In this briefing paper, Carrie Clark, the FSU’s Research Officer, has looked at the terms and conditions of the major payment processors and crowdfunding platforms and given them a score out of 10 according to how friendly towards free speech they are.
It’s not good news. Only two of the seven get a score of more than 5/10, with the remaining five scoring just 4/10 and below. The only payment processors we recommend for users concerned about protecting their free speech are Worldplay (8/10) and Stripe (7/10). We don’t recommend any of the crowdfunding platforms.
The difficulty Carrie identifies is that most of these companies include subjective, ambiguous words and phrases in their policies, prohibiting things like ‘misinformation’, ‘hate speech’, ‘offence’ and ‘intolerance’. Many say they won’t simply cancel users who engage in these activities on their platforms (and in some cases retain the funds in their accounts), but also cancel those who commit these sins more generally on social media and the like. Most go even further and retain the right to demonetise their customers for any reason whatsoever at their sole discretion.
The FSU is lobbying for a change to the law so it becomes illegal for payment processing companies to withhold or withdraw service from any customer for purely political reasons. Unless we rein in companies like PayPal and stop them engaging in this new form of censorship, it will be the end of free speech as we know it, particularly as we move towards a cashless society.