PayPal’s decision to end its relationship with Infowars publisher Alex Jones has put the payment processing service on the receiving end of a lawsuit filed in federal court.
Attorneys for Free Speech Systems LLC, the company that owns and operates Infowars.com and related websites, sued PayPal on Monday, seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction effectively keeping the payment processor from following through with cutting ties with the right-wing media personality and conspiracy theorist.
Filed in San Jose federal court, the 15-page complaint accuses PayPal of violating California civil rights and business laws by deciding last month to stop handling transactions for websites founded by Mr. Jones, including Infowars and its online store. The company claims that the sites ran afoul of its acceptable use policy prohibiting hateful and discriminatory content.
“PayPal banning Plaintiff is a bridge too far and, if allowed, sets a dangerous precedent for any person or entity with controversial views,” attorney Marc Randazza wrote in the complaint.
“Acceptable use policies of tech companies, including PayPal’s policy, are notoriously broad and subjective, meaning that essentially any expression aside from the most boring and banal interpretation of events potentially violates them,” Mr. Randazza wrote in the complaint. “Meanwhile, subject-to-change whims of would-be-censors change from day to day, time to time, and no user of this ubiquitous banking service can predict who will be next.”
PayPal considers the claims meritless and “looks forward to vigorously defending itself,” the company said in a statement.
Detailing its decision to permanently ban Infowars and related sites, PayPal said it discovered content that promoted “hate and discriminatory intolerance against certain communities and religions,” and that it had given the sites 10 business days to close their accounts.
“We do not take these actions lightly and we work hard to be rigorous and fair-minded,” PayPal said previously.
PayPal’s decision to ban accounts associated with Mr. Jones, 44, came on the heels of more than a dozen other companies purging him from their platforms for various violations of policies prohibiting hateful conduct and harassment, including Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Google’s YouTube and Apple’s podcasting app, among others. Mr. Randazza alleged in the lawsuit that tech companies are purposely targeting conservative users in particular based solely on their political and ideological viewpoints.
“PayPal is the most recent company to join this campaign of censorship. It banned Plaintiff from its payment-processing platform for no reason other than disagreement with the messages Plaintiff conveys,” Mr. Randazza wrote.
Launched in 1999, Infowars has previously faced scrutiny for peddling conspiracy theories surrounding topics ranging from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. Relatives of victims of the latter are currently pursuing related litigation against Mr. Jones in multiple states.
PayPal has processed payments for Infowars for roughly 18 years, according to the lawsuit.