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. identicon
    sporkdelis, 10 Mar 2012 @ 11:11pm


    The problem is that there are no other companies claiming that PayPal is telling them the same thing. Why hasn't Itunes had this same letter sent to them? They carry titles that depict these things, and they also use PayPal. I would say that it looks like PayPal is only going for the people they know they can bully. All of the companies are small internet based companies with little ability to go around them.

    Seriously, try using one of these "alternatives" just to sell your own stuff, then think about moving thousands of people's payments over to that as well. Even if you managed this monumental task, no one would buy off of it. Why? Because PayPal has all of the public's trust. No one knows about Payoneer, or Dwolla or anything else. Try getting someone who has never been to your site before to sign up for one of these things and give over their credit card numbers. How about someone who just bought an ereader and only ever uses a computer for email? It aint gonna happen!

    People keep trying to say that PayPal doesn't have a monopoly, and I argue against that. They absolutely have a monopoly on public trust. People are not as worried about using PP. If it's online I have to really think about if I want to buy something on a site withput paypal, because I knnow that they will do things right.

    The fact that they tried to pass the buck says that they do know that they've been caught. They thought that these companies would be scrambling to remove the content as if they didn't realize it was there, or as if it was actually illegal like all of the file sharing sites that were taken down recently. Unfortunately for PayPal, the heads of these companies know what is and is not illegal, including their right even to suddenly change their policy (if that were the case) to exclude anything as long as it isn't discrimination against a legally protected group.

    We have a right to tell them that they don't have a right to censor, whether they do or not.

    No matter what they're the idiots who opened their big mouths NOW. This is the absolute worst time to suggest any kind of censoring, even if they had some sort of catastrophe involving beastiality porn. They should have waited a month at least. Regardless of their reasons they look like complete idiots. If they have a really good reason, they should explain in detail, because something must have happened if they decided to enforce this policy so suddenly.

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