A quickie: PayPal backs down on erotica censorship

Power to the people! It’s truly amazing to watch, and be part of, the effect social media can have on corporate policy.

In the wake of the furor over its big brother tactics, PayPal is backing down on its attempted censorship of erotic fiction.

Read the good news here and more at Smashwords.

For more on PayPal’s clarified terms of service, click here.

Thanks to all the bloggers, writers, and anti-censorship groups who joined the battle against PayPal. Huzzah’s all around!

But the war is not yet won, judging by the comments on PayPal’s blog. Many feel PayPal hasn’t retreated far enough.

What’s your view?


Victory on the horizon as MasterCard also denies hand in PayPal censorship

In an email today, MasterCard echoed Visa’s denial that credit card companies are behind PayPal’s censorship of certain erotic fiction. (The email was sent to Banned Writers,  a group hastily formed to combat PayPal’s outrageous actions.)

From: Monteiro, Chris
Date: Tue, Mar 13, 2012 at 3:24 AM
Subject: RE: An Open Letter to Mastercard Incorporated Regarding the Censorship of E-Books
To: bannedwriters@gmail.com

Dear Ms. Morris,

Thank you for your inquiry as to whether MasterCard  played a role in the recent decision by PayPal to limit certain content belonging to your members. We appreciate the opportunity to explain our policies and hope to provide clarity regarding this matter. To be clear, MasterCard had no involvement in the decision made by PayPal to refuse to process payments for certain books.

MasterCard maintains a set of standards that prohibit the use of MasterCard-branded cards and systems for illegal activities. These standards require MasterCard’s customers to comply with all applicable laws and not to engage in illegal behavior, or in behavior that would cause MasterCard to violate any laws.  In this particular scenario, MasterCard would not take action regarding the use of its cards and systems for the sale of lawful materials that seek to explore erotica content of this nature.

We appreciate the opportunity to address this important issue and hope we have addressed your inquiry.

Looks like holding PayPal’s feet to the fire may be working. Smashwords founder Mark Coker posted this cryptic note to authors today:

March 12, 2012 – PayPal update:  I met with PayPal this afternoon at their office in San Jose.  They will soon announce revised content policies that I expect will please the Smashwords communityEffective immediately, we are returning our Terms of Service to back to its pre-February 24 state.  Beyond that, our friends at PayPal have asked me to hold off sharing additional details until they’ve had a chance to finalize their new policies. Thank you for your patience and support during this crazy last few weeks.

A shout out to everyone who wrote letters, tweets and emails calling PayPal out on their censorship attempts. Let’s hope more good news is forthcoming soon.

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.

PayPal censorship fight gains muscle

Today, the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation For Free Expression lent their voices to the PayPal censorship fight in a joint letter to PayPal and parent company eBay. Read the full text here.

On behalf of The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), we write to express concern over recent reports that PayPal is refusing to process sales of books and other written materials containing some types of sexual content. As organizations representing the interests of booksellers, publishers,authors, scholars, readers, and others who have a strong stake in a culture that values and promotes intellectual and artistic freedom and a free Internet, we urge you to revise this policy, which threatens to turn your company into a morality police.

How to respond to blog trolls and nasty comments

I’ve had a few comments left blasting my posts on the whole PayPal censorship thing. Seems defending a writer’s right to write what they want, and have it published and read by willing parties, is mistaken for defending the specific content that is under fire.

No, I’m not into incest or underage sex (though I admit to spending many happy hours with Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo and Jamie and Cersei Lannister) or bestiality or bondage or ….  I swear I skipped over all those chapters in Nancy Friday’s books.

So stop blasting me as some nutjob defending freaks. I’ve been deleting these comments, but then I remembered some great advice from the hilarious Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) on how to deal with trolls and cretins.

