PayPal Cuts Off Account For Bradley Manning Support

from the going-into-evil-territory dept

It’s old news by this point that PayPal decided to cut off Wikileaks donations, following pressure from members of the US government (even if the State Department denies any official pressure, Joe Lieberman’s public brow beating of companies shows that there was serious pressure at least from some in the government). However, Glyn Moody now points us to the news that PayPal has also decided to cut off the group “Courage to Resist,” which was handling funds for Bradley Manning’s defense effort. PayPal admits there’s no legal basis for this. Apparently, the company just doesn’t believe that some people should be allowed a fair trial:

The online payment provider PayPal has frozen the account of Courage to Resist, which in collaboration with the Bradley Manning Support Network is currently raising funds in support of U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning. PayPal was one way people–especially international residents–were able to contribute to the grassroots effort supporting the accused WikiLeaks whistleblower. “We’ve been in discussions with PayPal for weeks, and by their own admission there?s no legal obligation for them to close down our account,” noted Loraine Reitman of the Bradley Manning Support Network (Support Network). “This was an internal policy decision by PayPal.”

[….] The Support Network repeatedly requested and was refused formal documentation from PayPal describing their policies in this matter.

The report also notes that they’ve had a PayPal account in good standing since 2006, with no problems at all. It’s only once they were taking funds for Bradley Manning that PayPal shut them down. This is somewhat horrifying, frankly, and raises serious questions about PayPal as a business worth trusting.

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Companies: paypal, wikileaks

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Comments on “PayPal Cuts Off Account For Bradley Manning Support”

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96 Comments
Rich says:

Marijuana law reform groups have faced this problem with PayPal for years. When Sensible Washington started collecting signature for a pot reform initiative in Washington State last year, it took them about a month to find a financial institution willing to process donations for them. Increasingly we find access to the financial transaction system an impediment to free speech.

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

Another nail in PayPal's coffin

That’s going a bit too far, don’t you think? I mean who are we to say what profession people can have? Paypal isn’t lobbying for laws against legal defense, just exhibiting a corporate political viewpoint through denial of service.

We could however stop selling cars, groceries and electricity to defense attorneys. That’s tots legit, brah!

FatGiant (profile) says:

More and more each day it becomes obvious who is actually in power.

No, it’s no longer any government. No, forget about churches.

Banks and Financial companies are the true and only power.

Anyone need money to defend itself, there you go. Cut you from the money, easy win.

World crisis? Not for banks, they got funds to stay afloat, and while the rest of the world is still trying to recover, they are already showing “AMAZING” profits and as usual, not paying taxes.

So, nothing new here, just the same old, same old.

Anonymous Coward says:

Anybody ask Paypal about this?

I see that the article only has quotes from the Brad Manning support organization. Has anyone thought to ask the evil, despicable, corrupt, vicious, back-stabbing, and unethical Paypal why they did this? (I mean, besides the person/group that wrote the blog article.)

Has *anyone*? Are you serious? Do you really expect someone here to know what everyone in the world has or has not done? If you don’t believe the article, why don’t you go ask them yourself?

Anonymous Coward says:

Another nail in PayPal's coffin

If I remember correctly, PayPal was one of the sites that was relatively unaffected by Anonymous’s DDoS attacks in support of Wikileaks. Unless I have them confused with someone else, the attacks took down their homepage for a few hours, but didn’t effect their payment processing systems.

I wouldn’t be surprised if PayPal has taken additional measures since then, like beefing up their pipes, to help protect them from future attacks.

Devonavar (user link) says:

Re:

“That’s the nice thing about being a privately-owned company–Paypal can do as it pleases. Nothing “horrifying” about it. I respect their decision, even though I don’t agree with it.”

Banks are privately owned companies. We do *not* allow banks to revoke accounts at any time and keep the money that they hold. Functionally, Paypal is bank. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t hold them to the same standard.

velox says:

Let’s not forget that Palantir was founded by a group of very smart guys who used to be part of Paypal. It’s rather unlikely that the principals at Palantir and Paypal don’t still know each other quite well.

Palantir has tried to distance themselves from the Wikileaks/HBGary affair and act as if they didn’t have anything to do with the direction of the plan, but a reading of their email has revealed otherwise.

