Summary List Placement
Some Venmo users are reporting that the PayPal-owned company is preventing them from completing transactions with descriptions mentioning Palestine-related keywords.
Venmo’s customer support inquired about a $50 payment one user received that included the description “Emergency Palestinian Relief Fund,” according to a screenshot the user tweeted.
Venmo said it was “trying to understand… the reference to ‘Palestinian Relief Fund” as well as the “purpose of this payment, including a complete and detailed explanation of what is intended to be paid for and the establishment/location,” according to the screenshot.
Venmo told Insider it was looking into the matter, which it said relates to its obligations under US sanctions laws.
“Venmo takes its regulatory and compliance obligations seriously, including adherence to U.S. economic and trade sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control,” a Venmo spokesperson told Insider, pointing to a blog post about the company’s review process.
That post says Venmo attempts to update users about the status of their payments within 72 hours.
“We strive to balance these obligations with the urgency of our users desire to send humanitarian aid. We understand the importance of these transactions and apologize for any delay that may occur as we work to quickly process payments in compliance with applicable law,” the spokesperson added.
Venmo declined to provide details about what specifically led the company to initiate these reviews, citing security concerns.
A search of OFAC’s sanctions list shows sanctions against groups such as “Palestinian Relief Fund,” “Palestine Development and Relief Fund,” and “Palestinian Relief Society,” as well as Hamas.
But other non-sanctioned groups seem to be getting caught up in Venmo’s automated filters.
A Twitter account affiliated with the Students for Justice in Palestine’s local chapter at the University of Illinois at Chicago instructed potential donors to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, a legitimate charity, to use the acronym PCRF, saying Venmo appeared to be blocking transactions mentioning the charity’s full name. (PCRF couldn’t immediately be reached for comment).
Various campaigns have sought to raise funds for Palestinians in recent days amid escalating violence in Gaza that has left at least 200 Palestinians and 10 Israelis dead.
Around 600 airstrikes by Israeli forces, many targeting residential homes, have inflicted dozens of civilian casualties, prompting criticism from human rights groups such as Amnesty International, which said the raids “may amount to war crimes.” Hamas has fired back some 1,600 rockets, around 90% of which have been blocked by Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system.
On foreign policy matters, the US has historically sided with Israel, which it considers an ally, though some Democratic leaders recently sought to block Biden’s recent approval of a $735 million deal to sell weapons to the country.