Censorpedia: An Interactive Database of Censorship Incidents

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Featured Case

Date: 2012

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."

Source: NCAC Smashwords PayPal blog entry

What is Censorpedia?

Censorpedia is a crowdsourced online database of censorship cases within the arts and in culture. It is aimed at those researching censorship, at activists working for freedom of expression and at artists and other cultural producers whose expression has been subject to censorship or attempted censorship.

Censorpedia documents censorship incidents by providing the who, what, when, where and why. By providing a repository of information about what is vulnerable to censorship and about the strategies and tactics that have defeated previous’ censorship attempts, Censorpedia aids the fight for free expression.

Researchers can search for a specific case, year or keyword using the search box, as well as browse by medium, by grounds for censorship, or explore a random case.

Activists can search for ongoing cases or contribute a case that is ongoing or recently resolved.

Artists and cultural producers are similarly invited to add cases they are directly involved with or are familiar with first hand.

Censorpedia builds on the landmark 1994 art project The File Room, initiated by Muntadas.

For more information about censorship visit our Annotated Bibliography

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