Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has sued PayPal for allegedly engaging in “viewpoint-based censorship” by refusing to process payments to his company.
“PayPal banning Plaintiff is a bridge too far and, if allowed, sets a dangerous precedent for any person or entity with controversial views,” Jones alleges in his lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Jones owns the sites Infowars.com and Prisonplanet.com, which offer articles and other content, and the ecommerce site InfowarsStore.com. The latter sells supplements like “Alpha Power” -- which promises buyers the ability to “discover what it feels like to be an alpha male all over again” -- and books like “The Clintons' War On Women,” authored by Roger Stone and Robert Morrow.''
He alleges that PayPal -- which has processed payments to his ecommerce site since 2000 -- informed him late last month that it was banning him from the service. PayPal said at the time that Jones violated the company's acceptable use policy, including its prohibition on promoting hate speech and intolerance.
PayPal's move came shortly after other tech companies -- including Apple, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter -- also banned Jones. He alleges that PayPal's ban, like the others, reflects discrimination in Silicon Valley against “politically conservative entities and individuals.”
“It is at this point well-known that large tech companies, located primarily in Silicon Valley, are discriminating against politically conservative entities and individuals, including banning them from social media platforms such as Twitter, based solely on their political and ideological viewpoints,” he writes in a request for a court order requiring PayPal to reinstate him.
Internet law expert Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University, suggests Jones will have an uphill battle in court. “I think the most likely scenario is that PayPal will have the discretion to decide whether it wants to deal with Infowars or not,” he says. “If that's not the result, there's a concern about the possibility that companies will be forced to do business with people they find objectionable.”
Tech companies have increasingly come under attack by conservatives, who claim their views are being suppressed online. Congress has held several recent hearing at which conservatives criticized Facebook and other platforms for allegedly failing to promote right-wing opinions. Late last month, President Trump added his voice to the criticism, claiming Google's search engine is "rigged" because it highlights stories from "Fake CNN."
PayPal isn't the only company to face suit over “censorship” claims. Google was recently sued by Prager University over allegations that Google “censored” Prager by de-monetized its video clips. A trial judge dismissed Prager's complaint; the company recently asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the lawsuit.
Despite the vocal complaints, there doesn't appear to be evidence that online platforms discriminate against conservatives. New York Law School professor Ari Waldman recently told federal lawmakers that content representing a wide range of political views gets filtered online.
"When victims of racist, homophobic, and sexist tweets and comments post those comments to call out the aggressors, it is often the victims that are suspended or banned," Waldman said in written testimony. "Activists associates with the Black Lives Matter movement have reported just as many if not more take downs of images discussing racism and police brutality than any of the anecdotal evidence of suspensions or take downs on the right."