Target supporters of the Tor Project? Not on our watch.

Restore the Fourth Minnesota has joined with 21 other organizations to to tell PayPal and its subsidiary Venmo to shape up its policies on account freezes and closures.

As a privacy advocacy organization, we strongly believe in the importance of financial privacy (which is why we allow anonymous donations with Monero and Bitcoin), and PayPal has a long history of abusing its status as one of the largest payment processors to share consumer data (such as name, address, phone number, DOB, bank account info, and recent purchases) with hundreds of entities around the world.

The coalition sent a letter to PayPal and Venmo today, voicing particular concern about account closures that seem to have been used to pressure or single-out websites that host controversial but legal content. We also know that PayPal has a history of shutting down individual user accounts with little due process, as most recently seen in the case of a long-time Tor supporter Larry Brandt.

This is particularly egregious, as Tor is an essential tool for activists, oppressed minorities, and privacy lovers around the world. As the EFF recently noted:

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.

He was given no opportunity to appeal, and he was given no clarity on what actions resulted in his account being shut down, nor whether this was in relation to a violation of PayPal’s terms – and, if so, which part of those terms.

The letter calls on PayPal and Venmo to provide more transparency and accountability around its policies and practices for account freezes and closures, including publishing regular transparency reports, providing meaningful notice to users, and offering a timely and meaningful appeals process.

The letter was signed by:

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