The world has gone mad and "censorship" is the word that is flitting around the romance community.
Just this week...
- Amazon's new policy has stripped any erotica titles of exposure and hides them into impossible-to-find corners of their store.
- Microsoft is banning user profanity and nudity from Skype, X-box chat, and One-Drive.
- Radish is kicking off any content that contains sexy times designed to arouse, versus elicit emotional feelings.
And it's only Wednesday.
Angry fingers are pointing toward Congress's passage of the FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking) Act as the cause. The act (especially when combined with the SESTA - Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking) Act, is holding platforms (like the Apple Store, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google Play) responsible for their user's actions. Which means that suddenly those platforms are paying ALOT more attention to what we say, publish and share.
The easiest way for publishing platforms to stay in compliance? Do everything they can to remove erotica from their shelves. BOOM. DONE.
Let's pause that thought for a moment and talk about the First Amendment. It states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
In other words, the First Amendment protects against government restrictions or interference with the content of speech, and applies to Government at the national, state, and local level.
"AHA!" You say. "So they CAN'T tell us what we can publish!"
Um... sorry. Having a First Amendment doesn't mean that laws can't be made to limit those rights. Think of gun laws. The Second Amendment gives us the right to bear arms, but we still have state and national laws that decide what arms we can bear, and how.
Let's get back to the FOSTA/SESTA Acts and how they affect those First Amendment rights. I think we all agree that sex trafficking is a terrible thing that needs to stop immediately. And everyone's hearts are in the right place with these increased restrictions.
BUT COME ON. My novel about a husband and wife who have raunchy sex all night long ... that's not increasing or promoting or encouraging sex trafficking. That shouldn't be censored or blocked from publication. But, as of this week, it is.
While the FOSTA/SESTA acts come from a good place, the platforms' enforcement of those acts is reaching past their scope of prevention and are scraping dangerously close to the line of invasive monitoring and censorship.
What will be the next step? I guess we'll just have to wait and see...
I'd love to know your thoughts. Sound off in the comments section.
Edited to add:
In my Inkers group, the following question was asked and I wanted to share my answer here.
With the crackdown on erotica and even the targeting of contemporary romance, I’m curious what your thoughts are on how this will impact the overall romance genre and all its sub-genres?
I think that the pendulum is swinging and that, right now, it's at an extreme. I think there will be some growing pains as Amazon readjusts and figures out a better way to target and control illegal erotica.
I think we are going to see a drastic reduction in the number of step-daddy, mild incest, teenage, babysitter, questionable consent, pure smut (and possibly dark romance) titles as Amazon's filtering will reduce their earning potentials.
In terms of traditional romances and the majority of romance sub-genres, I think we will see little to no effect. I think Amazon needs to create more sub-genres and categories to keep the major categories from being crowded and impossible to rank in. I think our covers, blurbs and presentation will end up become very watered down and non-sexualized, which is going to make it practically impossible for conservative readers to find a PG romance, and erotica readers to find their R or X rated romances.
I don't think the sky is falling. I think this will cause tweaks, on both our side and the retailer sides. I think Nook and iBooks will follow Amazon's lead. And I think our sales will suffer a bit of a dip, and then come back to normal.