Western Union, a US-based international money transfer service, has suddenly cancelled the accounts of gay hookup services Cruiseline and Squirt.org because it objects to the provision of what it calls “adult services.”
Cruiseline is a phone service which allows men to meet for sex and Squirt is a cruising website which also allows users to access gay porn. Both Cruiseline and Squirt are operated by Pink Triangle Press (PTP), which also publishes Xtra.
PTP used Western Union to allow Cruiseline and Squirt customers who couldn’t or didn’t want to use credit cards or bank accounts to buy services by wiring cash from almost anywhere in the world.
Daniel Diaz, a spokesperson at Western Union headquarters in Colorado, says the company cut off its services because of the “adult services” the businesses provide. Both accounts were closed as of Jun 4.
“In general terms we do not do business with agencies that engage in adult services,” says Diaz. “We do not allow any explicit content of any kind, photography, subscription-based adult services or other products deemed to be adult services. It’s been a policy that’s across the board. Regardless of the audience being served, we automatically move forward with declining the services.”
But Diaz points to other Western Union corporate policies he says are gay-friendly.
“As a corporation we do offer same-sex benefits to employees,” he says. “We are very supportive of the gay community.”
Andrew Chang, PTP’s chief operating officer, says Western Union’s decision to cut off Cruiseline and Squirt came out of the blue.
“It’s disappointing that Western Union would terminate a relationship more than a decade old that’s been problem-free without even contacting us,” he says. “It’s a bad way to conduct business.”
Diaz says Western Union began dealing with PTP in 1998 for Cruiseline. He says Western Union would have looked at the business then.
“When a business approaches us we do a very thorough background check,” he says. “We didn’t have information on Cruiseline.”
Diaz says Cruiseline could not have been a subscription-based service at that time. He also says that Western Union began dealing with Pressnet, the PTP division that runs Squirt, in 1999. He says that when Squirt launched in 2003 it was not a subscription-based service either.
But Chang says Cruiseline and Squirt have operated the same way since their inceptions, with men paying to access the services.
Diaz did not return Xtra’s calls asking how Western Union could have missed the primary functions of Cruiseline and Squirt during its “thorough background checks”.
Chang says the loss of Western Union will not cause significant financial damage to the businesses, but that it will make it harder for men to pay for the services.
“It’s not a huge amount of money,” he says. “It’s certainly not crippling but it’s sad. Cruiseline and Squirt provide important services to men who have sex with men. It’s just another barrier for people to be able to express their sexuality.
“Western Union is all over the place. It’s very accessible. It provided a way for people who don’t have credit cards or a bank account to access the services.”
Chang says he has no reason to think Cruiseline and Squirt are being singled out for their gay content, but says the result will be especially hard on men outside of urban centres.
“Definitely it’s going to have an adverse effect on people in remote areas,” he says. “Those are the people who are in the most insecure position.”