Jacob Rees-Mogg has accused Paypal of indulging in “cancel culture” after the US company shut down the accounts of the Free Speech Union founded by right-wing journalist Toby Young.
The business secretary has intervened in the row after senior Tory MPs wrote to him to complain of “politically motivated move to silence critical or dissenting views” from the payments giant.
PayPal has declined to tell Mr Young why accounts for the Free Speech Union and his opinion site The Daily Sceptic are being blocked – but it reportedly relates to his controversial views on Covid vaccines.
Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Corporations such as PayPal should not take part in cancel culture and push political opinions on the British public.”
The cabinet minister told The Telegraph: “It is particularly concerning that it appears to have censored the Free Speech Union. They need to justify their behavior. “
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and ex-ministers Michael Gove and David Davis had written to Mr Rees-Mogg about Paypal after Mr Young spoke out against the US payments giant last week.
Mr Young, who has been a prominent skeptic of Covid-19 vaccines, said he was not told why they had been closed – claiming to be a victim of the “war on free speech”.
In an email to the journalist and free speech activist, the company said: “PayPal’s policy is not to allow our services to be used for activities that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance.”
One of the reasons the accounts were closed was alleged Covid vaccine misinformation, according to The Times.
Mr Young was rebuked by press regulator Ipso in 2021 over a “significantly misleading” claim that the cold could provide “natural immunity” to Covid and the claim that London was “probably approaching herd immunity”.
Dan Schulman, PayPal’s chief executive Dan Schulman said last week that major companies could no longer “avoid the cultural wars” in their decision-making.
It comes as debate continues to the rage over the Online Safety Bill – the legislation championed by ex-culture secretary Nadine Dorries in a bid to bring in stronger regulation of social media firms and other internet giants.
Lord Frost is among the Tory backbenchers pressing the government to drop the part of the bill which attempts to define “legal but harmful” online content – warning it could allow future Labor governments to censor free speech.
Labor’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell told The Independent that the Tories had become bogged down in a “cul-de-sac” of free speech arguments – saying the bill was a missed opportunity to tackle the algorithms which promote divisive and hateful content.
“It should be about the business model and the power and the processes of the [social media] platforms, ”she said. “It’s the power that needs regulating, not the opinions.”