Paypal Censors Authors — Make Them Stop Doing So

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on March 3, 2012

Today I received an email from Smashwords, who distributes one of my books, Preparing a Vegetable Garden from the Ground Up.  Paypal, who is the vendor who processes credit card payments for Smashwords, has given them an ultimatum:  remove all books containing any scenes of rape, bestiality, or incest from their shelves or lose their Paypal account.  While I do not read such books, and certainly do not write them, having a financial company censor works of fiction is unacceptable and a slippery slope.  Where will it stop?  Will romances go back to the rules of the 30s and 40s where no sex at all is permitted before marriage?  If a werewolf makes love, is that bestiality?


The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) have become involved.  This issue effects independent authors and publishers disproportionately because mainstream publishers rarely publish such works.  The EFF blogged about the issue a few days ago:  The ABFFE and NCAC issued a press release:


Make no mistake, as financial services become increasingly concentrated into one vendor, the danger of censorship rises.  Today it is erotica, tomorrow it could be anything.  Read the blog and press release mentioned above.  Then write polite letters (yes, paper letters) to the companies driving the censorship.  I have listed them below.  Do not scream, but write articulate, calm letters explaining how they should not censor what fiction writers, or any writer, can write.  If this domino falls, it starts a whole series of dominos that will result in us only being able to read what the credit card and financial instructions want us to read.


From Smashwords:



Although erotica authors are being targeted, this is an issue that should concern
all indie authors. It affects indies disproportionately because indies are the
ones pushing the boundaries of fiction. Indies are the ones out there publishing
without the (fading) protective patina of a “traditional publisher” to lend them
legitimacy. We indies only have each other.

Several Smashwords authors have contacted me to stress that this censorship affects
women disproportionately.  Women write a lot of the erotica, and they’re also
the primary consumers of erotica.  They’re also the primary consumers of mainstream
romance, which could also come under threat if PayPal and the credit card companies
were to overly enforce their too-broad and too-nebulous obsenity clauses (I think
this is unlikely, but at the same time, why would dubious consent be okay in
mainstream romance but not okay in erotica? If your write paranormal, can your
were-creatures not get it on with one another, or is that bestiality?  The insanity
needs to stop here. These are not questions an author, publisher or distributor
of legal fiction should have to answer.).

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?”

Below are links to the companies waiting to hear from you. Click the link and
you’ll find their phone numbers, executive names and postal mailing addresses.
Be polite, respectful and professional, and encourage your friends and followers
to do the same.  Let them know you want them out of the business of censoring
legal fiction.

Tell the credit card companies you want them to give PayPal permission to sell
your ebooks without censorship or discrimination.  Let them know that PayPal’s
policies are out of step with the major online ebook retailers who already accept
your books as they are.  Address your calls, emails (if you can find the email)
and paper letters (yes paper!) to the executives.  Post open letters to them
on your blog, then tweet and Facebook hyperlinks to your letters.  Force the
credit card companies to join the discussion about censorship.  And yes, express
your feelings and opinions to PayPal as well.  Don’t scream at them.  Ask them
to work on your behalf to protect you and your readers from censorship.  Tell
them how their proposed censorship will harm you and your fellow writers.


American Express:



Ebay (owns PayPal):

Gardenbookfrontcoverthumbnail For more help gardening, buy my book, Preparing A Vegetable Garden From The Ground Up
Available in print or ebook from or other retailers, this book walks you from choosing the site of your garden all the way through what to do after the harvest. Buy a copy for yourself or a friend today!

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