At the last session of the historic Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee on disinformation and fake news, the online payment system giant joins other tech companies in declaring ‘we’re just a platform’.

Following Byline Times‘ exclusive revelation that the donations system for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party ‘couldn’t be less secure’, the DCMS committee chaired by Damian Collins MP called in two executives from the online payment giant Paypal to give evidence.

Richard Nash, vice president and head of global government relations at Paypal, and Eva Gustavsson, director of governmental relations for Europe, Middle East and Africa, were grilled for an hour-and-a-half by the committee of MPs who had exposed the Cambridge Analytica hacking of Facebook, Russian interference in UK elections, as well as overspending and data misuse by both Leave campaigns during the 2016 EU Referendum.

Following revelations that the Brexit Party allowed hundreds of thousands in donations to be made via Paypal in April – without gathering the addresses of donors – Damian Collins suggested that there should be a default setting for any political campaign to ensure that it cannot use Paypal’s donation system unless address settings for donors are turned on.

“I think you guys should be responsible… just as I say Facebook should be responsible”

Ian Lucas MP

Under UK electoral law, donations of £500 or over to British political parties must be declared. Without a proper tracking of the addresses of donors to the electoral roll, it would be possible for individuals to atomise large donations into lots of small payments under £500, Collins explained.

Nash replied that this “is a matter for Parliament and the Electoral Commission”. Although he insisted that PayPal had a “sophisticated engine” to prevent fraud and money laundering, he and his colleague seemed to accept that individuals could set up multiple email addresses around a single “funding instrument”.

Fellow committee member Ian Lucas MP, a former lawyer who is standing down as Labour MP for Wrexham this Wednesday, pressed the executives about setting up a system to flag foreign payments. Richard Nash replied: “I don’t think that’s our responsibility. Our responsibility is to run a highly regulated payments system and to protect the integrity of that payments system.”

Lucas observed that “Facebook said the same about Cambridge Analytica” – referring back to the scandal of dark political ads and micro-targeting revealed by whistle-blower Chris Wylie. “I think you guys should be responsible,” Lucas continued “just as I say Facebook should be responsible.”

Labour MP Jo Stevens pointed out that the elections watchdog, the Electoral Commission, had deemed that PayPal represented a “high and ongoing risk” of unlawful political donations. However, Gustavsson repeated that “our job is to run a payment system”.

Though pressed on several occasions, neither executives could tell the committee when electoral fraud had become a topic of conversation at PayPal, but promised to report back with more information.


Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

Winding up a landmark three years examining the role of tech companies and social media in political campaigns, Damian Collins noted that the terms of service between PayPal and Mark Zuckerberg’s social media giant meant that the payment provider could be sharing more data with Facebook than with the political parties – which could be used for its audience targeting.

Collins also made the comparison between PayPal’s hands-off attitude to electoral fraud and that of Facebook’s over the use of its platform by the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency – a major source of interference in the 2016 US presidential election, according to the report by special counsel Robert Mueller.

“Facebook said the crime was only committed in Russia,” Collins said “but only Facebook could see the crime.”

This was the last hearing of the DCMS committee as currently constituted, with MPs now facing a general election and the reformation of the committee in a new Parliament.


Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

New to Byline Times? Find out more about us


A new type of newspaper – independent, fearless, outside the system. Fund a better media.

Don’t miss a story! Sign up to our newsletter (and get a free edition posted to you)

Our leading investigations include: empire & the culture warBrexit, crony contractsRussian interferencethe Coronavirus pandemicdemocracy in danger, and the crisis in British journalism. We also introduce new voices of colour in Our Lives Matter.

More stories filed under Democracy in Danger

EXCLUSIVE The Steele Dossier, the Indicted FBI Officer and the ‘Most Consequential Investigations in US History’ 

, 26 January 2023
Christopher Steele is concerned his dossier on Donald Trump’s Russian connections was held up at the FBI Office whose head of Counter Intelligence has been indicted for working with one of Putin’s most powerful oligarchs  

Rishi Sunak’s Government is Sinking Into its Own Swamp 

, 26 January 2023
The Prime Minister promised a break from the chaos and corruption of Boris Johnson's administration. After three months, his MPs fear little has changed

EXCLUSIVE Labour MPs Quit Parliamentary Lobbying Group Set Up to Slash Tax on Petrol as Ties to Big Polluters Emerge

, 24 January 2023
One Labour MP quit after a report by the APPG criticising the move to electric vehicles was backed by the Global Warming Policy Foundation – often described as the most high-profile climate 'sceptic' body in the UK

More stories filed under Fact

For Thousands of Young Children, Poverty is All they have Known

, 27 January 2023
New data from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reveals the extent of poverty in families

EXCLUSIVE Minutes of Boris Johnson Meeting with Cambridge Analytica ‘Would Directly Undermine Trust Between the UK and US’

, 26 January 2023
UK-US relations would be harmed by the details of Johnson’s summit with the now-disgraced data firm, an independent regulator has concluded

Two to Three Police Officers in Court on Criminal Offences a Week

, 25 January 2023
Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley tells the London Assembly's Police and Crime Committee of the worrying rates of criminal cases against Met officers, Sian Norris reports

More from the Byline Family