Paypal as morality police AKA we are in danger of losing our creative freedom

Posted: February 28, 2012 in Publishing, Writing
Tags: , ,

It is with great concern that I, too, feel compelled to post about the shocking recent bullying/censorship by Paypal – a company that is nothing more but a finanial middleman – on erotic fiction.

I have collected a short list of excellent articles on this matter, and urge everyone to read up on what is happening here, and how a company that has a monopoly is enforcing arbitrary rules that affect legal products/fiction. It is important to spread the word, because where else will they go? What else will be forbidden even though it is legal? Where will private monopoly companies be made to stop wielding censorship?

This is not ‘just’ about erotica readers and authors and the associated publishes and distributors. This is potentially also about classic literature, such as The Story of O, Venus in Furs and Lolita. And not just literature: where will this slippery slope end up? If consumers and world citizens are not vigilant, we will be censored not by the church or the state of history, but by corporations.

Please consider signing the petition Stop Internet Censorship! 

After all, anyone who enjoys reading my books and those of my fellow M/M authors, you are in real danger that rather sooner than later you are not allowed/able to do so anymore. If I cannot use PayPal for transactions anymore (and PayPal did freeze accounts and all money in it) I can neither publish through international publishers any longer, nor publish through Camouflage Press. BDSM = between consenting adults! today; gay sex tomorrow?

TechCrunch posted on Sunday 26th February:

 PayPal As Moral Police? Forces E-Book Sellers To Remove Certain Erotica Content. The letter – written by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords – has been posted on Smashwords’ own site, and gives a fuller explanation of what is going on: it all stems from an “ultimatum” that PayPal issued to Smashwords on Feb. 18: “PayPal gave us only a few days to achieve compliance otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal services.”

Coker says that other e-book retailers have also been served with the same orders, but he does not name them. He also says that PayPal has been helpful with working out exactly what kind of content falls foul of the new rules, but that “gray areas remain.” (For example incest also includes “pseudo-incest.”) One other area that PayPal named, related to underage children, is already prohibited on Smashwords, Coker notes.

He also points out that this latest order is part of a bigger push by PayPal to start “aggressively enforcing a prohibition against online retailers selling certain types of ‘obscene’ content.”

Anonymiss posted on 21st February:

 The #PayPal Fiasco Continues … #epicfail. Yesterday saw what seemed like the second wave of PayPal’s censorship and attempt at policing what they find “morally objectionable”. All Romance eBooks has sent out an official notice for the take-down of all books containing pseudo-incest themes, non-con, etc. It’s not hard to connect the dots and see that they’re doing this as per PayPal’s “orders”. They do, after all, pay author royalties via PayPal and take PayPal as a form of payment.

This is a truly slippery slope. What will the PayPal Morality Police want to ban next? This form of “corporate censorship” by financial means has to be stopped, especially when said company has practically a monopoly in the business as middleman. A friend of mine put it this way: it’s coercion, plain and simple.

PulpTech posted on 27th February:

 PayPal Strong-Arms Indie Ebook Publishers Over Erotic Content. PayPal’s new aggressive campaign wants to stop independent e-book publishers that use its service from including certain kinds of erotic content in their catalogs.

On Saturday February 18, PayPal began threatening indie book publishers and distributors with immediate deactivation of the businesses’ accounts if they did not remove books containing certain sexual themes – namely, specific sexual fantasies that PayPal does not approve of.

PayPal told indie e-book publishers and retailers – such as AllRomance, Smashwords, Excessica and Bookstrand – that if they didn’t remove the offending literature from their catalogs within a few days of notification, PayPal would close their accounts.

Of course, the immediate termination of payment processing would devastate these businesses and all of their authors (not just the erotic writers) overnight.

In case you haven’t noticed, PayPal has a monopoly on the market of online payment processing. There are few alternatives, though none that are widely used by online shoppers.

The Self Publishing Revolution posted on 19th February:

Slippery Slope: Erotica Censorship. (…)Note that they list not only “incest” but “pseudo-incest” as well. Now, while “incest” is illegal in most states, “pseudo-incest” is not. (Woody Allen, anyone?) Having sex with a step-relation or an adopted relative is just… sex. It might seem creepy or weird, but it isn’t illegal.

Now they’re not just targeting illegal acts (this is in fiction mind you) now they’re targeting acts that may simply just be “morally objectionable.” Where else do they do this? Are they targeting authors who write about serial killers?

I don’t know what this means for the future of erotic self-publishing, but like the banning of certain titles begun by Amazon, it is a very slippery slope indeed. Today it’s “pseudo-incest” and “rape” (including BDSM titles) which is nothing more than legal sex between consenting adults.

What will it be tomorrow?

 Don’t leave it up to PayPal to choose how you spend your money or where!

  1. Shanghi says:

    I really don’t want anyone telling me what I can and cannot read. >(

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  3. Mountie says:

    I am just completely O_O but not surprised with Pay Pals actions. I understand that they are trying to hide it behind a smokescreen policy from the major credit card companies, which has something to do with a higher volume of returns for adult themed products which is just irritating. Like I’d ever send an eBook back. The thing is, I do not hear Visa or Mastercard threatening Smashwords or All Romance or Bookstrand. It is Pay Pal. Sure tell us you will not pay for those “kind” of books and I might say that is your misunderstood prerogative and pull my account. BUT to tell the publishers and the authors that they can’t even SELL the books? Pay Pal has crossed the line. That is blatant Censorship.

    Pay Pal tried to do this back in 2007. That’s when, I think, Loose Id pulled out. I love Loose Id’s stable and their books but I have to wait 2 months for them to come out on reseller sites to buy them. I do not deal in credit. I guess I will need to find another way, since I really am upset and want to close down my Pay Pal account.

  4. Riley says:

    We sign the petition … we hope they listen

  5. Olivia says:

    I got my paypal blocked as well. And because I don’t have a landline, they need to verify my address by sending me something through physical mail. Great! They should really stop it!

    • Marquesate says:

      You got your Paypal blocked, Olivia? That’s shocking! hasn’t happened to me (yet?) but I’m very wary.

      • Olivia says:

        Yep! I’m not sure if it’s 100% related, but it was a day I bought a Paypal-censored item. I definitely sense something weird going on. Here is an excerpt from their email:
        We want to check with you to make sure that no one has logged in to your
        account without your permission.

        Please take a moment to change your password and create new security
        questions. You should also take a look at your account information and
        recent transactions. Make sure that your account information (address,
        phone number, etc.) hasn’t changed and that you recognize all of your
        recent transactions.

        If you see a payment that you don’t recognize, let us know by going to the
        Resolution Center. Click “Dispute a Transaction” to report an unauthorized

  6. enyo says:

    This is so wrong on so many levels. I can’t believe a “service provider” is jumping so high above themselves to become some kind of Morality Police.
    I’ve sign the petition. Hope it helps. Until then I’m not using their services.

    • Marquesate says:

      I wish I could not use their service, but I get all my revenues from publishers, printers and distributers alike via Paypal.

      • enyo says:

        I know. Its totally not fair to authors. I can afford to use other services to make my payments online but you have to collect some or even most of your revenue through them. I think its a lot more immoral of them to withhold payment from authors than anything the author might write.

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