A red-faced PayPal walked back a shocking new policy announcement that users who advance “misinformation” could face fines of $2,500 per offense, saying it was all a mistake after The Daily Wire called attention to the chilling scheme.
The financial services company, which has repeatedly deplatformed organizations and individual commentators for their political views, announced Saturday, one day after The Daily Wire story broke, that the announcement went out in error.
“An [Accepted Use Policy] notice recently went out in error that included incorrect information,” a PayPal spokesperson said. “PayPal is not fining people for misinformation and this language was never intended to be inserted in our policy. We’re sorry for the confusion this has caused.”
The original announcement said PayPal would expand its “existing list of prohibited activities” on November 3. Among the changes were prohibitions on using the platform for “the sending, posting, or publication of any messages, content, or materials” that “promote misinformation” or “present a risk to user safety or wellbeing.” Users were also barred under the policy from “the promotion of hate, violence, racial or other forms of intolerance that is discriminatory.”
Before posting its initial story, The Daily Wire reached out to PayPal for definitions of the added terms but received no response.
The report sparked outrage online, with many people tweeting pledges to dump the online payment facilitator. Particularly chilling was the fact that the policy said determinations of what could be deemed “misinformation,” or a threat to the “wellbeing” of other users was to be at the “sole discretion” of PayPal. The now-aborted policy said users could be liable for “damages” — including the removal of $2,500 “debited directly from your PayPal account” per offense.
“Under existing law, PayPal has the ability as a private company to implement this type of viewpoint-discriminatory policy,” Aaron Terr, a senior program officer at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, told The Daily Wire. “Whatever motivation PayPal has for establishing these vague new categories of prohibited expression, they will almost certainly have a severe chilling effect on users’ speech. As is often the case with ill-defined and viewpoint-discriminatory speech codes, those with unpopular or minority viewpoints will likely bear the brunt of these restrictions.”
The announcement and reversal comes days after PayPal canceled three accounts linked to Toby Young, a commentator who runs a nonprofit called Free Speech Union. The organization has defended clients such as actor and comedian Russell Brand, who recently moved his show from YouTube to Rumble in reaction to censorship from the former platform.
Platforms such as Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook have censored conservatives over their positions on controversial social issues, including transgenderism, vaccination mandates, and homosexuality. GoFundMe seized millions in funds raised for trucker protests in Canada earlier this year, while Google recently began suppressing search results for crisis pregnancy centers.
PayPal has also sanctioned Gays Against Groomers, a group that opposes the sexualization of children, as well as evolutionary biologist Colin Wright and journalist Ian Miles Cheong. The company featured a rainbow-colored banner on its social media platforms during the month of June affirming that the platform is “open for all” — and PayPal U.K. still sports the banner.
“Whatever PayPal’s intentions may be, censorship and chilling free speech is precisely the effect of these kinds of vaguely worded policies,” Tedesco added. “We’ve seen social media companies use similar policies to stifle free speech on their platforms. We can expect a similar outcome with PayPal.”