Wednesday, March 7, 2012

PayPal's Censorship Debacle

Loved the story, "Two People Having Sex," a parody about PayPal's censorship nonsense. Here's a follow-up to the short-story's conclusion:

eBay, PayPal's parent company, is listing products containing the words "bestiality," "rape," "incest," and "pedophile." This fact implies that eBay does not filter products and content. If eBay and PayPal demand compliance with their arbitrary rule, then why does eBay have products listed with these words? I see no proof that the products have been screened for content and relevance. Here are some stats:

1. Bestiality: As of this writing, eBay has 72 products listed with the word "bestiality." Of these 72, 9 are books (13% of bestiality-related products), with 8 claiming to be non-fiction, with 1 being listed as fiction & literature. Focusing only on the books, can eBay certify that products sold on its site do not contain references to banned content?

2. Incest: eBay lists 437 products with this word. Of these, 363 (83%) are books, with 34 (8%) being fictional works. Of the 363, can eBay certify which ones don't contain references to the banned word/act/practice? How, if eBay is policing its own backyard, can these products be sold?

3. Rape: eBay lists 2,364 products with this word, of which 1,163 (49%) are books. 817 are listed as non-fiction, and 128 (5%) are fiction & literature. How is this possible, since PayPal must be policing its parent company's listings. With strong content filters and no possibility of grey areas, then the non-fiction titles cannot possibly contain references to the banned word/act/practice, right? Similarly, the fictional titles could not possibly exist on eBay, right?

4. Pedophile: eBay lists 67 products with this word, of which 13 (19%) are books, and 6 (9%) are listed as fiction & literature. How is this possible? How many of the 13 contain banned content, as defined by eBay and PayPal?
5. BDSM: eBay lists 1,294 products with this word. 73 (6%) are books, of which 57 (4%) are fiction & literature. By the way, eBay sells BDSM apparatus, which, I thought, would be banned as well.
 I could continue spewing stats, but it's not necessary as I proved in 100% of my searches within eBay, that this merchant violates its own (and MasterCard's) policies. I added MasterCard as an example of a card network that has banned certain products & services from its network.
Research indicates that MasterCard possesses a tool that evaluates a merchant's risk, and that if a merchant (e.g. eBay) engages in business that promotes one of MasterCard's "Deadly Sins," then the merchant will be removed from the MasterCard network. These "Deadly Sins" include child pornography, violence/hate, extreme sexual violence, and bestiality.
Can PayPal survive on its own if its parent company, eBay, is cut off from the MasterCard network? By its relationship with eBay, PayPal would be cut off, too, as (a) it processes banned-content transactions, and (b) its parent company would be unable to remain a MasterCard merchant. Once a merchant is listed as "high risk," the other card networks (Visa, Diner's Club, American Express) will likely blacklist the merchant as well. I guess PayPal can develop its own merchant and issuing network (rotsa ruck, PayPal).
Do PayPal and eBay possess the nerve to continue pressing Smashwords to conform to rules that they (PayPal and eBay) obviously cannot follow?
Finally, MasterCard cannot manage to this "Deadly Sins" issue (as it doesn't take ownership of content during the transaction process). A rule put into place, but without the means for enforcing it, would be difficult to defend in court, I'd imagine.


  1. Bravo. Well written and extremely well argued. But as Paypal is only reacting every time Mastercard et al jerk its strings, surely the big problem is the major financial institutions that believe they have the right to assume a position of moral guardianship. Funny stuff, considering that the banks are ones to blame for the world's financial peril right now.

  2. I am curious as to when the financial institutions were granted the power of censorship. PayPal will, historically, bend to whatever power instructions are issued to them, so you cannot really fault them as the principal culprit in this problem. MasterCard is the one closer to 'ground zero' and is worth looking into for a background connection to who is influencing their stand. Could it be religeous based, or possibly to hold to the standards of another country? Curious....

  3. Well written and pins them down. I do agree, but I think there may be larger institutions behind the financial institutions. Of course they are well hidden, but "the almighty dollar" is still the driving force.
    Just a thought...

  4. Why not band together and create a new 'open source' pay-pal?

  5. I, too, believe there are likely sinister forces that control the puppet strings. As a few have pointed out, the puppet-master is likely larger institutions which have invested in the process. For example, HSBC, a bank chartered by the communist government of China (PRC) has very deep pockets; so deep that HSBC (and/or its benefactors) have been able to comporomise US national security by allowing a communist-controlled bank to invest and own property in the USA. Under different economic circumstances, and before the floodgates opened to easy credit, prior US presidents and congresses would have related PACs shut down and their ranks arrested (ala Richard Nixon's McCarthy-ism).

    Higher level, though, is the reality that the card associations create rules, policies, and procedures that become antiquated, as Smashwords' Mark Coker points out. The members of card associations are banks, and when they got together to create the card networks, they infused related morality clauses. This stuff is rarely ever enforced, and only raisses its ugly head when someone (probably a recent B-school grad who is a new-hire at PayPal), complains. Sadly, the scenario is very real that a spouse of an executive caught said exec downloading objectionable porn, paying via PayPal. S/he files a complaint via his/her divorce attorney, and away we go on a witch hunt. It could be as simple as that, and knee-jerk reactions are not strangers to those who rule the card networks.

    Regardless of who raised the concern, the fact remains that legal fiction is protected by the US Constitution's First Amendment, which is the ultimate authority over arbitrary and antiquated rules of a card-association's terms & conditions.


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