No more red pills: Paypal becomes the latest tech giant to ban conspiracy theorist Alex Jones

Laurence Dodds
The Infowars owner, pictured centre, has ten days to stop selling dietary supplements using Paypal - REUTERS

Paypal has given far-Right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones ten days to stop using its payment system, becoming the latest tech company to ban him from its service.

Following in the footsteps of Apple, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter, the company said it would no longer do business with his Infowars news website or any of its subsidiaries. 

The move threatens to further marginalise Jones and cut him off from at the key source of his funding: the Infowars online store, where fans support his work through donations and sales of vitamin supplements and T-shirts.

A spokesman for Paypal declined to cite specific violations of its policy, instead saying Infowars had gone against its values.

“We undertook an extensive review of the Infowars sites, and found instances that promoted hate or discriminatory intolerance against certain communities and religions, which run counter to our core value of inclusion,” the spokesman said. 

A post on the activist website Right-Wing Watch in August had accused Jones of breaking Paypal’s user agreement, which forbids “false, inaccurate or misleading information” as well as defamation and threats.  

Jones is being sued for defamation by parents who lost their children in the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre, which he claims was faked by the US government in order to build support for stricter gun control. Paypal currently handles all transactions on the Infowars store, estimated to represent between £7 million and £15 million a year.

In a post on Infowars, Jones’ British understudy Paul Joseph Watson said the move “represents nothing less than a political ploy designed to financially sabotage an influential media outlet just weeks before the mid-term elections”.

It was, he added, “the ultimate culmination of a de facto Communist Chinese-style social credit score, where first you are demonized, then censored, before your basic ability to operate freely in the marketplace is withdrawn.”

The move is part of a wider crackdown by tech companies on fringe and extremist websites after pressure from politicians. Last year the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, was dropped by its web hosting companies after its users helped organise deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In August Microsoft threatened to stop hosting the far-Right social network Gab.ai, citing a set of anti-Semitic posts which advocated “ritual death by torture” for Jewish people.

But Aaron Mackey, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, a civil rights group, said banning Jones from a payment service went further than refusing to host his speech and set a dangerous precedent.

“There are only a small number of payment intermediaries,” he told the Telegraph, “and their actions can influence what kind of speech that exists online. Do we want a small number of entities deciding questions about who gets to speak and reach audiences online, and who gets to be financially supported?”

Previously Paypal has frozen the accounts of Wikileaks, the file-sharing network Soulseek  and erotic book authors who depicted rape, incest and bestiality. 

Mr Mackey said payment companies should publicly commit to upholding freedom of expression and be transparent about who they ban and why.