The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Yahoo! Finance (Adam Sabes) reported yesterday (as did many other sites):
A new PayPal user agreement that threatens to fine users up to $2,500 if they use the service to "promote misinformation," was sent out "in error," a PayPal spokesperson tells FOX Business.
The updated PayPal Acceptable Use Policy effective Nov. 3 included an expansion of "prohibited activities," which includes the "ending, posting, or publication of messages, content, or materials that meet certain criteria."
According to the updated PayPal user agreement, the company states that each violation could result in "liquidated damages of $2,500.00" per violation, which would be withdrawn directly from their account.
One of the violations listed, according to the agreement, is that … "[users] may not use the PayPal service for activities that … involve the sending, posting, or publication of any messages, content, or materials that, in PayPal's sole discretion … promote misinformation."
But it appears that the policy continues to be in effect for other speech, according to PayPal's official Acceptable Use Policy, last updated Sept. 20, 2021:
Violation of this Acceptable Use Policy constitutes a violation of the PayPal User Agreement and may subject you to damages, including liquidated damages of $2,500.00 U.S. dollars per violation, which may be debited directly from your PayPal account(s) as outlined in the User Agreement (see "Restricted Activities and Holds" section of the PayPal User Agreement).
You may not use the PayPal service for activities that … relate to … the promotion of hate, violence, racial or other forms of intolerance that is discriminatory or the financial exploitation of a crime ….
And the cited "Restricted Activities and Holds" policy makes clear that "Actions We May Take if You Engage in Any Restricted Activities" are determined based on PayPal making the decision "in our sole discretion," if Paypal "believe[s] that you've engaged in any of these activities."
So if PayPal "in [its] sole discretion" concludes that you're using PayPal "for activities that … relate to transactions involving … promotion of" "discriminatory" "intolerance"—presumably including distributing publications, or for that matter buying publications (since that's an activity related to transactions involving the promotion of certain views)—it can just take $2500 straight from your account.
Might you, for instance, be sharply criticizing a religion? Or saying things that sharply condemn, say, government officials (police, FBI, etc.) in ways that some might say involve "promotion of hate"? Or praising people who have acted violently (e.g., in what you think is justifiable self-defense, or defense of others, or even war or revolution)? If PayPal thinks it's bad, it'll just take your money.
Sounds like a good reason to think twice about using PayPal. I've just withdrawn the $1000+ I have in my PayPal account, and I'm starting the process of disentangling myself from the service to the extent possible.