Visa Writes Us Back! “This is Not Our Doing”. #paypal #censorship #erotica

March 10, 2012

We have received a response to our letter to Visa from Doug Michelman, head of Investor Relations.

Ms. Madeleine Morris

Dear Ms. Morris,

Thank you for your email regarding PayPal’s recent decision to limit the sale of certain erotica content. First and foremost, we want to clarify that Visa had no involvement with PayPal’s conclusion on this issue. Nor have we seen the material in question. This fact is made clear by PayPal’s recent blog post where it states that its own policies drove the decision.

Although our company rules were not the impetus for PayPal’s decision, these issues are important to us, and we’d like to share our point of view with you.

In general, Visa takes no position with respect to lawful goods and services bought and sold by the people and the companies who use our payment service. As the largest payment network in the world, with billions of cardholders and tens of millions of retailers and individuals selling goods in nearly every country of the world, our goal is to offer the best way to pay everywhere and for everyone. In fulfilling this mission, we strive to respect the many different perspectives that citizens of the world hold, and we avoid taking sides when those opinions differ.

At the same time, we respect the rule of law in the countries in which we operate and seek to prevent the use of our payment service for unlawful transactions. As a result, generally, the sale of material that is considered lawful may be processed through the Visa system while the use of the Visa system for buying and selling illegal items would be prohibited.

Relevant to this situation, the sale of a limited category of extreme imagery depicting rape, bestiality and child pornography is or is very likely to be unlawful in many places and would be prohibited on the Visa system whether or not the images have formally been held to be illegal in any particular country. 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. We recognize, as courts in the U.S. and elsewhere have long recognized, that this is a challenging topic. Bright lines are difficult to establish. We welcome the input of all stakeholders regarding our policies as we work to sustain a network that supports global commerce, while respecting the laws of the countries where we operate.

We hope this provides the clarification you seek. I’d be happy to answer any follow up questions you have regarding our policies on these matters.

-Doug Michelman

Well, I think we can set the ‘Visa Made Me Do It’ bullshit to bed. Visa seems to have an eminently sensible policy.  They also seem to have a very literate  and erudite spokesperson, which is also kind of refreshing.

Here is my response:

Dear Mr. Michelman,

Thank you for your clear and erudite response. I will share this letter with my members.

Visa’s policy seems eminently sensible and socially responsible. We are glad to note that your company seems to have found a way to protect consumer choice and free expression while actively helping to stop the trade in illegal pornography. And it goes to show that there is a middle, sensible ground that can be pursued in this matter.

I wish you a good evening, and, again, thank you.


Madeleine Morris
On Behalf of