Tell Paypal To Stop Playing Morality Cop With Booksellers

from the let-payments-go-free dept

We recently wrote about how Paypal was pressuring Smashwords to drop any books that included sexual content that Paypal didn't like. This seemed ridiculously over-aggressive. You can be completely against rape without that meaning that no books shall exist that include a rape scene. But according to Paypal's rules, books that include themes around rape, incest and bestiality -- even if such books were there to raise awareness around those things, not to encourage them -- simply were not allowed. Smashwords claims that Paypal is passing the blame on to the credit card companies, but others have questioned how accurate that really is. And, even then, it seems that Paypal should stand up to the credit card companies if that is, indeed, the case.

In the meantime, the EFF has put together a letter writing campaign to tell Paypal to stop censoring books:
Recently, PayPal gave online publishers and booksellers, including, Smashwords, and eXcessica, an ultimatum: it would close their accounts and refuse to process all payments unless they removed erotic books containing descriptions of rape, incest, and bestiality. The result would severely restrict the public's access to a wide range of legal material, could drive some companies out of business, and deprive some authors of their livelihood.

Financial services providers should be neutral when it comes to lawful online speech. PayPal’s policy underscores how vulnerable such speech can be and how important it is to stand up and protect it.

The topics PayPal would ban have been depicted in world literature since Sophocles’ Oedipus and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. And while the books currently affected may not appear to be in the same league, many works ultimately recognized for their literary, historical, and artistic worth were reviled when first published. Books like Ulysses and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were banned as “obscene” in the United States because of their sexual content. The works of Marquis de Sade, which include descriptions of incest, torture, and rape, were considered scandalous when written, although his importance in the history of literature and political and social philosophy is now widely acknowledged.
You can go to the link above and add your name to the campaign and let Paypal know that this is not the role of a payment processor.

Of course, what this story is really highlighting is just how ridiculous it is that there are choke points like Paypal who can solely dictate morality based on their own views of what is and what is not art. What we need are a lot of alternatives, so that if Paypal makes decisions like this, people can simply route around them.

Filed Under: books, free speech, morality, publishing
Companies: paypal, smashwords

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  1. icon
    The Buzz Saw (profile), 9 Mar 2012 @ 3:45pm


    I find myself in an interesting position. I am a Christian husband and father. Given my religious background, I certainly oppose such vile literature. One could argue that I see this as a 'win' for me and my beliefs. However, this is exactly the wrong way to go about it. If I wanted to eliminate such literature, I'd seek to garner support from people in the community. I'd want the world to WANT to rid itself of such literature. Paypal should strive to be as neutral as possible as it is a tool for moving money around. What people do with their money is their own business.

    Paypal, why stop at dirty books? Why not cut off funds to presidential campaigns (for candidates you do not like)? Why not cut off funds for anyone who refuses to detail what the transaction was for? Do you plan on reinstating Smashwords for transactions not involving dirty books?

    It's such a slippery slope that this really is a victory for no one. It's just one more reason for me to move my assets away from Paypal.

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