While there is only a circumstantial connection to the issue in this post, nonetheless Palantir continues to be a supplier of very expensive software that allows government intelligence agencies to analyze contacts between individuals.

The stated objectives of HBGary and Palantir were to isolate the individuals associated with Wikileaks and cut off their support.
This move by Paypal would seem to be addressing a closely related and parallel objective of further isolating Manning

Chargone (profile) says:

Soooo...

if i remember their ToS right, the only thing they’re obligated to do and can’t get out of is actually selling you the credits. they reserve the right to not do pretty much every other part, and the only reason they don’t try to worm their way out of that bit is that they’d get in legal trouble if they didn’t then refund your money. that said i’m not a lawyer and it’s been a while since i read the document.

Anonymous Coward says:

List of acceptable PayPal uses

I would be curious to see a short list of objectionable or controversial goods and services that PayPal does allow you to purchase or finance through their system.

Firearms?
Pornography?
Escort services?
Scientology?
Astroturfing?
Bongs?

One obvious difference is that Manning’s opponents are among the most powerful and influential people in the world.

The Original Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Anybody ask Paypal about this?

Having a bad day?

😉

I really don’t expect anyone to do anything. My question was a reasonable one. It has nothing to do with whether I believe the article or not.

The vast majority of the folks who have posted comments to this article give the impression of not liking Paypal. I was just wondering if anyone knew if Paypal had been asked about this by anyone other than the folks who wrote the original blog article.

Lighten up Francis…

el_segfaulto (profile) says:

Another nail in PayPal's coffin

It seems to be like we’ve been seeing different faces of Anonymous. The attacks against PayPal et al. a few months ago were simple DDOS attacks which could have been performed by script kiddies. The attack against HBGary was surgical and highly efficient. If PayPal evokes the ire of the latter members of Anonymous, they may have something to worry about even with beefier defenses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

… why financial institutions have fewer regulations in dealing with customers than telephone companies. [?]

The banks own Capitol Hill.

?The banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.? ???Senator Dick Durbin

The banks own the Senate and the House of Representatives.

pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

Anybody ask Paypal about this?

“The Support Network repeatedly requested and was refused formal documentation from PayPal describing their policies in this matter. “
.
Sounds pretty much like PayPal told them to just go away, without documenting *why*.
.
“They said they would not unrestrict our account unless we authorized PayPal to withdraw funds from our organization?s checking account by default.”
.
Seriously? We won’t do business with you unless you let us arbitrarily access your bank account. Sounds vaguely close to extortion to me.

Adam Bell (profile) says:

Just closed my PayPal acct.

Just closed mine as well (after 10 minutes to discover how)

Although I hadn’t (and didn’t intend to) contribute to Bradley Manning’s defense fund, this marks the second time that PayPal has cancelled an account (the other being WikiLeaks) for purely political reasons. I’m not a strong supporter of either of those causes, but believe strongly that WikiLeaks and the Manning defense fund both have the right to collect money.

Would you continue to use a bank that refused to honor checks made out to folks they didn’t approve of? PayPal is simply not reliable — they censor accounts. I could understand if either of those people (Assange or Manning) had been found guilty of anything, but they have not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Another nail in PayPal's coffin

Remember that the only form of organization Anonymous exhibits is that many of them frequent the same locations, like their IRC chat rooms. Other than that, there is very little connecting the people participating in the LOIC DDoS attacks, and the small group of highly-skilled individuals involved in the HBGary Federal debacle. From reading the chat logs previously linked to by Techdirt, I got the impression that only four or five individuals were involved in HBGary Federal (they may have even stated this implicitly).

An interesting point of the DDoS attacks was that the vast majority of participants were volunteers who had downloaded the Low-Orbit Ion Cannon client, then allowed their rigs to be directed by whoever was running the attacks up top. There were some indications that many of the volunteers did not have any prior relationship with Anonymous, but were inspired to join the DDoS efforts due to the common goal of punishing the companies that had severed ties with Wikileaks. I’m guessing that this group of people account for most of those arrested recently, as they were unable to take basic steps to mask their identities.