“There are always assholes in the world. In fact, some of them have computers and use them to troll the Internet and viciously attack people they’ve never even met. When I first started blogging, I was a bit shocked that perfect strangers would go to the trouble to leave comments like “your retarded” (sic) but I quickly learned that those people are the same assholes from high school, and that it’s amazingly easy to change a comment saying, “You suck and you’re a shitty writer and everyone hates you” to “You are the best writer in the world and I’m naming all of my children after you.” Then the troll would return to see what damage he’d done to my self-esteem and would be livid to see that I’d changed his comment and would write, “I NEVER WROTE THAT. I WROTE THAT YOU SUCK. YOU AREN’T FUNNY” which I would quickly change to “Your writing is magical and I would love to watch you sleep but I’m afraid to get too near you because my herpes are really contagious.” Then I continue to do this until the troll spontaneously combusts from sheer frustration. It seems harsh but if someone is going to try to bully me I at least want to be entertained by it.”

Love it! This advice appeared in The Bloggess’s Ill Advised parenting column on CafeMom.  Highly recommended, but comes with a spew warning.

Here’s some more advice from my six-year old son, who made this yesterday at school in honor of Pink Shirt Day. Translation for non parents: Everyone should stop bullying.

(Shut up–he’s a genius at math!)

PayPal passes the buck on censorship

Did you see yesterday’s news release from Smashwords founder Mark Coker? Smashwords continues negotiations with PayPal and has extended the deadline for authors/publishers/agents to voluntarily remove the books PayPal has deemed objectionable and obscene.

Coker says there’s a “glimmer of hope” and PayPal may allow certain themes as long as they are incidental to the plot and not major themes. O-kay. And who’s going to judge that? PayPal?

According to Coker, “PayPal is trying to implement the requirements of credit card companies, banks and credit unions. This is where it’s all originating. These same requirements will eventually rain down upon every other payment processor.”

Who knows what to believe. I think we’ve all received enough porn spam to know there is any manner of adult content out there – DVDs, toys, bondage gear and much more – that is readily available to anyone with a credit card. Google “barely-legal” and you’ll come up with all sorts of sites willing to take your money and hook you up with a DVD or even an online “chat.” With a REAL GIRL. But FICTION along the same lines is not going to be allowed. WTF?

This smacks to me of passing the buck and obfuscating the truth.

Coker does encourage everyone to keep blogging and tweeting and drawing attention to this issue—as long as you’re not pointing fingers at Smashwords and the other retailers that are caving to PayPal’s pressure. (Bookstrand has already pulled ALL indie published titles, not just erotica, rather than fight this battle.)

Here’s what he says—this at least I agree with:

“Even if you don’t publish in the categories directly impacted by this crackdown, this campaign matters to you. What can you do to move things forward? First, direct your attention where it matters most. Contact your credit card company or congressperson and tell them you want financial services companies out of the business of censoring what writers and readers are free to imagine with fiction. Blog about it. Tweet about it. Contact your favorite blogger and encourage them to raise awareness. Start petitions and tell financial institutions you want their censors out of your head. Contact the media. The media, with your urging, has the power to shine a bright light on the dangerous slippery slope of censorship by financial institutions.”

Still bugs me that it’s always sex in everyone’s cross-hairs. Meanwhile I can read or view any manner of content that showcases sadistic violence. Dexter anyone?

This post by Raymond Frazee is another great argument against PayPal’s censorship efforts. Check out all the great novels cited by Raymond and his commenters that would never pass PayPal’s morality test.

Wide Awake But Dreaming

First off, just to let you know, I’m going to get rude.  I’m going to use bad language.  You know what that means:  if you don’t want to see the nastiness that’s coming, then you don’t want to go beyond this paragraph.  But, hey . . . before you leave, here’s something on Lauren Faust’s Super Best Friends Forever!  It’s really cute–trust me!



That said, onward . . .

I gotta tell you, the thing with PayPal getting all medieval on some of the ebook publishers, in particular Smashwords.  I don’t know if I should say “medieval”, because this is the 21st Century, and you’d think by now people would actually be intelligent enough not to keep bringing up things like birth control, women’s sexuality, and erotica as things in need of control by others . . . oh, what?  Sorry, I must have set the controls to the…

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