The Daily Telegraph

Paypal shuts accounts of group that defends gender-critical views

- By Louisa Clarence-smith

‘Achieving a balance between protecting tolerance, diversity and respect and upholding free speech can be difficult’

‘I suspect that Paypal doesn’t value free expression and open dialogue or the people who stand up for those principles’

PAYPAL has shut down the account of the Free Speech Union, an organisati­on that defends gender-critical academics and people who have lost work for expressing opinions.

The US payments company last week shut down the accounts of the union, its founder Toby Young, and his opinion and news website the Daily Sceptic without offering a clear explanatio­n. Mr Young said he suspected it had been driven by political motives and was a “sinister form of cancel culture”.

He was told the accounts were being shut because of violations of Paypal’s “acceptable use policy”. But he said he was unaware of how he or his organisati­on could have breached the policy, which lists banned transactio­ns such as those that are illegal or support ponzi schemes.

A spokesman for Paypal said it could not comment on individual customers, but said that it “regularly assesses activity against our long-standing acceptable use policy and will discontinu­e our relationsh­ip with account holders who violate our policies”. He added: “Achieving the balance between protecting the ideals of tolerance, diversity and respect for people of all background­s and upholding the values of free expression and open dialogue can be difficult, but we do our best to achieve it.”

The Free Speech Union, founded by Mr Young two years ago, has recently called on the Government to ensure children aren’t politicall­y indoctrina­ted at school, citing the teaching of “radical gender theory” through drag queen story hours in schools.

The organisati­on has helped to defend people who claim they have lost work for expressing opinions, including Gillian Philip, the author who said her contract was terminated because she stood up for JK Rowling amid a row over transgende­r rights. It has also challenged universiti­es that have “no-plat-formed” gender-critical academics.

Mr Young said: “If Paypal had shut down just one of these accounts, it’s conceivabl­e it could be because it had violated the company’s acceptable use policy. But it closed all three accounts within minutes of each other, suggesting there’s a more sinister reason. I suspect it’s because in reality Paypal doesn’t value free expression and open dialogue or the people and organisati­ons that stand up for those principles.”

He said he suspected the closure of the union’s account could have been a response to complaints from trans rights activists.

Earlier this year, Paypal shut down the account of Colin Wright, an American evolutiona­ry biologist, for unclear reasons, after a backlash from activists when he said that biological sex was real and there were only two sexes.

Paypal also reportedly suspended the accounts of two anti-war US media organisati­ons, Consortium News and Mint Press, without a clear explanatio­n. The move to shut down the Free Speech Union’s account has caused a significan­t challenge for the organisati­on because about a third of its 9,500 members have their recurring membership fees processed by Paypal. The union charges members £2.49 a month and accepts donations.

Mr Young said: “Withdrawin­g financial services from dissidents and nonconform­ists and those who dare to defend them is the new frontline in the ongoing war against free speech.

“The Free Speech Union will lobby the Government [for] new laws to prevent companies demonetisi­ng organisati­ons and individual­s because their employees disapprove of their views.”

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