PayPal Lifts Ban on Free Speech Union After Backlash

PayPal Lifts Ban on Free Speech Union After Backlash
Toby Young attends the Love At First Sight reception and auction at Bonhams in London on Jan. 23, 2006. (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Owen Evans

PayPal has reinstated the accounts of the Free Speech Union, a few days after leading British MPs called the ban an "orchestrated, politically-motivated move."

Accounts from the Free Speech Union (FSU) and the Daily Sceptic blog, which were frozen by Paypal without a clear explanation earlier this month have now been restored, according to its founder Toby Young.

On Sept. 15, the U.S. online payments system closed the account of FSU, as well as the news and opinion site The Daily Sceptic, a move that Young called “a new low” and an "escalation in the ongoing war against free speech by Big Tech" at the time.

'Offer Our Apologies'

Writing in The Spectator, where he is associate editor, Young confirmed the news and added that he received an apology from PayPal.

“We have continued to review the information provided in connection with your account and we take seriously the input from our customers and stakeholders. Based on these ongoing reviews, we have made the decision to reinstate your account. You should now be able to use your account in the normal way. We sincerely appreciate your business and offer our apologies for any inconvenience this disruption in service may have caused," wrote PayPal.

"It goes without saying that I won’t be using PayPal’s services again," said Young.

The cancellation of the FSU’s account presented a challenge for the organisation as about a third of the FSU’s 9,500 members used PayPal to process their membership fees.

PayPal has since restored UsForThem’s access, a organisation that advocated for children to be prioritised during the COVID-19 pandemic, which had also been demonetised at the same time as the FSU. Though in a recent statement, its founder Molly Kingsley said that she was “deeply concerned by the events of the last week.”
Following the news, the FSU wrote on Twitter: "A reminder that it's never a good idea to try to cancel us or any of our members. We will die in a ditch to defend free speech."

'Legislative Safeguards'

Leading political figures had waded into the row. The UK’s former Brexit minister and FSU Advisory Council member Lord David Frost wrote on Twitter on Sept. 21 that PayPal’s decision to close the accounts was a “very worrying development.”
The Free Speech Union’s case was raised in Parliament on Sept. 21 by Conservative MP Danny Kruger, who said: “As we move towards a cashless economy, these companies form part of the central infrastructure or ordinary life. Will the government take steps to ensure that they cannot discriminate against individuals or organisations on the basis of perfectly legal legitimate views?”
On Saturday, Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith, and Sir Graham Brady sent a letter, co-signed by 42 MPs, to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Jacob Rees-Mogg calling for "legislative safeguards" and urging the government to demand that PayPal explains its actions.

They said that it's “hard to avoid construing PayPal’s actions as an orchestrated, politically-motivated move to silence critical or dissenting views on these topics within the UK."

Young started the FSU in 2020 to support self-styled defenders of free expression. In the same year, Young also started The Daily Sceptic a successor to Lockdown Sceptics, to challenge science-based stories that “often appear to be rooted in a covert political agenda” such as lockdown policy, COVID-19 restrictions, the efficacy and safety of the mRNA vaccines, and net zero emissions.