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You Can’t Pick and Mix Democracy

Jasmine Birtles 20th Jul 2023 3 Comments

Last year, MoneyMagpie ran an article on whether a bank can cancel you if it doesn’t like your views. The alarming answer was that yes, they can! Since writing this, I have seen multiple cases of people with certain views being banned from situations that should surely be available to them, and it got me wondering how you all felt about this.

It seems that unlike other amenities, we have few legal rights where banking is concerned, therefore it is not technically criminalising, more discriminating against people for their use of free speech.

How many times have you heard somebody try and fight a comment they disagree with by claiming ‘we live in a democracy’?

British citizens are allowed to voice ‘controversial’ opinions. They can get us cancelled, but they can’t get us imprisoned… However, lately, reports of negative bureaucratic experiences have started to make us question whether we live in a free society at all.

In UK law it states that ‘the right to freedom of expression is subject to a range of restrictions in UK law, including the: Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Communications Act 2003, which criminalises ‘indecent or grossly offensive’ messages and threats.’ So the issue lies within interpretation of offence, and leaves free speech open to a level of interpretation.

Criminalisation of political speech is now on the rise, both in the US and the UK. And whilst having a bank account isn’t a legal right, should politics really come into where you keep your money?

Whether you approve of Nigel Farage or not, it’s not appropriate or democratic for banks to deny him, or any other political person, a bank account.

Whether it’s Jeremy Corbyn or Keir Starmer, Jacob Rees-Mogg or Lawrence Fox, they should have the right to a bank account.

Apart from anything else, banks seem perfectly happy to grant accounts to murderers, rapists, fraudsters and the like, while seemingly getting cold feet about allowing people with views they don’t like to bank with them.

Controversially, the London-based money-transfer firm and bank Wise (formerly known as TransferWise) suspended the account of a pro-life Christian group, CitizenGO, under its ‘Acceptable Use Policy’. Apparently being pro-life is an offence punishable by banking banishment.

The company, which has more than 10 million users worldwide, told MoneyMagpie that it deactivates accounts ‘for a number of reasons, including (but not limited to) violations of our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP)’.

The exhaustive list of activities they deem unacceptable cites everything from creating pornography to using their services for ‘anything that is abusive, harmful, or does not comply with our content standards’. Clearly that includes deeply-held Christian views.

Our own political beliefs on this are irrelevant; where I stand on the business of CitizenGO is irrelevant. What seems screamingly evident to me is that, on some level, our views are supposed to conform to an agenda we haven’t had fair access to; it is not transparent and leaves us questioning whether having a public opinion on anything at all could see us penalised in ways we had never even considered.

PayPal closed the accounts of The Free Speech Union and the newssite DailySceptic.org. Meanwhile, multiple banks have refused accounts to right-wing groups. Like Wise, it seems most banks and money transfer services have similarly subjective T&Cs that can see account holders suspended for expressing legal, if unfashionable, views. The fear among civil rights activists is that such moralising can quickly lead down a slippery slope, where anyone with contrary views risks being made a second-class citizen in our increasingly cashless and credit-orientated society.

So, what are your thoughts on this? Is this a measure taken to protect people from fascism? Or a step closer to fascism itself? You decide…

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10 months ago

Our speech can hardly be free if this is happening – what else will they gag next?

Gary luton
Gary luton
10 months ago

No one what ever their views should have things like banking taken away. we are heading down that slippery slope and we need to stop it. Before we know it we will be living in a totalitarian society with one view that were told we must have….

Adam Edwards
10 months ago

I think it’s a disgrace that the banks think they can act as judge, jury and executioner, and curb our free speech in this way. I’ve already closed my account with the Yorkshire Building Society as I think it’s Orwellian how they have been ‘debanking’ people for wrongthink. I intend to close my account with NatWest, which owns Coutts. They banned Farage for the crime of liking Novak Djokovic (how pathetic), and voting for Brexit. You don’t have to agree with Farage, Brexit or the views of other people who have been debanked (some of whom may be total cranks)… Read more »

Last edited 10 months ago by Adam Edwards

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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