ordered a book full of antisemitic terms for the investigation. After a short search, it turned out that the entire oeuvre of the writer is available.
Bol.com is not the only online bookstore that sells these books. Smaller parties such as BookSpot and Libris also sold the books. Pen: “They compete with each other on completeness. Everything a customer wants to find must be available from you.” Pen explains that the online bookshops purchase data feeds from foreign parties. These feeds contain millions of books that hopefully contain the wishes of the customer. “As a bookstore you have to go along with that, otherwise the competitor will have it.”
All parties that Pen has spoken to have removed the relevant books. Especially the small parties indicate that they do not have the manpower to dig through these millions of books. The major players such as Bol.com are being looked at to take the initiative in this. According to Pen, the National Coordinator for Combating Antisemitism is trying to get different parties around the table to exchange knowledge. Pen is not enthusiastic about government intervention. “A government that comes up with a blacklist for books, that’s tricky. It’s a complicated situation.”