Cassandra 2012 Headline Animator

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Why does a bank want to censor my reading?

The most widely used means of paying for goods and services on-line internationally is operated by an organisation called PayPal. It partners Smashwords, the on-line digital publishing platform and facilitates transactions between the publisher and readers. Now it has informed Smashwords that it will end that partnership if Smashwords continues to publish certain kinds of material.

Not long ago I expressed my own concerns about some of the content in the Smashwords catalogue, saying that I was not entirely happy to have my book listed alongside such material. After I posted a link to my blog post (which I have since removed) on Smashwords' Facebook page a commenter pointed out that there is a filter on the publisher's site that enables customers to exclude adult material from searches. All very well, but I have classified my book as "adult" because it contains a few passages that are, in my opinion, unsuitable for children. Anyone viewing the Smashwords catalogue with material categorised as adult filtered out will therefore be unable to discover my book.

But there is a world of difference between providing a means for individuals to exclude from view material which they regard as inappropriate and an outright ban on the publication of such material. And it is certainly way beyond the remit of a bank, real or virtual, to dictate the reading habits of its customers.

PayPal is, apparently, claiming that one or more credit card companies are imposing this requirement on them. In other words, it is a real bank that is at the root of the problem. It is bad enough that here in Europe our governments are having their economic policies determined by the banks. At least matters financial are a legitimate concern for banks. Your reading habits and mine are not.

I have heard feminists argue against pornography on the grounds that it exploits women and in many instances of film and video this is undoubtedly the case, often involving the trading of young and immature women and girls across international borders. But in the case of the written word no-one is hurt. There may be graphic descriptions of people being subjected to depraved acts against their will but it is all in the imagination of the author and his or her readers. And the thing that surprised me in Mark Coker's e-mail this morning is this: "Women write a lot of the erotica, and they're also the primary consumers of erotica." So it is they rather than men who will be most harmed by this move.

I have repeated above the claim attributed by Mark Coker to PayPal to the effect that one or more credit card companies are behind this. I can only suppose that, having thus far failed to get SOPA through the US legislature, the religious right in the so called "land of the free" is now attempting censorship through our wallets. Whoever is at the root of this challenge to freedom of speech must be stopped and stopped soon. So I am appealing to all who read this blog to write to your bank and tell them that you will not tolerate this interference in your private and perfectly legal business transactions.

The following links were provided by Mark Coker in his e-mail of 2nd March PST/ 3rd March GMT. Follow them to find contact details for the CEO of each organisation. Let's flood their mail systems with our protests.

Mark also said "Don't scream at them.  Ask them to work on your behalf to protect you [and your readers] from censorship." The square brackets are mine. The words between them apply only if you are a writer.

There is more information about this assault on our liberty at the Electronic Frontier Foundation's website.

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