Credit card companies want to censor what you read.

UPDATE: On March 13, 2011 PayPal modified their policies to allow legal fiction. Thanks to everyone who supported the rights of authors, publishers, and readers.

Credit card companies and/or financial institutions are telling PayPal and Smashwords authors what they can write and what readers can read.

PayPal told Smashwords that their crackdown on erotic fiction is necessary so that they can remain in compliance with the requirements of the banks and credit card associations (likely Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, though they didn’t mention them  by name).

(NOTE: PayPal’s parent company eBay sells material focusing on rape, incest or beastiality as I wrote here.)

I don’t read or publish erotic fiction, it’s not of interest to me. I do support the right of readers and authors to fight censorship.

According to Mark Corker of Smashwords fame, “PayPal is asking us to censor legal fiction.  Regardless of how one views topics of rape, bestiality and incest, these topics are pervasive in mainstream fiction.

We believe this crackdown is really targeting erotica writers.  This is unfair, and it marks a slippery slope.  We don’t want credit card companies or financial institutions telling our authors what they can write and what readers can read. Fiction is fantasy.  It’s not real.  It’s legal. ”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) have recently joined the discussion on this matter.

The EFF blogged about the issue a few days ago:  https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/02/legal-censorship-paypal-makes-habit-deciding-what-users-can-read

ABFFE and NCAC issued a press release:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/83549049/NCAC-ABFFE-Letter-To-PayPal-eBay-re-Ebook-Refusal-2012

How you can help:

All writers and their readers should stand up and voice their opposition to financial services companies censoring books.  Authors should have the freedom to publish legal fiction, and readers should have the freedom to read what they want.

These corporations need to hear from you.  Pick up the phone and call them.  Email them.  Start petitions.  Sign petitions.  Blog your opposition to censorship.

Encourage your readers to do the same.  Pass the word among your social networks. Contact your favorite bloggers and encourage them to follow this story.  Contact your local newspaper and offer to let them interview you so they can hear a local author’s perspective on this story of international significance. If you have connections to mainstream media, encourage them to pick up on the story.

Encourage them to call the credit card companies and pose this simple question, “PayPal says they’re trying to enforce the policies of credit card companies.  Why are you censoring legal fiction?”

Contact information for Visa

Contact information for  American Express

Contact information for MasterCard

Contact information for Discover

Contact information for Ebay (owns PayPal)

Update: On March 7th MSNBC reported on this issue with credit cards.

UPDATE: Visa Writes “This is Not Our Doing”.

Ms. Madeleine Morris of BannedWriters.com wrote to Visa. Part of  the reply from Visa: “Relevant to this situation, the sale of a limited category of extreme imagery depicting rape, bestiality and child pornography is or is very likely to be unlawful in many places and would be prohibited on the Visa system whether or not the images have formally been held to be illegal in any particular country. Visa would take no action regarding lawful material that seeks to explore erotica in a fictional or educational manner.

You may read the complete article at the Banned Writers web site.

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