PayPal backs down over policy change

Posted: March 14, 2012

PayPal Back Down Over Policy Change.
PayPal have retracted their new policy, announced in February, to close the accounts of online booksellers who sell works that describe rape, incest or bestiality.

Under the controversial policy change, the payment processing company issued instructions to online booksellers and distributors of erotic fiction that PayPal would close down the accounts of any sellers found to offer books that included content on those subjects within only days. Alarmed erotic fiction stockists took drastic measures to remove any such books from sale on their websites before PayPal – responding from pressure from the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) – agreed to postpone a final decision on cutting off payments.

The NCAC and the ABFFE had joined forces to write a letter of protest to eBay, the owner of PayPal, claiming, “The commitment to free speech is firmly embedded in our society, legally and culturally. Those who find sexual (or any other kind of) content disturbing or immoral don’t have to buy it, but it is widely accepted that they have no right to impose their views on others, or to expect society at large to adopt their perspective.”

In a statement posted on its website on Tuesday, PayPal announced that in the future it will not reject e-books that consist only of text unless they “contain child pornography, or … text and obscene images of rape, bestiality or incest (as defined by the U.S. legal standard for obscenity…).”

PayPal committed to limit its objections to particular books rather than rejecting “entire classes.” It also said that it is developing a process that will allow an author to challenge a PayPal notice that a book violates its policy.

“This decision recognises the important principle that neither PayPal nor any other company involved in payment processing has any business telling people what they should read,” said Joan Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC); while president of the ABFFA, Chris Finan said, “It is an important victory for free speech on the Internet.”

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