One by one, they go to start their business day only to find a baffling message from their payments app informing them: “You can no longer do business with PayPal.”
There is little or no explanation. They have somehow offended the sensibilities of someone somewhere deep inside the bureaucracy.
They are simply told via an email from PayPal’s Risk and Compliance Department that, after an internal review, “we decided to permanently limit your account as there was a change in your business model or your business model was considered risky.”
In case there is any doubt, the email adds: “You’ll not be able to conduct any further business using PayPal.”
Then, toward the bottom: “If you have funds in your PayPal balance, we’ll hold it for up to 180 days. After that period, we’ll email you with information on how to access your funds.”
If you’re one of the lucky ones and your account has just been suspended, you can go to customer service, explain your situation and hope that someone gets back to you. If you’ve been banned, you’ll need an attorney to file a subpoena for the internal PayPal documents—simply to learn why you’ve been banned. (Good luck getting unbanned.)
These are entrepreneurs, writers, academics, activists — the very same people PayPal, whose mission is “democratizing financial services,” was meant to empower.
PayPal won’t say how many of them it has suspended or banned. In June 2021, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other civil-liberties groups wrote a letter to PayPal and Venmo, calling on them to open up. So far, they have not, said Aaron Terr, director of public advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.
The people who founded PayPal — the so-called PayPal Mafia — include Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, David Sacks and Max Levchin. All are champions of free speech. All have expressed shock and dismay at what is happening to the company they created. …
Increasingly, [PayPal] is becoming a police officer. It is deciding what is right and wrong, who gets to be heard, who is silenced.
It is locking out of the financial system those people or brands that have slipped outside the parameters of acceptable discourse, those who threaten the consensus of the gatekeepers.
The consensus is hard to articulate; it is an ideology lacking clearly defined ideological contours. But the tenets of that consensus are unmistakable: the new progressive politics around race and gender are a force for good, the Covid lockdown was just, the war in Ukraine is noble, and an unfettered exchange of ideas and opinions is an unacceptable threat to all of the above.
I’m looking for a good alternative, to both the narrative and PayPal.