In the last week or so, the online payment platform PayPal without explanation suspended the accounts of a series of individual journalists and media outlets.
This episode ups the ante again on the content moderation movement, toward the world hinted at in the response to the Canadian trucker protests, where having the wrong opinions can result in your money being frozen or seized. Going after cash is a big jump from simply deleting speech, with a much bigger chilling effect. This is especially true in the alternative media world, where money has long been notoriously tight, and the loss of a few thousand dollars here or there can have a major effect on a site, podcast, or paper.
As MintPress founder and executive director Mnar Adley points out, the current era of content moderation — characterized by private platforms either overtly or covertly working with government to identify accounts for censure — really began with PayPal’s historic decision in 2010 to halt donations to Wikileaks. In that case, PayPal acted after receiving a letter from the State Department claiming the site’s activities were illegal.
“PayPal banning donations from WikiLeaks really set up the blueprint for today’s censorship,” Adley says.
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