PayPal has become an episode of Black Mirror: Elon Musk

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PayPal’s former leadership, also known as the “PayPal Mafia,” have slammed the payments giant for its debanking policies of late, with one co-founder calling the freezing of funds “totalitarian,” while another compared it to an episode of Black Mirror.

Despite becoming crypto-friendly in recent years, the payments tech giant has caught a lot of headlines and pushback over its de-platforming practices, which reportedly involve a rather abrupt process of freezing funds, fines, and frosty negotiations to unlock the accounts of its users for varying reasons.

Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal in 1998 and served as its CEO until 2002 suggested to The Free Press (TFP) on Dec. 14 that the company’s vision has significantly shifted away from its initial goal of giving global citizens greater control over their money.

“If the online forms of your money are frozen, that’s like destroying people economically, limiting their ability to exercise their political voice,” Thiel noted, adding that:

“There’s something about destroying people economically that seems like a far more totalitarian thing.”

Thiel is colloquially referred to as the “Don” of the famous “PayPal Mafia,” which is a group of founders and former employees — such as Elon Musk — that have since gone on to found or work at other major tech companies.

Fellow PayPal Mafia member and the firm’s first COO David Sacks has also spoken out against PayPal’s deplatorming practices over recent years as well.

In talking with TFP, Sacks argued that PayPal, under the leadership of current CEO Dan Schulman, is trying to cash in on the woke culture movement by banning people with opposing views.

“The CEO [Schulman] has got like every woke award you can win,” Sacks said, adding:

“It’s a symbiotic relationship—he implements their agenda, and, in exchange, they give him awards, and that furthers advancement up the corporate totem pole of woke capitalism.”

To list just some of PayPal’s notable deplatformings, it has shut down the accounts tied to the censorship-free focused Freedom Phone startup, news website Consortium News, the Free Speech Union and lockdown sceptic blog The Daily Sceptic. All of which could be deemed as leaning right politically, or at least as holding alternative views.

Responding to the article from The Free Press, Elon Musk, the now-CEO of Twitter and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla said that the platform has become an episode of Black Mirror — a British television series that usually presents some form of dystopian future where people are controlled by technology.

With the threat of deplatforming being in place for some, crypto proponents have of course pushed the “Bitcoin fixes this” narrative due to the network’s decentralization and censorship resistance.

Related: What are crypto payment gateways and how do they work?

In October, the firm also controversially introduced $2,500 fines for users that “promote misinformation” or material that presents risks to “user safety and wellbeing,” both of which were defined under ambiguous terms.

The move was met with intense backlash from the community and big figures alike, including PayPal Mafia members such as former PayPal president David Marcus and former CEO Musk. On Oct. 11, PayPal then promptly walked back that policy and attributed it to an internal error.

However, some skeptics believe the policy has been quietly snuck back into the company’s user agreement and acceptable use policy.