It’s time for another timely reminder that the credit card companies are why we can’t have nice adult things online. Well, to be fair, I suppose it’s the credit card companies and their shadowy political masters. Like that makes it better?
Start with some background. This post is about FetLife, a famous social media platform for kinky people that (despite its reputation for having some serious flaws) leveraged its early-mover status into a lock on its market segment. FetLife is by all accounts the place for kinky people to congregate online.
You’ve never seen much on ErosBlog about FetLife or about the goings-on there, because nothing that happens on Fetlife is visible on the open web. You have to join up and be logged in to see anything there, which makes the site not part of the internet as far as I’m concerned. As I explained more than seven years ago:
When I’m blogging, I’m swimming in an ocean of material, trying not to drown in it. There’s more published every minute than I could read in a month — and that’s just on the “open” internet, the part where the links work for everyone and there aren’t any passwords or secret knocks.
By policy, I don’t even try to read or look at anything that’s friendslocked or passworded or semi-private. Anything like that is symbolically flagged “this is not for the whole world to see.” And I’m a blogger who can’t even manage to skim all the public stuff that’s out there. Why would I waste my time getting permission to look at controlled stuff, and then actually looking at that stuff, when I don’t even have time to look at all the open stuff that I need to see every day?
I conceptualize anything that’s behind an access control as being dead information, not part of the live internet and thus not part of my conceptual realm. I don’t have time for it and I don’t have room for it in my head. It might as well not exist for me, because knowing stuff I can’t blog about is only going to make my blogging life more difficult, never richer or easier.
It turns out there was a #Pornocalypse-inspired massacre at FetLife recently, with thousands of fetish categories deleted without notice and without (at first) any explanation. Violet Blue explains it this way:
Recent censorship enacted at FetLife is the result of financial discrimination by multiple credit card processors who have ceased business with FetLife for what the processors claim are “Illegal or Immoral” reasons. It began for users one week ago when FetLife announced changes to content guidelines, stating “We can no longer allow FetLifers to publicly share sexual pics and vids containing blood visible in them.” Then without warning, Fetlife deleted hundreds of groups and literally thousands of fetish categories that represented a range of kinky communities (like ones with hypnosis, blood, and humiliation in the name). This was in response to to significant pressure from FetLife’s credit card processor.
Although I try to reserve the word “censorship” for situations when the government attacks our speech freedoms, it’s not clear that Violet’s word choice isn’t correct in this case. The lame explanations allegedly provided by the credit card company to FetLife’s processing bank have the stench of Operation Choke Point about them. That’s the secretive program run by the US Department of Justice to deny banking services to (among others) adult businesses. Although Operation Choke Point was supposed to have been officially terminated in 2015, there’s serious reason to doubt that it ever actually stopped.
Among those reasons, I now feel that we have to include FetLife’s current banking difficulties. FetLife has finally gotten around to posting an explanation for its members, and someone has helpfully schlepped it out onto the open internet where we can see it:
That’s just the first part; there’s more.
FetLife received the same sort of vague and conflicting excuses from its card processor that the victims of Operation Choke Point typically reported hearing. I’m not sure how far we should credit the story of Operation Choke Point’s alleged demise.
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