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PayPal shuts account of parents’ group that campaigned to keep schools open during pandemic

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 21/09/2022 Louisa Clarence-Smith
Molly Kingsley - Christopher Pledger for the Telegraph © Christopher Pledger for the Telegraph Molly Kingsley - Christopher Pledger for the Telegraph

A parents’ group that fought to keep schools open during the pandemic has become the latest to have their account shut down by PayPal due to “the nature of its activities”.

UsForThem said it has been unable to access thousands of pounds in donations from its account after PayPal announced it was discounting service to one of the group’s directors “in accordance with” the technology company’s user agreement.

It comes as PayPal faces a backlash over its decision to shut down the accounts of the Free Speech Union, its founder Toby Young and his news and opinion website, the Daily Sceptic.

The Telegraph revealed on Tuesday that PayPal had shut down the accounts without any clear explanation.

Mr Young said he believed the “sinister” action was taken for “political motives”.

Other groups which have said their accounts have recently been shut down by PayPal include Left Lockdown Sceptics, which describes itself as a “socialist collective” opposed to government lockdown measures.

‘A politically motivated cancellation’

Molly Kingsley, co-founder of UsForThem, said: “We were completely taken aback to learn that PayPal was discontinuing our services ‘due to the nature of [our] activities’.  No prior warning or meaningful explanation was given, and despite them saying we could withdraw our remaining balance, we cannot.

UsForThem has only ever been fully transparent about the organisation’s aims, and our mission statement is on a prominent page of our website for all to read.  That makes clear that our core focus is campaigning for children to be prioritised in public decision-making.

“If something about that mission offends PayPal, why could they not be transparent about that? For a small volunteer organisation, this has a significant impact on our ability to operate, as presumably was intended.  

“It is extremely hard not to draw the conclusion that this is a politically motivated cancellation of an organisation that in some way offends PayPal.”

Joanna Cherry, an SNP MP and a KC, said: “In so far as PayPal provides goods and services in the UK, it should be subject to our anti-discrimination laws. If as alleged this action was prompted by complaints about the Free Speech Union’s support for gender-critical views then it is discriminatory.”

‘Silence and suppress lawful political groups’ 

A spokesman for PayPal said the company was not able to comment on individual accounts but he said the company was not discriminatory and “does not take decisions lightly” on shutting down accounts, pointing out that the company has more than 400 million customers with a range of viewpoints. He said the company’s acceptable use policy covers “a broad range of actions”, including “spreading misinformation about the Covid vaccine” and “hate speech”. 

Iain Mansfield, director of research at Policy Exchange, said: “This is a company taking deliberate action to silence and suppress lawful political groups with whom they disagree. 

“The Government should amend the Online Safety Bill to protect individuals’ and organisations’ access to basic digital infrastructure, rather than giving companies more power to act as censors.”

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