Press Release – PayPal Deplatforms Free Speech Union
PayPal has demonetised the Free Speech Union. It is not uncommon for financial companies like PayPal to withdraw services from individuals or groups who express politically contentious views, but this is the first time an organisation that defends people’s right to express such views has 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.
The Free Speech Union was notified that PayPal was closing its account last Thursday, 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.
Within minutes of receiving this notification, Toby Young, the General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, was also told his personal PayPal account was being shut down, as was the account of the Daily Sceptic, the news publishing website he runs. In every case, the reason given was the same: violating PayPal’s ‘Acceptable Use Policy’. It seems implausible that all three accounts could be guilty of exactly the same offence within minutes of each other. None of the accounts, including Toby’s personal account, which he’s had since 2013, have been told they have breached any of PayPal’s policies before.
We still do not know why, exactly, PayPal closed the FSU’s account, but we suspect it is because someone at PayPal – possibly the entire C-suite – disapproves of some of the people we have defended. PayPal has form when it comes to demonetising points of view it disagrees with, having recently shut down the accounts of the advocacy group UsForThem, as well as the personal account of the gender critical evolutionary biologist Colin Wright, and the account of Gays Against Groomers, an LGB group that opposes the teaching of gender ideology in schools.
About a third of the FSU’s 9,500 members use PayPal to process their membership dues, so this is seriously disruptive. If you are one of those members, you will have already received an email from us with instructions of how to switch to another payment processor. If you haven’t received an email, that means you are not affected and there is no need to do anything. If you think you may have been affected but have not received an email from us, contact us at [email protected]peechunion.org.
We are in the process of considering how to fight back, but at the very least we will be urging the Government to put legal safeguards in place to prevent others being deplatformed in this way. It should be against the law for any financial services company operating in the UK to discriminate against its customers – or potential customers – on the grounds of their political beliefs. If we allow privately-owned corporations to deplatform individuals and organisations whose political views they disagree with, then free speech is effectively over in this country.
PayPal has now reinstated the accounts of the Free Speech Union, the Daily Sceptic and Toby’s personal account.
Our position hasn’t changed. We will not be using PayPal again and we’re grateful to all those people who’ve cancelled their accounts in solidarity. We will still be lobbying for legal safeguards to be put in place to prevent this kind of thing happening to anyone else.
Please use our campaigning tool to ask your MP to ask a question about PayPal’s censorious behaviour in the House of Commons.
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.
If you’d like to learn more about our organisation and the ways that we support our members, please visit: https://youtu.be/LaMgf5ZxuWg
- Academics For Academic Freedom (AFAF)
- Article 19
- The Campaign for Free Speech
- Fair Cop
- The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE)
- Free Speech Champions
- The Free Speech Club
- Heterodox Academy
- The Institute of Public Affairs
- The National Association of Scholars
- Scholars at Risk Network
- Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (Canada)
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]freespeechunion.org.
Technical support: [email protected]
Anything else: [email protected]
The Free Speech Union
85 Great Portland Street
London W1W 7LT
+44 (0)20 3920 7865