Tulipshare Calls on PayPal to Provide Non-discriminatory Financial Services to All Users
Tulipshare, a UK-based activist investing platform, announced today that they have submitted a shareholder proposal to PayPal, calling on the company to provide non-discriminatory financial services to all users. Tulipshare’s proposal follows campaigns launched by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a petition on Change.org asking PayPal to end its biased practices in account suspensions.
As a small number of companies dominate the market for online payment processing, PayPal wields tremendous power to control the speech environment by turning off the financial faucet for users who express disfavoured views or wade into controversial subject matter. PayPal (which owns Venmo, Braintree, and Xoom), for instance, has 325 million active users. Merchants and individuals put on PayPal’s blacklist may find themselves in a financially precarious situation because payment platforms are currently extremely centralized, creating what in practice is a duopoly. When consumer choice borders on illusory, any argument that those dissatisfied with Visa’s or PayPal’s Terms and Conditions should simply seek other payment methods is not particularly convincing — or realistic.
Today, PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy details a non-exhaustive list of activities requiring pre-approval, though there is no remediation information for users seeking to appeal account suspensions or deactivation. As a result, these policies have been shown to disproportionately harm groups of people. For instance, PayPal’s policies that stigmatise sex work have been shown to disproportionately harm Black, Brown, and trans communities. In addition to blocking the accounts of sex workers, PayPal has been accused of routinely targeting users for speech protected by the First Amendment. The Company has frozen the account of News Media Canada for a payment to submit an article about Syrian refugees for an award, and terminated service to a user for using an open-source software that enables anonymous communication.
Tulipshare hopes to engage with PayPal on this issue to begin providing clearer explanations of the number and categories of account suspensions that may reasonably be expected to limit freedom of expression or access to information or financial services. If implemented accordingly, this means that if PayPal decides to close an individual or business account, the Company must provide meaningful notice about the particular Terms of Services provision that was violated, and users should have the opportunity to appeal the decision in a timely and efficient manner.
Antoine Argouges, Chief Executive and Founder of Tulipshare comments: “By not being transparent with users around their policies and reasons for exclusion from their platform, PayPal is missing out on the opportunity to service these users. Not only has this approach shown to be discriminatory, but it is losing out on potential market share and revenue as a result. We hope to be joined by many shareholders and we welcome other like-minded retail investors to have their say on the proposal by joining our campaign.”
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