some links for you

Chargebacks, Anti-Terror abuse in the Philippines, Myanmar journalists driven underground, etc

The pandemic is making small businesses more aware of their payment processors than ever. The sudden tightening of belts has people rethinking purchases and disputing payments. Bloomberg reports a 25% increase in chargebacks this year. 

Payment processors like Square do not want to pay for these chargebacks. So they are holding in escrow more merchant funds than usual to account for the increased risk: 

Thousands of small enterprises that use Square to process their credit card transactions — including plumbers, legal consultants and construction firms — have complained that the company recently began holding back 20 to 30 percent of the money they collected from customers. The withholdings came with little warning, they said, and Square asserted the right to hang on to the money for the next four months.

Payment processors exist because to send each other dollars online, we have to trust each other. But we don’t know each other, so we agree to both trust a company like Square or PayPal. This works out fine most of the time, with the processor as a sort of silent partner that takes their cut. 

But the processor doesn’t trust you either. And since you have to trust them to do business, they can use their position as the middleman to simply not give you your end of the transaction until they are satisfied that the risk has passed. Even if that means you can’t make payroll. 

There is a new anti-terrorism law in the Philippines. Per The Guardian:  

An anti-terrorism law that grants sweeping powers to president Rodrigo Duterte’s government is facing mounting legal challenges, as rights groups warn the legislation signals a new, dark chapter for the Philippines.

The act, which lawyers say uses a vague and overly broad definition of terrorism, permits warrantless arrests and allows authorities to hold individuals for weeks without charge. It is to be implemented later this month, though at least six petitions against the law have already been filed in the supreme court.

Here’s what has critics worried

Persons found guilty of the following acts will be punished with 12 years of imprisonment:

  • Threatening to commit terrorism

  • Inciting others to commit terroristic acts

  • Voluntarily and knowingly joining any terrorist group or association

  • Being an accessory in the commission of terrorism

That is very nonspecific. And with the Philippines’ track record on human rights, it seems like it will be way too easy for dissent to be branded as terrorist incitement. Meanwhile, the government argues that passing the bill is essential to keep the country in the good graces of FATF, the global anti-money-laundering watchdog. Fighting terrorism definitely sounds good, but not when the definition of terrorism is so broad. 

Also, they just shut down their leading national broadcaster for criticizing the government. 

And, they just convicted a prominent journalist for “Cyber Libel.”

In Myanmar, journalists are being forced to publish in secrecy, even forgoing bylines to protect their identity. 

Reuters reports:

Suu Kyi’s government has stressed the importance of media freedom for building democracy. Before she came to power, Suu Kyi spoke of the need for the law to protect reporters.

But her administration has brought charges against 31 journalists ranging from unlawful association to terrorism to criminal defamation since she came to power, according to local rights group Athan, and in recent months the civilian-led information ministry has blocked dozens of news websites, including DMG, accusing them of distributing “fake news” and “fearmongering”.

If the climate for free expression continues to deteriorate around the world, I think we can expect more anonymous and pseudonymous publishing. The tools to do that should be encouraged. 

Notes from the currency crisis in Lebanon: 

This is interesting too. In Venezuela people want PayPal money less than Zelle money: 

And there’s the situation in Zimbabwe

Both Zimbabwe and Lebanon have banned money related apps recently as well: 

I am standing up for soup tube innovation. I hope you will too.

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