January 25, 2023 – Since October 2022, our Dutch e-commerce retailer bol.com, has removed hundreds of books from its total offering of tens of millions of books, due to anti-Semitic content.
Today, books with anti-Semitic content are unfortunately still available. And as people continue to increasingly purchase products through web shops and online platforms, a new approach is needed to combat the online sale of anti-Semitic content.
Therefore, the National Coordinator for Combating Anti-Semitism (NCAB) is launching an initiative for a better and more efficient approach for web shops and online platforms to exclude anti-Semitic content from their assortment. Bol.com is a partner in the initiative and has published its vision and method (only available in Dutch) for countering discriminatory books. With this, the NCAB and bol.com want to interest more companies in the Netherlands, which deal with similar issues, to exchange knowledge and experiences and jointly come up with effective roadmaps to better detect books with harmful content.
As bol.com is a store for everyone, everyone should be able to visit bol.com and feel welcome. Articles, including books, that incite hatred, violence or unequal treatment can therefore be removed from bol.com’s platform. At the same time, bol.com wants to deal carefully with freedom of expression and thereby also supports the educational and historical importance of books.
Since bol.com is not a content expert on the topics described in books, the business has drawn input from discussions with experts on the subject, including the Dutch Meldpunt Discriminatie (Report Discrimination) to determine what may be hateful, discriminatory or anti-Semitic.
The framework allows bol.com to assess discriminatory books. Based on a detection, assessment and reporting system, bol.com decides whether a book remains online, is given an information label, or is taken offline.
Thousands of new books are automatically uploaded to bol.com every week, complementing an existing assortment of tens of millions of books. The new books are now proactively reviewed and bol.com uses the review framework reactively after notifications from customers or employees, for example.
Bol.com continues to develop these systems and is taking steps to address the challenges involved, such as obtaining expertise on titles and authors and making arrangements with publishers and suppliers. In addition, bol.com continues to talk with experts to obtain advice on social issues in order to continue to make well-informed decisions in the future.