The Bradley Manning Support Network announced today that PayPal has closed the account of a group, Courage to Resist, that the network is working with to raise funds for the U.S. Army soldier alleged to have delivered classified cables and other secret government documents to WikiLeaks. The website that facilitates online payments will no longer let Courage to Resist use its services.
PayPal's move comes just over two months after the company -- along with Visa and MasterCard -- severed its links to WikiLeaks. Those wanting to donate directly to the project could no longer use these services. (You can donate to Manning's supporters using those credit cards, however.) Hackers friendly to WikiLeaks then attacked the websites of those companies, temporarily shutting down both Visa and Mastercard. PayPal might want to brace itself for similar attacks now.
The company says, though, that it hasn't frozen Courage to Resist's account because of its ties to WikiLeaks; it states that the group isn't complying with PayPal policy:
Today’s temporary limitation of the Courage to Resist organization’s PayPal account is due to PayPal regulations requiring non profits to associate a bank account to their PayPal account. It is nothing to do with Wikileaks. Back in December 2010, we permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.
The Bradley Manning Support Network is, of course, angry with PayPal's decision. But neither that group, nor Courage to Resist, can deny that PayPal has the right to limit its services to whomever it pleases. At least, it has a legal right to do so -- but only a legal right, Courage's Jeff Paterson insists:
While there may be no legal obligation to provide services, there is an ethical obligation. By shutting out legitimate nonprofit activity, PayPal shows itself to be morally bankrupt.
PayPal is "morally bankrupt" because it has chosen to -- at least temporarily -- sever its ties with a single group whose friends have already tried to damage its business. Jeff Paterson might also suggest that newspapers must publish every "legitimate" letter submitted -- don't they also have an "ethical obligation" not to "shut out" free speech?
What version of morality compels one to do business with another entity?