Region: North America
Subject: Explicit Sexuality
Medium: Internet Literature
Artist: Online publishers and booksellers (including Smashwords, BookStrand, eXcessica)
Confronting Bodies: PayPal
Dates of Action: February - March 2012
Location: United States (with worldwide implications)
Description of Artwork: The online publishers and booksellers targeted by PayPal offer erotica for purchase, using PayPal's now-ubiquitous online payment system. While each site already had its own guidelines for what content is permissible in authors' erotica works, PayPal was dissatisfied with particular subjects that are popular in these pieces.
The Incident: PayPal contacted a variety of online publishers of erotica, notifying them that the company is altering its Terms of Services to outlaw any works containing bestiality, rape, underage erotica and/or incest. PayPal only gave these websites a few days to remove erotica containing instances of these topics, and simultaneously threatened to deactivate the sites' PayPal services if they did not immediately comply.
Results of Incident: The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) sent a letter to both PayPal and eBay, expressing concern for the possible chilling effects that such regulation can have. Freedom of speech on the Internet is in jeopardy in this case. So far, the letter has been signed by about a dozen other organizations in favor of preserving freedom on the Internet, and the NCAC and the ABFFE urge others to sign the letter and contact PayPal to express their disapproval. March 8 update: PayPal Director of Communications Anuj Nayar posted a response on PayPal's blog, defending the company's decision by writing that "material focused on rape, incest or bestiality... often includes images." Though he explicitly states that "PayPal is a payments company. The right to use PayPal’s service is not the same as the right to speak," he also says that "PayPal is a strong and consistent supporter of openness on the Internet, freedom of expression, independent publishing and eBook marketplaces."