EFF calls for payment neutrality after PayPal U-turn

Payment service backtracks on obscene books blockade

Stewart Mitchell
14 Mar 2012

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has called on payments companies to be neutral regarding what they will and won't accept payments for.

The move follows criticism of eBay's PayPal, which came under fire when it refused to process payments for self-published books it considered to be obscene.

The company has since backtracked on plans to block payments for books including child pornography, rape, bestiality or incest, and says it will now object only if the book include illegal images.

The furore – led by writers and consumers of adult books, who claimed the policy blocked access to legal material – has led to calls for payment neutrality from the EFF.

"The internet cannot be a true global forum for expression if private companies that provide communication and payment services operate as morality police," said EFF senior staff attorney Lee Tien.

"The internet is a global forum where ideas can be freely aired, exchanged, and criticised. We're especially pleased that PayPal will only target specific works and not entire websites."

As part of changes to its policy PayPal said it would focus on individual books rather than categories when choosing which titles to stop processing payments for.

Although it didn't explain who would read and make the decision on which books violated its policies, PayPal said it was negotiating with publishing groups to create an appropriate process.

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