I’ve written about PayPal’s latest difficulties in my Spectator column this week. Here is an extract.
A few days after releasing me from PayPal jail, it doubled down on its social activism, publishing an update to its Acceptable Use Policy whereby customers were prohibited from using its services to, among other things, post “objectionable’”content or “depict, promote or incite hatred or discrimination of protected groups or of individuals or groups based on protected characteristics (e.g. race, religion, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, etc)”. Not only that, but if any of its customers committed these sins, PayPal granted itself the right to fine them $2,500 “per violation’” which would be deducted from their accounts. In effect, PayPal would become a digital version of the Taliban’s religious police, issuing swift, on-the-spot beatings for the propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice.
Was this announcement a response to the company’s climbdown in my case? PayPal’s lawyers may have advised the CEO that I could sue for damages if my accounts weren’t restored, so if he wanted a freer hand in future he’d need to put this more draconian policy in place. Or perhaps PayPal’s restoration of my accounts led to a backlash among the company’s twentysomething employees and this was designed to quell the revolt. Or maybe it was just a coincidence.
Not surprisingly, the threat of PayPal helping itself to $2,500 from its customers’ deposits – “per violation” – caused widespread panic and people began to close their accounts in droves. Indeed, last weekend #boycottpaypal started trending on Twitter and even Elon Musk, one of the company’s founders, popped up to stick the boot in. PayPal launched into damage-control mode and claimed – rather implausibly – that the update “went out in error” and included “incorrect information”. Ironically, one of the sins the company said it would punish people for was promoting ‘“misinformation”. So will it now fine itself $2,500?
It remains to be seen whether this ‘clarification’ will be enough to stop the exodus. How can PayPal’s customers trust the company again? It has only said it won’t fine people if they promote “misinformation”, with the penalty remaining in place if you commit any of the other sins. When trading opened on Wall Street on Monday, shares in the company fell by 6 per cent. By the time you read this, the $110 billion behemoth may be a smoking ruin – the biggest casualty yet of ‘Go woke, go broke’.
Worth reading in full.