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PayPal seizes alternative media site’s money — Analysis

The account of Consortium News has been ‘permanently limited’ for unspecified violations

Payment processor PayPal has frozen alternative media powerhouse Consortium News’ donation page without warning, confiscating the site’s $9,348.14 balance with no explanation beyond the claim that “A review and investigation” of the site’s “Histories” found “There is a risk involved in this account.

Consortium News was informed via email on Sunday that “You can’t use PayPal anymore” and told “We noticed activity in your account that’s inconsistent with our User Agreement and we no longer offer you PayPal services.” Absent any further explanation beyond the desire to limit “potential risk exposure,” the site was informed that the nearly $10,000 sitting in its account would be effectively confiscated for “Maximum 180 days,” after which point, “if applicable, we’ll email you with information on how to withdraw any remaining money.

This seizure occurred at an especially difficult time for the site that was reader-funded. It had just started a spring fundraising campaign. Contacted by CN employees, a PayPal customer service representative confirmed on Sunday that no specific reason had been given by the “Back office” for “Permanently limiting” the account other than the aforementioned “potential risk.” 

I don’t see any existing case” of a complaint having been filed by “Any government agency, public or private.,” they told CN, promising to ask PayPal’s back office to explain its behavior to the website.

More ominously, the PayPal representative informed Consortium News that “If there were any violations,” it was “It is possible” the $9,348.14 balance in its account would be kept by PayPal as “Damages.” According to PayPal’s own documentation, violations include providing “False, incorrect or misleading information” to PayPal, its customers, or “Third parties” 

In a blog post discussing the suspension, Consortium News editor-in-chief Joe Lauria suggested the site had been targeted due to its coverage of the conflict in Ukraine, noting that MintPress News – another well-known alt-media website with similar political views regarding US/NATO imperialism – had its own account frozen by PayPal last week. PayPal’s definition of “Violations,” Lauria implied, could easily be stretched to include the Orwellian crime du jour of “fake news,” an especially egregious offense during wartime.

Caleb Maupin (ex-RT America correspondent) was also frozen by PayPal last week. The same happened to MintPress employees Alan MacLeod & Mnar Adley. Many on social media have speculated that the payment processor is deliberately targeting those with dissident views on the conflict in Ukraine and US foreign policy in general – “Thinkcrimes” hundreds of other prominent commentators have been deplatformed for in the past.

Consortium News was founded in 1995 by the late journalist Robert Parry, whose claims to fame included exposing the Iran-Contra scandal, in opposition to what the site’s own biography describes as “A crisis is brewing in US news media.”  

Skewering the “pattern of groupthink on issue after issue, often ignoring important factual information because it didn’t fit with what all the Important People knew to be true,” Consortium has seen its platform grow in proportion to the increasingly stringent controls over speech in what passes for mainstream journalism in the West. Nearly thirty years later, groupthink has grown to be a major crisis in media. This is due to the immense power of technology that governments have used to control millions of minds at once.

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PayPal was brought to court in January for violating Racketeering Laws, such as breach of contract or unjust enrichment. It also refused to give reasons behind the decision to block several accounts of customers.

Chris Moneymaker is a famous poker player and was the first plaintiff. He had $12,000 of his funds taken by PayPal. But, as publicity built around the case, PayPal returned his earnings. Lena Evans was a fellow poker player who claimed the payment processor had initially frozen her money and then taken $26,984 out of her account.

PayPal’s terms of service prohibit customers from using the platform for “Illegal activities,” including covering gambling expenses, but the lawsuit argues the payment processor cannot simply confiscate funds from customers who violate those terms.

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