Digital payment systems like PayPal, Stripe, Apple Pay, etc. have central computer infrastructure. Whoever controls this infrastructure has total control over individual transactions and can deny any withdrawal, payment, or donation.
A potentially corrupted state can easily abused this as a tool of power for repressing political opposition. That’s why centralized digital payment systems are not ethical and frankly a threat to democracies.
For example, The Guardian has recently reported that Belarus tells banks to seize money raised to help out protesters. Authorities in Belarus have ordered banks to seize money raised in small donations and paid out as compensation to victims of a police crackdown on protesters.
The funds were transferred to people who were beaten or fined after taking part in ongoing demonstrations against the regime of the dictator Alexander Lukashenko.
The BY_help fund, set up by the London-based Belarusian Andrei Leonchik, raised £2m within a few days of putting out the call in August, mostly from small donations from Belarusian citizens keen to show solidarity.
But authorities have now ordered banks to freeze any funds transferred by Leonchik, as well as opening a criminal case against him, according to leaked documents. One letter addressed to several Belarusian banks said Leonchik, together with the opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was collecting money “to support protest actions in Belarus” with the aim of toppling the government, and ordered them to freeze funds.
This is just an exhibition of how an abuser can use power against democracy. Now imagine what an abuser can do with its power in payment systems like Apple Pay or PayPal.
Imagine how United States’ Government can control every transaction happened in these systems in order to protect its corruption. For example, imagine the Bully had enough power to seize the money collected to be used against him. Or a Chinese power abuser forces a company to give it the money collected to help Hong Kongers fight for their rights.