Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

# PayPal Can Still Fine Its Users $2500 for Wrongthink It’s possible that PayPal is morphing into something like a church-based credit union, where certain beliefs and behavior are expected of customers As word of PayPal’s leaked proposal to charge users$2500 for spreading “misinformation” spread last week, the e-commerce system quickly disavowed it. They were wise. Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr described the proposal as “Orwellian.” Thousands sought out search terms around the concept of cancelling PayPal.

Such a nice story; if only it ended there. Lesson learned and we all go home.

But some caution, not so fast. Other things the Terms of Service (TOS) still says should also set users thinking:

As it turns out, PayPal has in place another dystopian financial censorship policy that enacts similar fines for those it deems bigots or hatemongers. Law professor Eugene Volokh exposed the PayPal policy, which again authorizes $2,500 fines (taken directly out of your bank account) for “activities that … relate to … the promotion of hate, violence, racial or other forms of intolerance that is discriminatory” in the “sole discretion” of, yup, PayPal. This is, of course, entirely subjective. Anyone with mildly right-of-center viewpoints on topics ranging from affirmative action to climate change to religious liberty to abortion has, at one point or another, faced shrieks of “bigot!” from some progressive opponents. A company setting itself up to rob users of thousands of dollars for subjectively perceived speech crimes is not just dystopian, but also in grotesque violation of its users’ financial privacy and the trust that has been placed in the company by millions of hard-working people. Brad Polumbo, “PayPal’s dystopian financial censorship scheme backfires” at Washington Examiner (October 12, 2022) PayPal has already engaged in that sort of censorship. One case among many: Last April, it cut ties with evolutionary biologist Colin Wright for his belief that biological sex is real, there are only two sexes, and the differences between males and females matter. Wright had relied on PayPal to receive payments from subscribers to his Substack page. “You can no longer do business with PayPal,” an out-of-the-blue email informed Wright, after trans activists had dobbed on him. “After a review, we decided to permanently limit your account as there was a change to your business model or your business was considered risky.” Wright’s PayPal account has been locked ever since and his money is inaccessible. Kurt Mahlburg, “Cancel culture irony: thousands boycott PayPal for threatening users with$2500 ‘misinformation’ fine” at MercatorNet (October 11, 2022)

It’s possible that PayPal is morphing into a secular version of a church-based credit union, where certain beliefs and behavior are expected of customers.

Here’s the risk users run: PayPal is not an especially profitable business (less profitable now, of course, than before this debacle). The firm could come to need the money from its fines for Wrongthink and Wrongtalk in order to pay operating expenses. Thus, it will be motivated to go looking for opportunities to fine users.

At this point, PayPal is vulnerable in another way too. It may still be iconic but it is no longer unique. There are at least 17 other e-commerce platforms worth considering. Maybe it’s time for concerned users to have a look around.