LA Times story about the same thing
My personal entry point into this mess
Some yoyo on LJ claims responsability
Former Amazon employee posts some potentially interesting information that might be based on actual contact with current employees
Why the particular yoyo mentioned earlier almost certainly didn't do what he claims
So, if you care to wade through the hodge-podge of links I just posted, you'll discover several things that you may or may not have already known.
1. A number of GLBT-related books were recently de-listed from Amazon.com because they were "adult".
2. This caused a typical Internet backlash of GLBT folk assuming the absolute worst possible explanation. I assume the imagined scenario is that Jeff B spoke from on high and decreed that Amazon shalt not sell that heathen tripe. I'm unclear on why people think Amazon would suddenly decide that they don't want that chunk of business anymore.
3. Amazon has come forward pointing out that a whopping 57,310 books were de-listed across a wide variety of categories, as well as internationally, and that the problem is some kind of horrible 'glitch' in Amazon's systems that is being resolved as quickly as possible.
4. Everyone and their brother thinks Amazon is either lying through their teeth, or must be populated by morons depending whether they believe Amazon is lying or not about the 'glitch'. That's the point I want to address.
Honestly, I wouldn't expect a straight story from Amazon on this one. I wouldn't expect a straight story from any large corporation.
I think the conspiracy theory (company policy) is laughably stupid. Amazon is in the business of selling, among other things, books to as many people as they possibly can. This sort of PR backlash is predictable for an incident like this and is certainly costing the company in lost sales, customer service contacts and (we'll get to this shortly) technical resources. Particularly in cases of people being involved, it's money that would be better spent driving new sales, rather than responding to this issue. That Amazon would deliberately bring this on themselves is a notion that only someone with a really well developed persecution complex could develop.
Given Amazon's own statements about the actual nature of the issue (large number of titles, affecting many categories and international sales), I will guarantee you that this issue is being treated as top priority inside the company. That means people getting pulled out of bed. That means customer service contacts from irate customers. That means well-paid, highly qualified professionals being pulled away from profitable activities for the company to make sure this issue is handled both quickly and correctly. Again, the notion that Amazon would do this intentionally is ludicrous.
So, what about this hacker or the indicated glitch. I don't put much credence in the hacker's story. Especially the bit where he gained complicity from a web-admin at a major high-traffic site. One of the links up top also contains the musings of someone who examined the details of the so-called hacker's claims.
So, what about a glitch? While unsatisfying, I can certainly believe that something like this happened. An error of some sort - possibly user error, compounded by very powerful and difficult-to-understand tools that have access to modify, pretty much, everything. No conspiracy, no agenda, just a mistake that's being corrected and a botched PR effort.