Last week, PayPal published a new user agreement that would allow the company to debit up to $2,500 from a user’s account for engaging in “restricted activities,” including spreading “misinformation.”
The announcement drew much criticism, including from one of PayPal’s cofounders, David Marcus, who tweeted, “@Paypal’s new AUP goes against everything I believe in. A private company now gets to decide to take your money if you say something they disagree with. Insanity.” The soon-to-be owner of Twitter, Elon Musk, tweeted a reply, “Agreed.”
Many angry users posted screenshots of them closing their PayPal accounts in protest of the company’s anti-free speech policy and caused #BankruptPayPal to trend. It seemed that the backlash had been severe enough that on Sunday, PayPal walked back the policy, claiming the new user agreement “went out in error” and the company wouldn’t punish users for spreading misinformation.
That said, people who cherish free speech should not declare victory. After all, PayPal only partially reversed its policy. The company will still fine users up to $2,500 for other offenses listed under its user agreement, including activities presumably promoting “hate” and “intolerance.” After all, PayPal has a long history of labeling speech disagreeing with the woke ideology as “hateful” and “intolerant.”
Last month, PayPal, its subsidiary Venmo, and Google joined in banning the accounts of “Gays Against Groomers,” accusing the group of violating their user agreements without providing evidence. Gays Against Groomers is “a coalition of gays against the sexualization, indoctrination, and medicalization of children” and vocally opposes the hosting of drag queen story times at school.
In the same month, PayPal also shut down several accounts in the United Kingdom, including the accounts of Free Speech Union and its founder Toby Young. Young and the organization are known to fight back against cancel culture while advocating on behalf of academics who criticize transgenderism. Additionally, PayPal banned a parents’ group, UsForThemUK, that fought to keep schools open during lockdowns and confiscated its funds. One of the group’s cofounders said: “It is extremely hard not to draw the conclusion that this is a politically motivated cancellation of an organization that in some way offends PayPal.”
You don’t have to agree with the views of anyone banned by PayPal to be troubled by the company’s anti-free speech approach. And even though all eyes are currently on PayPal, the payment processor isn’t the only woke business seeking to regulate speech in the name of ideological conformity.
Big Tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter have de-platformed many voices they don’t like, including the former president of the United States. For most people, being banned from social media doesn’t have many real-life consequences, so companies have increasingly resorted to imposing financial pain on dissenters.
Last year, Amazon banned Ryan Anderson’s book, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment,” citing the company’s policy of barring “inappropriate and offensive” works and “hate speech” from its platform. Despite this, Amazon continues to sell books such as Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” Since Amazon controls up to 80 percent of all book distribution in the U.S., the company’s digital book burning cost Anderson a significant financial loss and erased his voice from “the world’s largest bookstore.”
As another author, Abigail Shrier, pointed out, the chilling effect of Amazon’s action is that “many outstanding books will now go unwritten; they will not be commissioned whenever Amazon’s distribution is the slightest bit in doubt.”
This February, GoFundMe shut down an account supporting the Canadian Freedom Convoy and refused to release the $10 million raised on behalf of the group. The Freedom Convoy was protesting the Canadian government’s covid vaccine mandate in their country’s capital city, Ottawa. GoFundMe justified its action by pointing to “reports of violence and other unlawful activity” violating the company’s terms of service, although the corporate media, such as The New York Times, couldn’t name a single violent incident instigated by the truckers. Since they were unable to access this money, the truckers were unable to purchase the food and fuel needed to sustain their protest in the frigid winter weather.
While confiscating lawful assets of the peaceful Freedom Convoy, GoFundMe continues to allow fundraising for campaigns such as “Black Lives Matter NYC to engage in ‘civil disobedience and disruption.’” GoFundMe doesn’t seem to mind political disruption, let alone violence, so long as it is conducted along the proper ideological lines.
In the digital world, thinking and acting out of line with the woke orthodoxy will likely result in being relegated to the digital gulag where you cannot earn a living or speak your mind. Companies such as PayPal, Amazon, and GoFundMe are working to ensure that.
Today’s digital gulag shares the same objective as its brick-and-mortar predecessors. Its goal is to silence dissent and enforce ideological conformity. While the digital gulag does not yet cause extreme physical harm, its financial punishments have resulted in real-life hardship for those on the receiving end. The fear of being sent to the digital gulag has caused many people to adhere to a strict policy of self-censorship.
PayPal’s recent partial reversal of its censorship policy won’t likely deter other woke companies from punishing people for expressing ideas they disagree with. Too many large American companies have become the chief enforcers of woke ideology. Last month, American Express, Mastercard, and Visa announced they would track sales at firearm shops, a move many gun owners and gun rights advocates said would target legal gun sales.
Together, these three companies control over 90 percent of credit card purchase volume in the U.S., so it’s reasonable to assume that before long, these companies could follow Amazon and PayPal’s lead and enforce “gun control” policies by refusing to process payments from gun shops.
Freedom-loving Americans can try to boycott these woke businesses, but their omnipresence means few alternatives are available. Only laws that hold these private businesses legally accountable for violating Americans’ constitutional rights will abolish the digital gulag. But do not expect a Democrat-controlled U.S. Congress to do anything about it.
Our only hope to rein woke businesses is to elect a Republican-majority Congress this November. The PayPal controversy is another reminder of how high the stakes are in the midterms.