Big Tech, Financial Services Companies Act to Suppress Free Speech and Dissent

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Big Tech’s attempts to shut down dissenters

We have heard many stories of big tech taking action against people on the basis of their opposition to “progressive” policies. Apart from the attempt to silence  J. K. Rowling, and other gender criticals on social media, there have been actions on a much wider front.

Colin Wright is a highly qualified biologist who has written against attempts to replace biological sex by gender identity. His account with Etsy, a large online store he had been using was terminated “for violating Etsy’s policy against selling merchandise that “promotes, supports, or glorifies hatred or violence towards protected groups.”” Wright contrasts his alleged violations with those much more blatant violations by people who were on the opposite side of the divide but who were allowed to continue unchecked:

And in 2020, Etsy officials asserted that the slogan “I 💜 J.K. Rowling” promotes hatred, even while allowing the sale of products that read “Fuck J.K. Rowling”; and that instruct ideologically non-compliant “TERFs” to “shut the fuck up.”

No message-board threads about anti-racism or neo-pronouns. No open letters meant to get someone fired for a decade-old tweet. No politics

In late 2020 A campaign was initiated by employees of Spotify to get Joe Rogan’s podcast removed from the platform; they alleged in the usual cliched phrase that it was no longer “safe” to host Joe Rogan.

However Rogan’s contract with 100 million followers was far too large  for Spotify to turn it down so the employees have had to live with it.

On Oct 3 2022 Chris Rufo tweeted: The American Medical Association is asking Big Tech and the Department of Justice to censor, deplatform, investigate, and prosecute journalists who question the orthodoxy of radical gender surgeries for minors, arguing that public criticism is “disinformation.”

But there has been pushback from other companies:

In Silicon Valley another kind of revolution is taking shape. A handful of founders and CEOs—Brian Armstrong of Coinbase, Jason Fried of Basecamp, Shopify’s Tobias Lütke, Medium’s Ev Williams—have said the unsayable. In the face of shop-floor social-justice activism, they’ve decided business owners should resolve to stick to business.

No hashtag coders. No message-board threads about anti-racism or neo-pronouns. No open letters meant to get someone fired for a decade-old tweet. No politics. As Armstrong put it in his famous (or infamous) September 27th, 2020 blog post, business should be “mission focused.”

PayPal closes Free Speech Union account

Being offensive is an offence

The latest episode whereby a tech giant sought to cancel an  individual and associated groups occurred in September when UK journalist Toby Young received three emails from PayPal the same evening to notify him that his personal account and those of two organisations he founded were being axed. The organisations were The Free Speech Union which champions free speech and the Daily Sceptic , an online magazine. Toby had to act quickly as in the case of FRU about one third of the subscriptions were being handled by PayPal.  This is a serious matter for any organisation  which can involve huge attrition costs, as there will always be a substantial drop-off in support when customers are asked to log on to new services.

Let Toby tell the story in his own words:

“On 15th September, PayPal notified me that it was permanently closing my personal account, as well as the accounts of the Daily Sceptic – a news publishing site I run – and the Free Speech Union. The reason cited in all three cases was that the accounts had violated PayPal’s ‘Acceptable Use Policy’. Not that that really gave any clue as to the specifics of the alleged misdemeanour, because the policy contains numerous prohibited activities.

PayPal told me it had permanently closed all three accounts and appeals in all three cases had been unsuccessful. My suspicion is that someone at PayPal simply doesn’t like my politics and had my accounts removed for that reason.

Toby Young

So I went to war with PayPal, appearing on GB News virtually every day to tell its viewers what had happened, writing about it in the Spectator, the Telegraph and Spiked, and encouraging MPs and peers to write to Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Business Secretary urging him to hold PayPal to account.”

PayPal does a U turn

“Then, on 27th September, PayPal notified me it had restored all of my accounts. After ‘input’ from its ‘customers and stakeholders’– by which I suspect it meant all the people that had cancelled their PayPal accounts in solidarity with the Free Speech Union and the Daily Sceptic – it has decided I’m kosher after all.

I made the mistake of trusting PayPal when I set up the FSU, embedding its software into our payment processing systems. Given what I know now – that it can demonetise you on a whim, seemingly without any proper justification – I’m not going to make that mistake again.

So I went to war with PayPal, appearing on GB News virtually every day to tell its viewers what had happened, writing about it in the Spectator, the Telegraph and Spiked

The US company’s behaviour wasn’t some brief moment of madness — an inexplicable yet temporary deviation from standard financial practice. As we hurtle towards a cashless economy, it’s part of a global trend towards weaponising Big Tech and financial services systems to suppress dissent of every kind.”

A Lesson for individuals and groups

This incident shows just what a determined individual, albeit one with a strong background in journalism and many good media contacts, can do when a Big Tech company attempts to destroy him. The Free Speech Union emerges from this fray stronger and yet more determined to continue the fight to preserve freedom of expression and to support isolated individuals who are themselves threatened with ruin.

The article finishes by hoping that there will be a positive outcome:

“If there’s a positive to come out of this unseemly episode, it’s that the publicity generated by PayPal’s actions has brought the wider issue of financial censorship to the attention of both Houses of Parliament. The Telegraph reported that financial services companies could soon “be banned from blocking the accounts of campaign groups for political reasons”. If that’s true, then this could be a big moment in the fightback against financial censorship. Needless to say, the FSU will be at the forefront of campaigning for that amendment.”