Stop PayPal’s Discriminatory Holds on Donations


Target: John Donahoe, president of eBay and interim head of PayPal

Goal: Demand that PayPal cease placing holds on donations made to crowd-sourcing movements, and follow through on its commitment to review policies to prevent such actions in the future

Startup company ProtonMail was recently denied access to roughly $270,000 in public donations by PayPal, a leader in online payment. PayPal claimed that the encrypted email provider’s services were illegal and lacked government approval, temporarily freezing payments to and from ProtonMail. Spokespeople at PayPal alleged that the service broke the site’s terms of service, opening the gate to punitive measures.

This was not the first time that crowd-funded operations have had their funding cut off by the popular online payment processor. When satire website Regretsy began collecting donations to buy toys for less fortunate children in its community, PayPal shut down its account and would not let the website collect any of the donations. Another company, GlassUp, which began making enhanced reality glasses even before Google, had $100,000 in donations held pending the release of its product. Perhaps the most notorious incident of this nature was when PayPal refused service to WikiLeaks, a website promoting transparency in government.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right to private communications, and by extension encrypted email services. PayPal’s move to freeze ProtonMail’s funds was completely baseless, and contradicted a recent promise the company made to improve its policies to help avoid situations like these.

PayPal’s erratic decisions have repeatedly demonstrated a clear bias against free speech and in support of government surveillance. Demand that the company take further action to prevent these instances of discrimination in the future by reexamining its policies and adhering to them.


Dear Mr. Donahoe,

PayPal recently released frozen funds donated to ProtonMail, a secure, encrypted email service. When asked what motivated this hold on funds, your company questioned the legality of encrypted communications and claimed that the service lacked government approval.

This is but one example of PayPal denying crowd-sourced funds. Other instances include a collection to purchase toys for less-fortunate children by website Regretsy, as well as donations to popular government transparency website WikiLeaks.

The right to secure communications is guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, therefore making encrypted web services entirely legal. PayPal’s freezing of ProtonMail’s funds was completely unwarranted and unacceptable, and goes against a recent promise to review policies to ensure future situations like these can be avoided. I demand further review and enforcement of policies in order to prevent further discrimination against crowd-sourcing movements–and in particular, against those which stand up for consumers’ rights to freedom of speech and privacy.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit:  iliveisl via Flickr Creative Commons

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  1. Robert Ortiz says:

    When you have an issue of discrimination coming from a large company and especially one that processes payments, you’ve got trouble.

  2. Speaking about that… what if it happens to me if PayPal discriminates my freely available blogging platform?

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