I’ve recently given in and started using PayPal. I say “given in” because I used to do everything I could possibly think of to avoid using it, after my partner Gareth was forced to invest multiple hours fighting with them to get back the $400 he spent on a camera he purchased but never received. In an effort to avoid that kind of pain in the future, I decided it was best to not include them in my repertoire of online payment tools.PayPal has since cornered the market in this area, making it a hassle for me in terms of paying editors, designers and so forth, so I reluctantly set up an account last year. And so far, I’ve been quite happy with their service.
But regardless of whether I’m happy with the ease in which I am now able to make and receive payments, this does not mean I’m happy with PayPal expanding their role to that of “the morality police.” A recent blog post on The Digital Reader talks about Smashwords receiving a threat by PayPal to drop them if they don’t remove erotica books that PayPal deems to be offensive. Hmm…I’m sorry…that PayPal deems to be offensive? PayPal, just who do you think you are? On what planet or in which dimension do you feel you have the right to play morality police with your clients? You are – no less and certainly no more than – a payment tool.
With regard to the books in question, I haven’t read them, but I have no doubt they probably are offensive in some way, shape or form to someone. Which is completely irrelevant here. There are loads of offensive things on the web and PayPal has no right to make a judgement call on any of them. The last time I checked, it was up to me, as a responsible adult, to decide whether I want to expose myself to offensive material. Period. (Or Full Stop, if you’re in the UK).
Which leads me to a final point. If I’m enraged by this, I’m guessing lots of other folks are as well. And if people get pissed off enough by the actions of their payment tool, some of them will start looking for an alternative, one that has no interest in trying to censor its clients. Doing a quick search, I found a company called WePay. Wikipedia says WePay’s founders “studied PayPal’s weaknesses” in order to come up with a better payment service. I’m sure there are other payment tools out there, and it will be interesting to see whether PayPal’s poorly conceived policies cause a massive tool migration.