PayPal Shuts Down Free Speech Union and The Daily Sceptic Accounts

PayPal Shuts Down Free Speech Union and The Daily Sceptic Accounts
Founder Toby Young says that "free speech is in peril north of the border." Free Speech Union launches in Scotland on April 22, 2022. (Courtesy of Free Speech Union).
Owen Evans

PayPal has demonetised the account of Free Speech Union, a British organisation that defends people who have lost work and been cancelled for expressing opinions.

The U.S. online payments system PayPal has closed the account of Free Speech Union (FSU), as well as the news and opinion site The Daily Sceptic without a clear explanation, a move that FSU founder Toby Young called "a new low."

Nonconformist Views

"This feels like an escalation in the ongoing war against free speech by Big Tech. It’s one thing to shut down and demonetise accounts for expressing nonconformist views, that’s nothing new, unfortunately. But in this case, PayPal has shut down the account of an organisation that defends people who express non-conformist views. That’s a new low," Young told The Epoch Times in an email.

A columnist and associate editor of The Spectator, Young started the FSU in 2020 to support self-styled defenders of free expression. He said its members have "been sacked, cancelled, penalised, harassed, or attacked by outrage mobs for exercising their legal right to free speech."

The organisation has supported people including author Gillian Philip, who was cancelled by publisher HarperCollins in 2020 when she expressed her support for JK Rowling on Twitter, and a British rail conductor who was fired when he questioned “black privilege” in an online diversity training.

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.

The withdrawal of PayPal is proving a challenge as FSU charges members £2.49 per month and accepts donations through the company, and a significant amount of members' recurring membership fees are processed by it as well.

Writing in The Daily Sceptic, Young said he had received a notification on Sept. 15 from his personal PayPal account informing him that it was being shut down because he had violated the company’s "Acceptable Use Policy."

He then received notifications for The Daily Sceptic and FSU PayPal accounts that they too had been shut down for the same reason.

His subsequent appeals were unsuccessful, and he said the only clue as to what might be going on was a message sent from PayPal on the now-closed Daily Sceptic account:

"PayPal’s policy is not to allow our services to be used for activities that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance. We regularly assess activity against our long-standing Acceptable Use Policy and carefully review actions reported to us, and will discontinue our relationship with account holders who are found to violate our policies."

Young said he defies anyone to point to an article on his sites that promotes “hate, violence, or racial intolerance.”

He said he suspected that the closure of the accounts could come down to a number of reasons, including questioning transgender ideology, raising questions about COVID-19 vaccines, and articles critical of the mainstream narrative about the Ukraine war (although it has published several articles defending Ukraine).

New Law

Young told The Epoch Times that FSU will be campaigning for a new law in the UK to make it illegal for financial companies to withdraw services from customers "for purely political reasons."

"Provided you haven’t said anything unlawful, your political views should be a matter of complete indifference to financial services companies,” he said.

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 Financial Conduct Authority should look into this urgently. Meanwhile, don't leave a balance in your PayPal account, as we now know it can just be confiscated," Frost said.

Representatives for Paypal didn't respond to a request for comment by press time.

Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.