I would be surprised if the same people were involved. The methodology and level of skill shown in the HBGary Federal hack was completely different, as you pointed out. Personally, had I been involved in the DDoS attacks (I don’t have anything to do with Anonymous) I would be laying low. The last thing in the world I would want to do is commit another high-profile hack.

The Original Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Anybody ask Paypal about this?

But these quotes are from just one side of the dispute. I’m not saying that Paypal wasn’t quoted accurately, but there are too many cases of sound bites and interview snippets not telling the whole story.

I’d just like to hear Paypal’s version. If they give Mike the same treatment that they gave the Brad Manning support organization, then they’ve proved the point that they are evil, despicable, corrupt, vicious, back-stabbing, and unethical.

JMT says:

Anybody ask Paypal about this?

Here’s Paypal’s explanation:

http://techcrunch.com/2011/02/24/paypal-on-cutting-off-courage-to-resist-this-has-nothing-to-do-with-wikileaks/

So it seems it it had nothing to do with Wikileaks; Courage To Resist just didn’t follow the correct procedures for a non-profit.

What surprises me is that PayPal can’t see how bad this looks to most people. Not that CTR deserve special treatment, but it seems to me that it would be in PayPals’s interest to help them sort the problem quickly and privately instead of attracting bad press, deserved or not.

Christopher (profile) says:

Re:

Which is why companies HAVE to be told by a law being passed that unless someone is doing something illegal WITH THE ACCOUNT IN QUESTION, they have to allow the people to collect money on their website.

If some people want to bash them for that? Point at that law and say “Hey, we have no choice, to go to hell!”

This is just another attempt at First Amendment suppression of free speech, and I do not support that.

To the people who are going to say “THE FIRST AMENDMENT DOESN’T APPLY TO PRIVATE COMPANIES!”…… GUESS A-FUCKING-GAIN!”
Numerous court decisions in state and federal courts have said that you do NOT give up your right to free speech when you are using a private companies services.

Things like Newsvine’s ‘harmful to minors’ policy would be thrown out if someone had the gumption to take them to court.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Anybody ask Paypal about this?

“I see that the article only has quotes from the Brad Manning support organization. Has anyone thought to ask the evil, despicable, corrupt, vicious, back-stabbing, and unethical Paypal why they did this? (I mean, besides the person/group that wrote the blog article.)”

Are they incapable of issuing a press release? I mean, if they have a genuine good reason and a competent PR department then that would seem like the sensible thing to do.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Anybody ask Paypal about this?

“What surprises me is that PayPal can’t see how bad this looks to most people. Not that CTR deserve special treatment, but it seems to me that it would be in PayPals’s interest to help them sort the problem quickly and privately instead of attracting bad press, deserved or not.”

I’m not sure how they could foresee the bad press here, if the organisation really did lie. Regardless, PayPal’s policies tend to be so complicated that sorting problems is unlikely to be quick.

slander (profile) says:

Anybody ask Paypal about this?

Well, if you really, truly want to hear PayPal’s version of things, then do this: contact them yourself, and report back with their reply. Simple.

As for me, having become familiar with PayPal’s ways, both from reports on the Internet, along with friends who have (much to their dismay) been forced to deal with their treachery, I’d long ago been convinced that they are dirty.

Sam Mirshafie (profile) says:

I can't believe they used PayPal

This is not the first, but hopefully the last time I read a story like this. I can’t for the life of me understand how people setting up donations for political prisoners and the like decide on using PayPal, given its long-standing history of freezing funds based on bugger all. And that makes it a bit hard to feel sorry for the people who lost their money this way.

Jot this down. You may need it later:
PayPal = Evil

Anonymous Coward says:

I can't believe they used PayPal

I can’t for the life of me understand how people setting up donations for political prisoners and the like decide on using PayPal…

They use PayPal because it, unfortunately, dominates that market. The US gov’t has helped PayPal reach that position, so PayPal is sure to return the favor whenever it can.

Jay says:

Symptom vs source

People, closing down your accounts are great but you should look at the source of the problem:

Patriot Act Title III

The Anti money laundering Act is what would really be cited in preventing funds to go to Manning in any way shape or form. If someone commits an act of terrorism (read: if they’re accused of a crime without being convicted) then the penalties can be pretty severe

I wouldn’t be too surprised if this was the specific statute since it seems Paypal allows people to transfer money internationally.

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