Early this fall, it was revealed that the online transaction-service company PayPal had closed the accounts, business as well as personal, of the British commentator Toby Young because he had dared to voice opinions about “gender theory” and “trans rights” that were at odds with the politically correct narrative. Eventually, after facing blistering criticism, the company reinstated those accounts.
Now PayPal is back making unwelcome headlines. Last month it was discovered that their new terms of service included a provision whereby the company could fine users $2,500 per infraction for spreading “misinformation,” the definition of which was solely at the discretion of PayPal. Once again, the reaction among users was quick and furious. After several days, PayPal retracted the new policy.
At least, they seemed to retract it. The new agreement, a company spokesman said, had been sent out “in error.” But according to the lawyer and commentator Eugene Volokh, while the new policy no longer mentions “misinformation,” the provision for fining users for making “discriminatory” or “intolerant” remarks (qualities to be determined solely by PayPal) remains.
So if PayPal in its sole discretion concludes that you’re using PayPal “for activities that . . . relate to transactions involving . . . promotion of ‘discriminatory’ ‘intolerance’—presumably including distributing publications, or for that matter buying publications (since that’s an activity related to transactions involving the promotion of certain views)—it can just take $2,500 straight from your account.”
Think about that. And here you thought the money in your account was, you know, your money. Perhaps, Volokh speculates, you have been
sharply criticizing a religion? Or saying things that sharply condemn, say, government officials (police, fbi, etc.) in ways that some might say involve “promotion of hate”? Or praising people who have acted violently (e.g., in what you think is justifiable self-defense, or defense of others, or even war or revolution)? If PayPal thinks it’s bad, it’ll just take your money.
Volokh reports that he has withdrawn the funds he had parked in his PayPal account and is in the process of “disentangling” himself from the service. We suspect many others will do likewise.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 41 Number 3, on page 3
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