Daily Archives: September 24, 2004

PayPal Gets Inexplicably Snippy

Bill Quick sends notice that he’s apparently run afoul of PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy. The company writes:

Your account has been limited for violating PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy regarding Offensive Material. The Policy prohibits the use of PayPal in the sale of items or in support of organizations that promote hate, violence, or racial intolerance; items which graphically portray violence or victims of violence; or items closely associated with individuals notorious for committing murderous acts within the last 100 years.

The implication being, since Bill’s been using PayPal for donations, that something on his site fulfills any of these categories.

What on his site does this? Got me. At the moment, Bill’s promoting intolerance of John Kerry and CBS News, but since about half the politically-oriented blogs in the country are doing the same, if this is the problem, then PayPal is about to lose a significant chunk of its donation business. The only other thing which I can find that is potentially offensive is that Bill keeps up a picture of the World Trade Center being hit, emblazoned with the exhortation to “Never Forget!” If that’s what’s bugging PayPal, I expect it’s going to be walking into a buzzfan of bad publicity. Bill also promotes libertarianism in a general sense; I guess maybe someone at PayPal finds that intolerant, which given the libertarian ethos (“do what you want, just do it away from me”) is mildly ironic.

Basically, it’s hard to see what’s gotten into PayPal’s fool head. I’m genuinely curious to know what on Bill site is actually in violation, because aside from Bill’s own distinctive editorial voice, the content is not at all different from hundreds of not thousands of blogs out there. If he’s in violation, so’s a significant percentage of the blogosphere.

As an aside, this is one of the reasons I don’t have a “tip” button on the Whatever — I don’t like the idea that anyone should feel they have the financial right to tell me what’s acceptable on my own damn site. That’s a decision I get to make, thank you. I accept PayPal donations for Agent to the Stars, mind you, but that’s neither here nor there regarding the Whatever. In any event, if PayPal ever came back and told me that I would need to make a change to Agent because it was in violation of their Acceptable Use, I’d point them in the direction of Hell and tell them to have a nice trip. I don’t need PayPal’s stamp of approval.

My assumption, barring the discovery of an entry where Bill genuinely advocates genocide or baby-strangling, is that PayPal’s made some sort of stupid error; a spider crawling through his site came across some combination of words that sends up a red flag and/or an automatic “violation” letter. Like I said, I’d be interested to know what triggered the letter; it would be instructive to know how PayPal thinks, in any event.

“My initial inclination is to tell these little tin gods to take their attempts to dictate the nature of my content elsewhere,” Bill writes, and I’d concur. Life is too short to have to worry about whether one violates PayPal’s acceptable use policy. I’m pretty sure that Amazon will be happy to process Bill’s donations.

Update: in the comments, Patrick Neilsen Hayden writes:

“Jeralyn Merrit of the excellent TalkLeft has received the same threatening notice.”

It’s related to a video of one of the recent Iraq beheadings, which I believe Bill also linked to. As I said in the comment thread, nice to see it’s bipartisan stupidity on PayPal’s part.