PayPal urged to shape up policies on account freezes and closures

In 2021, PayPal and its subsidiary Venmo drew criticism from a coalition of nearly two dozen civil and human rights groups around account freezes and closures that target First-Amendment protected speech. Clear examples of this include when PayPal shut down the account of online bookseller Smashwords over concerns about erotic fiction; when PayPal refused to process payments for the whistleblower website Wikileaks; when PayPal froze the account of News Media Canada over a payment to submit an article about Syrian refugees for an award; and when PayPal repeatedly shut down the account of online community SoulSeek over claims of copyright infringement between users. The group also pointed to PayPal’s history of shutting down individual user accounts with little due process, as most recently seen in the case of a long-time Tor supporter. In 2020, Venmo was sued for its discriminatory policy of targeting payments associated with Islam or Arab nationalities or ethnicity, while PayPal and Venmo both were widely criticized for stalling urgent efforts to provide bail support for protestors amidst Black-led protests for racial justice.

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