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"Paypal Pressured To Play Morality Cop And Forces Smashwords To Censor Authors"

on Tuesday, 06 March 2012. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

TechDirt

We have become quite accustomed to Paypal arbitrarily deciding to shut down the payment services for a website with no warning and little recourse. Usually when it does so, it acts through its own volition. However, Paypal also has to deal with the whims of the credit card companies with which it is partnered. With that business arrangement, when a credit card company says to jump, Paypal must comply. When it does so, it effects all its own customers as well. Ebook publisher Smashwords reports that it has become one of the latest recipients of one such action. Under pressure from credit card providers, Paypal has put in place a policy that it would no longer process payments for ebooks that contained themes of rape, incest, beastiality and underage sexual content. It then decided to give Smashwords less than a week to remove all books that fit those criteria.

On Saturday, February 18, PayPal’s enforcement division contacted Smashwords with an ultimatum. As with the other ebook retailers affected by this enforcement, PayPal gave us only a few days to achieve compliance otherwise they threatened to deactivate our PayPal services. I've had multiple conversations with PayPal over the last several days to better understand their requirements. Their team has been helpful, forthcoming and supportive of the Smashwords mission. I appreciate their willingness to engage in dialogue. Although they have tried their best to delineate their policies, gray areas remain.

Their hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica.

This has put tremendous pressure on Smashwords to comply as it claims that it would be near impossible to change payment processors as Paypal is a major part in not only how it processes transactions but also how it pays its authors. So it has made several changes to its terms of service to account for the types of books that Paypal and its credit card partners are not happy about. Keep in mind, this is hard for Smashwords as it feels that authors of erotica are being unfairly targeted by this move.

We do not want to see PayPal clamp down further against erotica. We think our authors should be allowed to publish erotica. Erotica, despite the attacks it faces from moralists, is a category worthy of protection. Erotica allows readers to safely explore aspects of sexuality that they might never want to explore in the real world.

The moralists forget that we humans are all sexual creatures, and the biggest sex organ is the brain. If it were not the case, none of us would be here. Erotica authors are facing discrimination, plain and simple. Topics that are perfectly acceptable in mainstream fiction are verboten in erotica. That’s not fair.

This is an unfortunate set back for Smashwords as well as for indie authors. While the government in the US is not able to censor speech in this manner, there is little preventing a private company like Paypal or its credit card partners from taking these actions. Yet, Smashwords is not giving up hope. In its latest update, Smashwords notes that it had managed to get the deadline extended as well as the definitions of prohibited content relaxed. It also wants to clarify that neither it nor Paypal are the real villians in this issue. ...

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