An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Larry Brandt, a long-time supporter of internet freedom, used his nearly 20-year-old PayPal account to put his money where his mouth is. His primary use of the payment system was to fund servers to run Tor nodes, routing internet traffic in order to safeguard privacy and avoid country-level censorship. Now Brandt’s PayPal account has been shut down, leaving many questions unanswered and showing how financial censorship can hurt the cause of internet freedom around the world.
Brandt first discovered his PayPal account was restricted in March of 2021. Brandt reported to EFF: “I tried to make a payment to the hosting company for my server lease in Finland. My account wouldn’t work. I went to my PayPal info page which displayed a large vertical banner announcing my permanent ban. They didn’t attempt to inform me via email or phone — just the banner.” Brandt was unable to get the issue resolved directly through PayPal, and so he then reached out to EFF. […] We found no evidence of wrongdoing that would warrant shutting down his account, and we communicated our concerns to PayPal. Given that the overwhelming majority of transactions on Brandt’s account were payments for servers running Tor nodes, EFF is deeply concerned that Brandt’s account was targeted for shut down specifically as a result of his activities supporting Tor.
We reached out to PayPal for clarification, to urge them to reinstate Brandt’s account, and to educate them about Tor and its value in promoting freedom and privacy globally. PayPal denied that the shutdown was related to the concerns about Tor, claiming only that “the situation has been determined appropriately” and refusing to offer a specific explanation. After several weeks, PayPal has still refused to reinstate Brandt’s account. […] EFF is calling on PayPal to do better by its customers, and that starts by embracing the Santa Clara principles [which attempt to guide companies in centering human rights in their decisions to ban users or take down content]. Specifically, we are calling on them to: publish a transparency report, provide meaningful notice to users, and adopt a meaningful appeal process. The Tor Project said in an email: “This is the first time we have heard about financial persecution for defending internet freedom in the Tor community. We’re very concerned about PayPal’s lack of transparency, and we urge them to reinstate this user’s account. Running relays for the Tor network is a daily activity for thousands of volunteers and relay associations around the world. Without them, there is no Tor — and without Tor, millions of users would not have access to the uncensored internet.”
Brandt says he’s not backing down and is still committed to supporting the Tor network to pay for servers around the world using alternative means. “Tor is of critical importance for anyone requiring anonymity of location or person,” says Brandt. “I’m talking about millions of people in China, Iran, Syria, Belarus, etc. that wish to communicate outside their country but have prohibitions against such activities. We need more incentives to add to the Tor project, not fewer.”