19 Aug Big Tech Bullies. Facebook and PayPal, Bad Actors with Impunity. Unaccountable. Intransigent. A Law Unto Themselves.

After 11 years of trouble-free operation, PayPal has shut CLEAR’s account without any warning, valid reason or explanation. After three weeks of appeals in which we have answered all questions, provided all documents requested and still no explanation has been forthcoming, today we received its ‘final decision’. Our account is permanently closed. The catastrophic effect of this is to destroy the membership base of around 5,000 that we have built up since 2011. Our existence depended on the recurring membership fees, monthly and annual, which provided our modest income of a few thousand pounds per year. All those have now gone and with them our ability to meet our overheads which keep our website and social media accounts running and pay some travelling and campaign expenses, the rest of which have to be met personally by the people involved.

Six months ago, Facebook finally made it impossible to run our page, the second biggest cannabis law reform page in the world, which had reached 750,000 followers. Since 2011, a total of more than 20 volunteers have worked seven days a week, 365 days a year, curating news, politics, medical and science content, gradually building loyalty and engagement. Facebook has put our current admins through its ‘page publishing authorisation’ again and again. Without any warning, admins are simply blocked from posting until they provide proof of ID and residence. Again and again we have submitted passports, verified addresses and then after a few weeks we are required to do exactly the same all over again. Eventually this led to us having just one active admin, in fact someone who had ceased his volunteer work, and the other four simply cannot get back in again. The page has not been deleted but we have chosen to unpublish it rather than let it stagnate with no new content. We continue to operate our Facebook group, CLEAR Drugs Policy Reform, which has around 10,000 members.

We have no explanation for either of these problems. It may be that they are connected to our work in the cannabis space but we have no contact with the plant or the drug itself, We are purely a political campaigning, advocacy and policy group. Our rights of free speech and political engagement are protected under law in all jurisdictions in which Facebook and PayPal operate but there is no question of us being able to enforce our rights through the court against these two monolithic corporations. We have maintained a bank account with the National Westminster Bank for over 20 years without any problems.

Cancard has recently experienced similar problems together with rogue attempts to hijack its intellectual property, name and website, exactly as CLEAR experienced a few years ago.

We still have our payment facility with Stripe but it cannot takeover the 90% of our memberships that were paid through PayPal. Its continued facilty must itself be in doubt and may also be withdrawn at any moment.

We still have our Facebook group, our Twitter account and our website but we do not have the manpower or financial resources necessary to rebuild. Our continuation now depends entirely on the personal resources of our three key executives, all volunteers, who have already put in many thousands of pounds over the years.

We will continue, as best we are able. We remain the longest-established cannabis campaign in the UK and since our foundation in 1999 as the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, we have gathered more followers and members than all other UK drugs policy group combined. We have little left other than our record and the passion and commitment of our people.

If you can afford to, please sign up for membership again for between £5 and £40 per year at https://clearmembers-uk.org/, remembering to choose payment by Stripe. We will be removing the PayPal option in due course.

We are sumitting a formal complaint about PayPal to the Financial Ombudsman and will report on its decision when we can.

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