Visa calls PayPal’s bluff on erotica censorship

No doubt taking some heat after PayPal claimed (via Mark Coker and Smashwords) that credit card companies are behind PayPal’s censorship of erotica, Visa has responded.

In a letter to Madeleine Morris of Banned Writers, Visa’s Doug Michelman, head of Investor Relations writes:

Dear Ms. Morris,

Thank you for your email regarding PayPal’s recent decision to limit the sale of certain erotica content. First and foremost, we want to clarify that Visa had no involvement with PayPal’s conclusion on this issue. Nor have we seen the material in question. This fact is made clear by PayPal’s recent blog post where it states that its own policies drove the decision.

You can read the letter Visa wrote in it’s entirety here, but I thought I’d highlight a further few key statements:

” . . . we strive to respect the many different perspectives that citizens of the world hold, and we avoid taking sides when those opinions differ.”

“Visa would take no action regarding lawful material that seeks to explore erotica in a fictional or educational manner.”

“As you note in your letter, Visa is not in the business of censoring cultural product.”

Do head over to read PayPal’s blog post on the topic. It’s riddled with BS, like this:

“An important factor in our decision not to allow our payments service to be used to purchase material focused on rape, incest or bestiality is that this category of eBooks often includes images.”

Really? When’s the last time anyone read erotica (not graphic novels) with images?

They also say they support Internet freedom, but “we draw the line at certain adult content that is extreme or potentially illegal.”

Again, extreme according to who — PayPal? Writing for Forbes, Suw Charman-Anderson has a great response to PayPal’s rebuttal.

PayPal’s policies will remain in place, but now we know no one else is behind them but PayPal’s own leaders. Keep the pressure on.

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Speak up against PayPal’s censorship

Have you been following PayPal’s attempted crackdown on e-book retailers that they have deemed to be selling obscene and objectionable content?

Writer J.S. Wayne has a great post on his blog about why all of us should care about these censorship efforts, even if we’re not writing the type of erotica that is currently in PayPal’s cross-hairs.  Jane at Dear Author has another good overview here, along with a letter from Smashwords founder Mark Coker, who is bowing to PayPal’s strong arm efforts to avoid serious disruption to his business. (You’ll have to scroll past the depressing news about author Kay Manning’s plagiarism of her fellow romance authors.)

Here’s an excerpt from Coker’s letter to Smashwords erotica authors advising them of PayPal’s demands:

Like many writers, censorship of any form greatly concerns me . . . [redacted] it’s a slippery slope when we allow others to control what we think and write. Fiction is fantasy. It’s not real. It unfolds in our imagination. I’ve always believed fiction writers and readers should have the freedom to explore diverse topics and situations in the privacy of their own mind. From an imagination perspective, erotica is little different from a literary novel that puts us inside the mind of farm animals (1984), or a thriller novel that puts us inside the mind of a terrorist, or a horror novel that puts us inside the mind of an axe-murderer or their victim. All fiction takes us somewhere. We read fiction to be moved, and to feel. Sometimes we want to feel touched, moved, or disturbed. A reader should have the right to feel moved however they desire to be moved.

I’m tired of corporations trying to impose their moral values on me. Susan G. Komen anyone? In the case of PayPal’s objection to “pseudo-incest” (consensual sex between step-sister and step-brother, for example) PayPal is attempting to censor an act that is not even illegal.

If you’re as outraged as I am by this, please sign the petition to protest PayPal’s censorship efforts, and consider canceling your PayPal account if you have one.

This concerns all of us because we don’t know what’s next on PayPal’s list of objectionable material.