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Corporate Censorship


I am totally opposed to government censorship of the internet, but there are other forms of censorship.

PayPal, under pressure from the credit card companies they use, has told Smashwords (Smashwords is perhaps the second most important ebook seller and distributor in the world) that conditions will be imposed on the books they sell and distribute.

These conditions are apparently aimed at erotica.  I have never written or published erotica and only occasionally read it.  (I have read a few Mills and Boon books, but I mostly skip the passages describing love making).  But the bans on books containing bestiality, rape or incest do not sufficiently spell out that the bans only refer to books that treat these subjects as erotica.  They also do not specify under what legislation the incest is defined.

In some places, marriages between first cousins are, or have been, banned. 

In my book, A Bad Boy, two first cousins fall in love.  They are of about the same age (The girl is a few months older).  One of the cousins is a stepson so they are not even related biologically. They do not make love until they are married and the love making is not described at all.  The union is legal in Australia but not everywhere.  Potentially this book can be banned under PayPal’s rules. 

On fact, this book has been severely criticised in a one star review in Barnes and Noble for the lack of emotion displayed by the characters. The reviewer had not even finished the book and he obviously had not realised that the main character, Andy, was intended to be an undiagnosed high functioning autistic adult and did not express emotion in totally usual ways.  Probably the anonymous reviewer was disappointed in the total lack of erotica in the book.  One thing I had not realised when I chose the title is that most books containing the phase ‘bad boy’ are erotica.

Much worse than this is that applying the rules strictly will definitely ban sales of the Holy Bible using PayPal to pay.

If someone wrote about ancient Egypt they would have to avoid mentioning that brother and sister marriages were common among the Pharaohs.  Although this was apparently not incest under their laws it is in most places and times.

PayPal has been forced into its censorship of books, and I do not hold it against this fine organisation. I also recognise that neither PayPal nor the credit card companies are intending to ban books like the Holy Bible, but once censorship starts it can easily be extended by other people especially since a strict interpretation of PayPal’s rules would allow very many books to be banned, including some important holy books.
The well meaning people who are attempting to impose this censorship could be starting something that they themselves would never suport.
Up Date

PayPal said that their policy was because of presure from the credit card companies, but did not specify which ones.  Visa has denied pressuring PalPal to apply any censorship.
Since I wrote this article, PayPal has made a public statement.
Some of the millions of Books that could be banned if the censorship imposed by PalPal is applied inappropriately