Friday, March 09, 2012

Yes, it IS censorship!

It's just not government censorship. No, this is free market censorship. Y'know the free market? It's that handy capitalistic tool that conservative forces trot out as gospel when it suits their purposes. Yup. That's the one being stomped on with this PayPal bullshit. There is a substantial legal demand. There is a robust legal supply. PayPal and other payment processors are inserting themselves between supply and demand like some arbiter of morality.

Before I go any further, I would like to tell those who glibly advise "Just use a different payment processor." that I've spent the last two weeks attempting to find one. Sure, they exist. They, too, are refusing to transact sales of transgressive/taboo erotica, even those who typically handle the extremes of the adult industry.

Ergo, this is bigger than PayPal. Next up the chain of control are the credit card companies and banks. That alone should scare the shit out of anyone who values liberty, and those who have responded with a shrug and a "So what?" are only fueling the oppression. (Rather easy to do if you're sitting on a pedestal looking down at the struggling masses, too.) If you think that oppression is going to stop with hardcore erotica that you, personally, may find offensive, then you are naive in the extreme. Add something meaningful to the dialog or shut the fuck up.

As Selena Kitt (who is far more influential than I when it comes to negotiating with both vendors and payment processors) notes in the comments on Joe Konrath's blog:
If you're honest with the processor about what you're selling, THERE ISN'T ONE.

That's right, there's no viable alternative. And I've not been sitting on my ass doing nothing, trust me.

I have had, literally, dozens of conversations with CC processors in the past two weeks and I have a colleague who has talked to at least that many herself and we have both run into the same thing from every single one – NO CC processor will allow anything related to incest, pseudo incest, bestiality or rape for titillation. Period. Including all those processors that normally take extreme adult material like CCBill and Verotel. (Those places that normally process "porn" payments...)

My recent foray into high risk and adult merchant processors (including those offshore - the ones that process the really, really, REALLY hardcore porn stuff) has proven even further that this is the CC processors and not just PP who is behind this, that this is a new mandate, and it's being enforced and will continue to be enforced across the board.

I was referred, through several channels, to a guy who could get an account for *anyone.* He told me personally that his company dealt with some of the most “fringe” and risky Internet businesses out there.

He turned my application in to his underwriter who came back with an immediate NO due to “illegal activity.”.
So, where does that leave us?  We are at a critical juncture. We either bend over and take it, or we fight back. I'm fighting back. I recommend you do so as well. Here's how:
  1. Use cash whenever possible. Credit card companies make money on every transaction they process. Each cash transaction chips away at their power.
  2. If cash is not an option, use checks or your bank's bill pay service instead of credit cards.
  3. Use your bank's EFT (electronic funds transfer) service for online transactions if a vendor offers it as an option. I realize most people prefer not to enter their banking info online, so I would recommend setting up a separate checking account just for this purpose. Then, if your information is ever compromised, it mitigates the potential damage.
  4. Move your accounts from for-profit banks to a credit union. Credit unions are member-owned and not for profit business with similar federally-insured protections as banks. (Sound like part of the #occupy movement? Uh huh. There's a good reason: the issues are related.)
Each of the above can be implemented without coming out of the "erotica closet" as either a writer or a reader. Further:
  1. Write to PayPal (and its parent company, eBay) to express your outrage/concern that it is filtering your selection of reading material. You're an adult. You can decide for yourself what you wish to read.
  2. Write to Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover and let them know that you do not approve of their interference. Suppression of the free market is not economically responsible behavior for any company, much less one in the financial services industry.
  3. Sign the online petition. (I don't put much stock in these, but it's sure as hell not going to hurt.)
  4. Use your blog, Facebook, and Twitter to spread the word. The more noise that is made, the more likely the issue will be subject of discussion in board rooms and shareholder meetings. Social media and our voting wallets are the most powerful tools in our possession.
Additional steps for authors:
  1. Let your readers know that their access to your work may be being filtered by vendors and payment processors, and give them information on how & where to voice their concerns about this oversight.
  2. Include an author's note in all of your books that contains (at minimum) a link to a page containing a complete list of your publications.
  3. Vendors need your books in order to... vend. You are as much their customer as are readers. You are the supply being demanded. Let vendors know that you expect them to go to bat for you, or you will opt to publish even your non-taboo work only with vendors who will and do fight for their authors.
  4. Do not attempt to publish your work with niche vendors unless your work fits that niche. It makes some Romance readers, writers, bloggers, and vendors behave in unseemly and hypocritical ways. It also takes the righteousness out of your indignation.
For more of my ranting on this subject, please check out my appearance as a guest on Eden Connor's blog.

peace & passion,

~ Alessia

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