Next time you click on one of those impossibly long and inscrutable disclaimers about a company’s terms of service, it might be time to take a closer look. .
A new fine print policy from PayPal has sparked a storm of outrage over apparent plans to impose a hefty $2,500 fine from November 3 every time any of its 429 million consumers and traders expressed what company executives consider to be misinformation.
PayPal quickly apologized over the weekend for what it called “confusion”, saying it was all a mistake, but not before a barrage of criticism from some number of personalities, including its own former president, David Marcus.
Marcus took to Twitter to say the new Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) was “madness” that forced him to come forward and criticize his former employer, where he worked for three years from 2011. after PayPal’s former owner eBay acquired a company he founded and joined it with the payment service.
“PayPal’s new AUP goes against everything I believe in,” he posted on Saturday. “A private company can now decide to take your money if you say something they don’t agree with.”
Free speech advocates like Elon Musk, one of the entrepreneurs behind the creation of PayPal, as well as prominent conservative voices such as actor Kevin Sorbo, have also lambasted the plans.
The controversy comes as tensions run high over allegations of misinformation ahead of next month’s important midterm elections in the United States, which could see Republicans regain control of both houses of Congress.
With many on the right fearing that Big Tech would target them because of their political views, the company quickly backtracked.
“PayPal does not fine people for misinformation and this language was never intended to be inserted into our policy,” a spokesperson later told media over the weekend. “We are sorry for the confusion this has caused.”
Critics didn’t seem to buy PayPal’s claims though, it was just an innocent “mistake” that was promptly updated with the correct information.
Dan Held, the former head of growth marketing for crypto exchange Kraken and a bitcoin fan, argued that users should delete their account with the payment service provider.
“PayPal freezing funds for thought crimes is despicable”, he wrote over the weekend in response to the controversy.
Many crypto fans like Held — who are often libertarians who oppose government intervention in much of society — believe the government and its corporate supporters regularly undermine basic human rights.
They’ve been on high alert since the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Tornado Casha service that conceals blockchain transactions by mixing them with others so that they are harder to trace.
Marcus, the former president of PayPal, is himself a bitcoin fan and then ran the project from Meta to develop a crypto wallet. PayPal’s supposed new policy has only exacerbated a common fear in the crypto community that the state will eventually seek to shelve virtual assets through the introduction of central bank digital currencies.
The intense blowback is unlikely to be helpful for PayPal stocks, which have been a poor investment in 2022 so far.
While payment services giant Visa is down just 15% year-to-date, PayPal has more than halved its value. Even eBay, its former parent until 2015, fared better, dropping only around 43% over the period.
Shares of PayPal are expected to open down 1.5% on Monday, underperforming the broader tech market.
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