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PayPal blocking transactions of porn professionals

Emails obtained by Al Jazeera cite concerns over webcam transactions and security

Online payment giant PayPal closed porn star Teal Conrad’s accounts and “banned her from the site,” she told Al Jazeera on Wednesday, one day after a report on how financial institutions are shutting out clients who work in the adult entertainment industry

An email sent by PayPal to Conrad, obtained by Al Jazeera, said: “We’ve recently reviewed your PayPal account activity and determined that you are in violation of PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy regarding your sales / offers of cam shows.”

PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy bars people from using the service for transactions involving “certain sexually oriented materials or services.”

PayPal does not specify what kinds of sexual materials are included in the provision and did not respond to an interview request from Al Jazeera at time of publication.

Porn star Tasha Reign’s PayPal accounts were also repeatedly closed over the course of the past year, she told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. PayPal's emailed responses to Reign's queries about the closures, which Al Jazeera reviewed,did not explain that they were related to webcam transactions but instead cited network “security” threats.

Porn production is legal in the state of California, where Conrad and Reign both work. 

Conrad said that she was using PayPal to track sales of merchandise to remain on the right side of the law.

“I was trying to make it a legitimate business account for taxes,” she said. A PayPal customer service representative told her funds in one account would be frozen for three to six months after her accounts’ closure, Conrad said.

Several other adult entertainment industry professionals contacted Al Jazeera after the earlier story about banks and other financial institutions barring members of the industry from keeping personal and business banking accounts. The actors said that they had experienced similar problems with PayPal, often the only mode of payment trusted and available on websites, including some adult entertainment sites.

Some financial institutions have indicated to those who have inquired about the issue that webcam transactions are a threat to cybesecurity. 

Online free expression activist Nadia Kayyali told Al Jazeera that with most financial institutions remaining tight-lipped on the reason for the account closures, “it’s hard to know what that argument really means.”

Kayyali said in a blog post on the subject said that banks like Chase, which has reportedly closed hundreds of porn professionals’ bank accounts in little over a week, are playing the "morality police."

“Cyber security is a pretty big term,” she said, as for Chase, “it very much appears as if the company is making moral decisions not necessarily based on security but about what content people should be allowed to use their services to provide.”

Adult entertainment trade group the Free Speech Coalition did not indicate to Al Jazeera that it would seek legal action to protect the industry’s personal and financial interests.

But CEO Diane Duke said that “in this day and age, for any bank to claim the moral high-ground is laughable.”

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