Recently, PayPal slammed down the moral gavel in relation to inappropriate content. Using one of PayPal’s largest clients, Smashwords, as an example, the intermediate payment company told Smashwords execs that no further transactions between PayPal and Smashwords could take place unless the
e-book publisher removed certain erotic content from its virtual bookshelves.
For a variety of reasons, PayPal’s decision to restrict certain types of content has raised a lot of eyebrows throughout the tech world (and Internet community at large). Some wonder if a payment company should have this type of power while others are amazed that PayPal has taken such a strong moral stance. Here’s how it all played out.
PayPal’s Words of Warning
PayPal sent a letter of warning to Smashwords this past week. The letter clearly stated that Smashwords had just a few days to remove any lewd content from the publisher’s websites. Since Smashwords sells e-books and competes with the likes of Amazon, this is a lot easier said than done. Still, Smashwords founder, Mark Coker, decided to comply with PayPal, since PayPal is the only system that Smashwords currently uses to process customer payments. Further, PayPal has been fully integrated into the Smashwords system, and removing the payment company from the system would be extremely difficult.
So, what kinds of material does PayPal find offensive? Namely, any words of fiction that pertain to incest and underage eroticism are now banned from having anything to do with the PayPal brand (indirectly or otherwise). This is an interesting stance for a company to take, since few companies interfere with the business of clients in this manner. Yet, PayPal is sticking by its guns (the company is offering lots of help and support to Smashwords, so that the e-book publisher can effectively comply) even though many people (including various Smashwords authors) are none too happy about PayPal’s decision.
Is This a Form of Censorship?
Many are crying “censorship!” after hearing about PayPal’s recent decision. Others believe that PayPal has no right to attempt controlling another company in this manner. Whether fortunate or not, PayPal does have Smashwords by the throat, since Smashwords has no choice but to comply or lose the biggest payment system out there. Needless to say, PayPal’s moral decision is making a lot of headlines lately, and this is certainly a battle to pay attention to over the next few weeks.
After publishing PayPal’s friendly letter of warning on the Smashwords site, Coker told press that PayPal has also gone after some other companies offering questionable content, but the names of those companies have yet to be revealed. What do you think? Has PayPal gone too far or is this one company that is backed by some strong (and proper) morals? From the business perspective of it all, should a company tell its clients what they can and cannot do or is this a bad business move? For now, Smashwords (and those other companies that PayPal has contacted) are removing any questionable works of fiction from their website, but I’d wager a bet that this battle isn’t quite over yet.