The Paypal Morality
Some of you are already aware that Paypal, the largest online independent financial transaction service,
is now strong-arming has asked small, independent online bookstores to drop items that do not conform to Paypal’s list of acceptable content. Specifically, these would be be books that contain descriptions of sexuality having to do with incest (not my thing, but it’s pretty popular), bestiality (a problem for furries, werewolf fans, and shape-shifter sex), non-consensual sex (too bad for people with rape fantasies), and of course, BDSM. Because, you know, that’s just sick.
Some online book bloggers are framing this as a censorship issue, but they are mistaken. Censorship is when your government enforces policies on what can or can’t be published. This, rather, is a private company – a very large private company that controls most of the online transactions – so it’s not actually censorship.
At least, not yet, anyway.
Unfortunately, this is what happens when we, the consumers, go crazy for a free service that makes our lives easier, and then promote it into a very large service. There are alternatives to Paypal, and hopefully, in the wake of this even more will spring up. The problem is that, while large retailers can afford their own transaction processing and the higher fees for major credit cards, Paypal is designed for small resellers – a reason that it became so popular with the early Ebay users. In fact, Paypal became so popular that Ebay, themselves, purchased the company.
What amazes me, though, is that so many people seem to be taken by surprise at Paypal’s action. For years I have read stories on various blogs and web sites, and message boards about Paypal’s poor customer service, their penchant for holding money back in reserves, their tendency to deactivate accounts for little or no reason, and their ability to do all of this with impunity because they are not subject to the regulations of normal banks or other credit card companies.
Anyhow, the damage is done. Small online businesses have been going with Paypal because it’s fast, easy, and cheap (i.e., like most of my readers). But if there is enough backlash from interested consumers, maybe those businesses can set up accounts with other transaction companies. If you’re interested in discovering which other services are worth looking into, here’s a Lifehacker article from last July which highlights a few of them.
There are a lot of kinksters in the geek community… or maybe it’s a lot of geeks in the kinkster community. Either way, I urge all of you to think about the big, free online services that you use, and start thinking about alternatives to those services — either finding existing ones or developing new ones. This week it’s Paypal. Maybe next week, some large internet company might decide to do something crazy, like sell your online search history to marketers.
Naw, that probably wouldn’t happen. But still, let’s start looking now, before the “policy” of a private company actually does become censorship.
ETA: More — much more —
outrage reading on this can be found on S.V. Rowle’s blog Erotica Book Banning Roundup.
And now, something that’s not BDSMy, incesty, or bestial:
Tumblr post (and links to more “Fetish Queen Heike”) is here.