The PayPal Amendment

On 15 September, PayPal notified the Free Speech Union that it had closed its account, effective immediately. The reason given was that we had breached the company’s Acceptable Use Policy, but no detail was provided. We contacted a customer service agent, but she could throw no light on the matter. We wrote to the CEO of PayPal UK and the Corporate Affairs Department of PayPal UK and PayPal US, but got no reply. We had effectively been accused, charged, tried, convicted and sentenced in one fell swoop, with no possibility of parole. 

We don’t know why PayPal closed the FSU’s account, but we suspect it’s because someone at PayPal disapproves of some of the people we have defended. PayPal has form when it comes to demonetising those whose points of view it disagrees with, having shut down the account of the advocacy group UsForThem at around the same time it closed our account, as well as numerous organisations that have raised concerns about the efficacy and safety of the mRNA Covid vaccines.

It is not uncommon for financial companies like PayPal to withdraw services from individuals or groups who express politically contentious views, but this was the first time an organisation that defends people’s right to express such views had been demonetised. This is a new low and takes us one step closer towards a Chinese-style social credit system in which those who do not toe the party line are shut out of the financial system. If you continue reading to the bottom, you’ll see what you can do to stop this happening in future.

Toby Young, the General Secretary of the FSU, immediately went to war with PayPal, telling national newspaper journalists what had happened, writing about it himself and talking about it on radio and television. Along with the directors of UsForThem, he persuaded 42 peers and MPs to write to Jacob Rees-Mogg, then the Business Secretary, and Andrew Griffith, then the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, asking them to demand an explanation from PayPal and put legal safeguards in place to prevent others being deplatformed in this way. The signatories of the cross-party letter included Michael Gove, now a member of the Cabinet, and Iain Duncan-Smith, a former leader of the Conservative Party. The following day, Jacob Rees-Mogg described what PayPal had done as a form of “cancel culture”.

This proved too much for PayPal, who first restored the account of UsForThem and then the Free Speech Union. That was a relief because about a third of our members paid their recurring membership dues via PayPal. We wrote to those affected as soon as our account was closed, urging them to switch to a different payment processor, but only about half of them did and in the meantime payments coming due were going on hold. After PayPal reopened our account, those payments starting going through, but we are encouraging our members to switch nevertheless. We don’t want to rely on a company that has a track record of pulling the plug on its customers without warning. We also don’t want to be in business with a company that has closed hundreds – possibly thousands – of accounts for political reasons.

Incidentally, if you are one of the affected members you will have received an email from us with instructions about how to switch to another payment processor. If you haven’t received an email, that means you’re not affected and there’s no need to do anything. If you think you may have been affected but haven’t received an email from us, contact us at [email protected].

So, here’s what you can do about this new form of censorship. Sally-Ann Hart, the Member of Parliament for Hastings and Rye, tabled an amendment to the Financial Services and Markets Bill, which is currently at the Committee Stage in the House of Commons, to make it illegal for a financial services provider to withhold or withdraw service from a customer on purely political grounds. You can see the amendment here. It’s on p.20 and labelled NC15.

Following discussions with Andrew Griffith, who promised to go away and think about how to address the problem, Sally-Ann withdrew the amendment. But we need to keep the pressure up, so we are asking our members and supporters to email their MP using our campaigning tool (see below), urging them to tell their whip that they would like to the Government to do something about this new and sinister form of cancel culture. 

This is a critically important battle. If we don’t pass a law to rein in companies like PayPal, we will soon see the emergence of a Chinese-style social credit system in the UK, except instead of ideological dogma being enforced by the Communist authorities it will be enforced by woke capitalist corporations.

Please use our campaigning tool to contact your local MP and ask them to put pressure on the Government to change the law so no Payment services providers can demonetise individuals or organisations for exercising their lawful right to free speech.

Free speech is the bedrock on which all our other freedoms rest, yet it is currently in greater peril than at any time since the Second World War. The Free Speech Union is a non-partisan, mass-membership public interest body that stands up for the speech rights of its members – and we recently opened a Scottish office. If you think there’s a risk you’ll be penalised for exercising your legal right to free speech, whether it’s in the workplace or the public square, you need the protection of the Free Speech Union. How might we protect you?

  • If you find yourself being targeted by a digital outrage mob on social media for having exercised your legal right to free speech, we may mobilise an army of supporters.
  • If a petition is launched calling for you to be fired, when you’ve done nothing other than exercise your legal right to free speech, we may help you organise a counter-petition.
  • If you’re no-platformed by a university—a feminist professor who challenges trans orthodoxy, for instance—we’ll encourage you to fight back and members of our advisory councils may be able to tell you what remedies are available to you.
  • If you’re a student being investigated by your university for breaching a speech code, we may take up your case with the university
  • If you’re punished by your employer because you’ve exercised your lawful right to free speech, we’ll do our best to provide you with assistance or refer you to specialists who can help.

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Contact the FSU

Before getting in touch please look at our Frequently Asked Questions, as that may answer the question you have. If you still want to get in touch, please use one of the email addresses below:

Help: If your right to free speech is being infringed or you are being penalised in some way for exercising your lawful right to free speech please email [email protected].

Technical support: [email protected]

Anything else: [email protected]

The Free Speech Union
85 Great Portland Street
London W1W 7LT
+44 (0)20 3920 7865