House Republicans are likely to launch an investigation of PayPal for a now-retracted policy that would fine users up to $2,500 for spreading “misinformation” or posting content that it deemed “objectionable,” per a letter sent to PayPal Tuesday.
The letter demanded that PayPal send House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee and Financial Services Committee written answers to 15 questions about the circumstances surrounding the “Acceptable Use Policy,” which was published by PayPal on Oct. 8.
The questions demand PayPal to name those who drafted the policy, who had the authority to approve it, and whether PayPal had coordinated with the Biden administration regarding it.
“As a leading financial technology company, it is concerning that a user agreement that
contemplates the restriction of free speech was uploaded and disseminated to PayPal users –
even if in error,” the letter read, which was signed by Republican Reps. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, who are ranking members of the aforementioned committees.
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The letter asked that answers be provided no later than Oct. 27.
PayPal’s initially published policy specified that users may not send or receive transactions that “promote misinformation,” “present a risk to user safety,” “are objectionable,” or “are otherwise unfit for publication” – with users being fined $2,500 for violations that may be directly debited from their accounts. The policy stated that activities could be judged as violative of the policy “based on PayPal’s sole discretion.”
The policy was later retracted on the same day after public outcry over its alleged punishment of users for free speech, with PayPal’s former president, David Marcus, calling it “insanity” on Twitter. Elon Musk, one of the co-founders of PayPal, later said that he “agreed” with the decision.
“The ability to transact without fear of retribution and political censorship is the foundation on which a free economy is built,” read a statement by Rep. Tom Emmer, the Ranking Member of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, who is also in the running to become the next House Majority Whip.
He added that “the American people deserve answers about how these decisions are made and whether their speech will be protected on this platform.”
The likely investigation of PayPal follows a pattern of Congress, under both Democratic and Republican majorities, investigating large technology companies for their user policies.
Most notably, this has involved having these companies’ CEOs testify before Congress, with Mark Zuckerberg of Meta (then-named Facebook), Jack Dorsey of Twitter, Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Sundar Pichai of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) all appearing for testimony since 2019.
Democrats have focused on “misinformation” policies that distort the information landscape before elections, per remarks by Rep. Mike Doyle at a high-profile hearing in 2021 with Zuckerberg, Pichai, and Dorsey.
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Republicans, meanwhile, have zeroed in on content restrictions they believe deliberately targets conservative users with the intention of suppressing information to favor left-wing causes and Democratic candidates, allegedly supported by the employees at these companies, with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham raising the prospect of federal “licensing” requirements to protect users.
Recently, Facebook and Twitter faced criticism from conservatives following reports that officials from the White House, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health & Human Services contacted the platforms to flag content deemed “misinformation” and request the removal of the postings and accounts. Among those targeted included a parody account of Dr Anthony Fauci, Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor, and an account run by Dr Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins University.