‘I Thought I’d Never See It’: Paypal Seizes Funds of Independent Media Without Offering Explanation
© AP Photo / ERIC PIERMONTThe logo of online payment company PayPal is pictured during LeWeb 2013 event in Saint-Denis near Paris on December 10, 2013
© AP Photo / ERIC PIERMONT
Consortium News and MintPress news are independent media outlets that have challenged NATO’s narrative on the ongoing Ukraine crisis.
Paypal has frozen the accounts of Consortium news and MintPress news and may seize the funds of independent media voices in a chilling example of corporate-enforced censorship.
Consortium News, MintPress and various independent journalists have recently received notice that their Paypal accounts are frozen, and they are no longer allowed to use the platform. According to the notice, the funds contained within the accounts may be returned after 180 days.
But, according to Consortium News Editor in Chief Joe Lauria, who spoke to a Paypal employee, if Paypal determines that there was a violation, some or all of the $9,348.14 may be seized by Paypal as “damages.”
The process to determine if the funds will be returned is not known to the public and is entirely determined by Paypal itself rather than a judge or jury, according to Lauria, who spoke to Matt Taibbi’s TK News.
Consortium News has been critical of the mainstream narrative on Ukraine pushed by NATO and the United States. It has also staunchly defended WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, even having a dedicated section to the journalist’s legal proceedings. Paypal gave no indication of why it shuttered Consortium’s account.
The practice of using financial networks to censor outlets that publish undesirable information started in 2010, when Paypal, along with major credit card networks, banned WikiLeaks from its platform, cutting off a major source of funding from the then newly formed media outlet.
“We have moved into a whole new phase of very frightening control of speech in the United States that I thought I’d never see to be honest with you,” Lauria told Sputnik News’ Critical Hour. “I thought it might happen but I thought I’d never see it [in my lifetime].”
Paypal is facing three lawsuits from individuals in California whose accounts have been frozen, but Lauria fears that even if Paypal loses those cases, it may not be enough.
“I don’t want to equate America with Nazi Germany but the Nazis justified a lot of their crimes with laws, racial laws for an example. So you could make up a law to allow Paypal to do this,” Lauria warns. “[They could] start making laws to justify criminal behavior, then it is no longer criminal.”
Lauria told Critical Hour he believes Paypal is basing its ban of Consortium News on the service agreement clause that prevents providing “false, inaccurate or misleading information” and thinks that the outlet’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis as its basis. However, he contends that the outlet’s coverage is accurate and that “one could say that [it is spreading misinformation] about the corporate media of the world.”
MintPress founder and executive director Mnar Adley asserts that the outlets are being censored for telling the truth, not for spreading misinformation. “We name the names, we break through the propaganda, we show the profiteers,” Adley told Taibbi. “There’s so few of us left that do that, and I think that’s why we’ve become a target.”
Mint Press recently published two articles in particular that they believe made them a target to corporate censors: a piece on how TikTok is hiring an alarming number of former NATO agents and an article about more than 150 Western public relations firms who are working with the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.
The actions come just days after the Biden administration announced a new misinformation board at the Department of Homeland Security. That decision has led to significant criticism from privacy advocacy groups and Republicans, with some calling it Biden’s “Ministry of Truth,” a reference to George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.
Those with opinions that contradict the mainstream view have repeatedly come under attack. In early 2022, supporters of the Canadian trucker rally called “The Freedom Convoy” had their bank accounts frozen after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked emergency powers to combat the protest. Even some of those who simply donated to the rally had their bank accounts frozen.
Furthermore, after the onset of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, RT and Sputnik News were banned in Europe, with RT America shuttering production at its Washington, DC, hub after the station was taken off cable networks across the US.
But now, it seems, government censors have moved past state-sponsored media and protest groups and have begun working on shutting down independent dissenting voices by attacking their wallets.
For now, Consortium is only taking donations through credit cards and checks. MintPress is also accepting credit cards and checks as well as Bitcoin. Cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin have eluded seizures from authorities before: the Freedom Convoy received over 20.7 Bitcoins (worth over $782,000) that Canadian authorities have been unable to capture.