PayPal has reinstated the accounts of a free speech campaign group after it was accused by MPs of imposing an “orchestrated, politically motivated” ban.
The US finance company froze three accounts run by Toby Young, the general secretary of the Free Speech Union (FSU).
The move sparked outrage among MPs, who wrote to Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Business Secretary, and the chairman of the Treasury select committee to urge them to intervene.
On Tuesday night, PayPal said it had decided to reinstate the accounts and issued a statement declaring its support for freedom of expression.
The company also apologised to Mr Young for “any inconvenience caused” by its investigation, which he said had been a “nightmare” and would mean he does not use the company again.
Accounts owned by the FSU and the Daily Sceptic blog were frozen on Sept 15 along with an account run by UsForThem, a group that campaigned for schools to reopen during the UK’s Covid lockdown.
Michael Gove and David Davis, both former ministers, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, an ex-Conservative leader, and Sir Graham Brady, the 1922 committee chairman, signed the letter to Mr Rees-Mogg.
They said it was “hard to avoid construing PayPal’s actions as an orchestrated, politically motivated move to silence critical or dissenting views on these topics within the UK”.
A second letter, signed by 41 MPs and peers, was sent to Mel Stride, the chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, on Monday, calling for an investigation and accusing PayPal of issuing “private economic sanctions” against groups it disagrees with.
Mr Rees-Mogg previously said PayPal should not engage in “cancel culture”, but it is understood there was no direct contact between the company and the Government.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Young said: “Forgive me if I don’t leap for joy. The last two weeks have been a nightmare as I’ve scrabbled to try to stop the Daily Sceptic and Free Speech Union going under. PayPal’s software was embedded in all our payment systems, so the sudden closure of our accounts was an existential threat.
“I won’t be using PayPal again, at least not until it reinstates all the other people and organisations whose accounts it has closed for political reasons and agrees never to cancel anyone’s accounts for purely political reasons again.
“In the meantime, I’m going to be lobbying the Government to change the law so companies like PayPal cannot demonetise people or organisations whose perfectly lawful views it disapproves of.”
The Telegraph understands several Conservative MPs are considering attempting to amend forthcoming legislation to add a ban on payments companies freezing accounts for political reasons.
A PayPal spokesman said: “PayPal is dedicated to providing safe and affordable financial services to people of all backgrounds with a diversity of views, and we are a strong supporter of freedom of expression and open dialogue.
“We have continued to review the information and we take seriously the input from our customers and stakeholders. Based on these ongoing reviews, we have made the decision to reinstate these accounts. We will continue to work hard to protect freedom of expression, our customers, and our platform.”