Members of the Senate requested more information from PayPal about a retracted attempt to sanction users $2,500 for spreading “misinformation” through the platform, as highlighted by a report from The Daily Wire.
PayPal, which has deplatformed multiple organizations and commentators for their political views, had unveiled an upcoming change to its acceptable use policy that would have banned the promotion of “misinformation,” as well as “hate, violence, racial or other forms of intolerance that is discriminatory.” Within one day of The Daily Wire reporting on the policy change, PayPal claimed that the guidelines were published “in error.”
Citing the report from The Daily Wire, Sen. Tom Tillis (R-NC), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), and five Republican colleagues pressed PayPal CEO Dan Schulman in a letter asking him to explain the “processes and values” in place that allowed the retracted policy to move forward.
“PayPal has consistently spread the dubious claim that this provision was ‘never intended to be inserted in our policy’ as stated by a company spokesperson,” the lawmakers wrote. “If accurate, this statement indicates an astonishing lack of internal oversight at PayPal.”
The company also defended its position by claiming that PayPal had long held the policy of withdrawing $2,500 from users’ accounts after each violation of the acceptable use policy. After the lawmakers noted that the current list of prohibited activities largely entails breaches of law, they pointed out that the “addition of a vague prohibition on spreading ‘misinformation’ not only would have concerningly expanded the scope of punishable actions, but also would have decreased clarity and increased subjectivity” within the prohibited activities list.
A spokesperson for Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) told The Daily Wire that PayPal has not yet provided responses to the lawmakers’ inquiries, which they requested by October 28.
PayPal trended on social media after the new acceptable use policy garnered public attention earlier this month, leading thousands of customers to voice their rejection of the move on social media and cancel their accounts. The company’s stock price fell precipitously in subsequent trading as the backlash appeared to startle investors.
The lawmakers requested information about internal processes at PayPal for drafting and vetting acceptable use policy updates, the identity of the party which drafted the misinformation and hate speech clause, and the degree to which users can be confident that they will not be punished for the spread of what PayPal unilaterally determines to be misinformation.
Other platforms, such as Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook, have sanctioned conservatives over their positions on controversial social issues, including transgenderism, vaccine mandates, and homosexuality. GoFundMe seized millions raised for trucker protests in Canada earlier this year, while Google recently began suppressing search results for crisis pregnancy centers.
“Greater encroachment by large technology and financial companies into public speech will only exacerbate Americans’ increasing mistrust of such institutions,” the lawmakers wrote. “Policies that empower companies to punish individuals’ beliefs by acting as arbiters of fact in our ever-changing news and public debate environment represent poor business decisions. Instead, large technology and financial institutions should focus on serving the needs of their customers without bias.”
Republicans have unsuccessfully proposed several pieces of legislation meant to uphold free speech on social media. Last summer, Daines introduced the Preserving Political Speech Online Act, which would prohibit the removal of content on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or political affiliation.
“Big tech’s censorship and sanctioning of speech they simply disagree with is inexcusable — they must be held accountable,” Daines told The Daily Wire. “I’ve introduced a bill to protect the exchange of ideas and political speech and will keep fighting to stop social media companies, financial institutions and large corporations from arbitrarily shutting down viewpoints that challenge the woke narrative of the day.”