A major fetish forum Fetlife has announced that censorship pressures have lead to the removal of 100's of groups and 1000's of fetishes from its website.
John Baku of Fetlife posted (edited for brevity):
I apologize for
the deletion of 100s of groups and 1,000s of fetishes without any warning, let alone sufficient notice. I apologize for not making this announcement earlier and leaving everyone in the dark, and most importantly, I apologize for letting many of you down.
I wish we could have done things differently, but even upon reflection, I believe we did what we had to do to protect the community and FetLife with the information we had when we made each decision along the way.
Before making any decisions, we consulted with multiple parties. We consulted with the team, partners, financial institutions, the NCSF (National Coalition for Sexual Freedom), the FSC (Free Speech Coalition), lawyers,
and anyone else we thought might have insight for us.
So, why did we make the announcement? Everything falls under one of three categories: financial risk, legal risk, and community risk.
Let's first talk quickly about the financial risk and get it out of the way because I don't want it to detract from the high priority issues i.e. the legal and community
risks. A merchant account is what allows us to process credit cards on FetLife. The ads you see on FetLife covers the cost of approximately 1/2 the cost of our servers and bandwidth -- that's it. Hence, without a merchant account, FetLife runs at a loss
every month -- and we are not talking a couple of dollars a month, we are talking significant losses.
Last Tuesday we got a notice that one of our merchant accounts was shutting us down. One of the card companies
contacted them directly and told the bank to stop processing for us. The bank asked for more information, but the only thing they could get from the card company was that part of it had to do with blood, needles, and vampirism.
Three days later, we get another notice, this time from our other merchant account. They got a similar call from the same card company, and they were asked to close our account. This time they were told it was for Illegal or
Hence we can no longer process credit cards on FetLife and will most likely not be able to for a while.
The Legal Risk
There are numerous things at play here:
A highly publicized rape case in Australia involving a member of the community; An organization that participated in the anti-porn bill that wants to see sites like FetLife taken
off the internet; Talk of reviving the obscenity task force in the US; The Digital Economy bill in the UK that's being debated currently; BPjM in Germany; and We've been one of the most liberal, if not the most liberal, adult site on the web which makes
us the perfect target; We can put our heads in the sand, but that is both naive and irresponsible. All of the above have real legal risks attached to them with potentially equally real consequences. Maybe not to you directly but it does to FetLife, the
team behind FetLife, and myself.
The Community Risk
The one thing that bonds us all together is our love for the kinky community. Without the kinky community, without sites
like FetLife, many of us would not have a place to call home, a place in which we are accepted and understood, and dare I say a place in which we feel free to be ourselves.
If we hope to win the war, if we want our
society to be more accepting of us, then we can't give them a reason to vilify us. People always need someone to blame, and we need to stop making ourselves the easy target.
Both FetLife and the NCSF believe that the proposed changes will give us the opportunity to flourish as a community while better protecting ourselves from outside attack.
With the help of the
NCSF, lawyers, partners, and merchant providers, we came up with the following pillars that will make up our guidelines:
- Nothing non-consensual (abduction, rape, etc.)
- Nothing that impairs consent (drugs, alcohol, etc.)
- No permanent or lasting damage (snuff, lacerations,
deep cutting, etc.)
- No hate speech (Nazi roleplay, race play, etc.)
- Nothing that falls under obscenity (incest, etc. )
We hope to be able to publish our new content guidelines shortly as well as implement changes to caretaking so that we don't ever find ourselves in a similar situation again.