If it seems as if everything you do is being tracked and monitored these days, you’re not alone. Hell, the other day, we swear we just thought about downloading a new dating app and then, out of nowhere, that exact online dating app was being sponsored and recommended to us on Instagram. Creepy, right?
With big brother always keeping a close eye as to your activity online and through phone apps, another source of censoring is coming from a strange place — payment processors. Yep, believe it or not, apps like Visa, Mastercard and PayPal, among others, are restricting people from purchasing too many things that are deemed sexual in nature. Is this right? It doesn’t seem like it, but, hey, these companies are trying to limit your spending habits.
According to the website EFF.org, five years ago, the site tried to defend the right of publishers like Smashwords to publish written written descriptions of transgressive sexual conduct, against PayPal’s threat to cancel payment services unless they withdrew such works from sale. That same year, a company called Nifty Archives Alliance, which publishes erotic stories, temporarily saw its donation page suspended for violating rules from payment processors like Visa and Mastercard.
More recently, EFF reported that FetLife, which is an adult social network, lost its ability to process credit card payments due to its offerings of consensual BDSM practices to users. FetLife appears to have been shit down from one of the credit card networks, which prohibited merchants of FetLife from processing payments due to “blood, needles, and vampirism” on the website.
This leads to a bigger question: Is this right? Is it really up to payment processors to exclude certain companies from getting paid? The easy answer is no, but let’s dig a little bit deeper.
None of the above websites/companies were selling anything illegal. Following the complaint on FetLife, the site cracked down on all depictions — both real or illustrated — of images of sexual nature. Nevertheless, FetLife has still seen their payment services suspended, and there’s no clear reason as to why that is, as they’ve seemed to follow protocol.
Following EFF’s attempt to defend places like Smashwords against payment processors like PayPal and the aforementioned credit card companies, Visa replied by saying they would not take action to censor payments on erotic material. Here’s a snippet of their written statement to EFF:
“Visa would take no action regarding lawful material that seeks to explore erotica in a fictional or educational manner. As you note in your letter, Visa is not in the business of censoring cultural product.”
With governments tasked to try and limit search and payments on erotic or sexual material, it’s concerning that payment processors have already taken the first step in trying to restrict people themselves. There’s pressure on these companies to do what they can to protect users and merchants from illegal activity, but in the above instances, there were no traces of such.
We live in a day and age where sex always sells, yet some conservative leaders seem it necessary to monitor activity and restrict any and/or all mention of such. This is a heady debate — and one that isn’t going to go away anytime soon — so, sadly, it may come down to the power of payment processors and credit card companies doing whatever they want to, which is a scary dictatorship to have over users and merchants.