Patreon is a crowd-funding platform that allows people to fund an artist or creator's work, whether that is videos, podcasts or art. On it, creators designate subscription membership tiers for their patrons and provide exclusive content to their patrons. The subscriber-based model initially allowed creators to tackle more controversial subjects, which had resulted in demonetization on other platforms.
Many took refuge on the site, but Patreon’s hate speech and other content policies soon led to controversial Patreon bans.
When it deplatformed video creator Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad) in late 2018 over using the N-word on a different platform, several successful, high-profile Patreon creators quit. Liberal neuroscientist Sam Harris, libertarian commentator Dave Rubin and Canadian psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson all left over this ban.
“Although I don't share the politics of the banned members, I consider it no longer tenable to expose any part of my podcast funding to the whims of Patreon's 'Trust and Safety' committee,” Harris tweeted.
The 2020 pandemic gave the site a huge boost, bringing the number of patrons to more than 4 million, as artists sought to find a way to get paid while they couldn’t perform live.
Patreon’s co-founder and CEO Jack Conte is a musician who wanted to create a platform that didn’t rely on advertising to pay creators because he didn’t want companies to get to decide what speech or art deserves monetization.
- In response to Patreon deplatformings, libertarian commentator Dave Rubin and psychologist Jordan Peterson launched an anti-censorship platform called Thinkspot in June 2019. According to Peterson, “once you're on our platform we won't take you down unless we’re ordered to by a US court of law.” By requiring comments to be at least 50 words long, they also hoped to reduce troll-like behavior and provoke thoughtful discussion. The Foundation for Economic Education predicted Thinkspot could become a “refuge for dissenters.”
- Rubin and Peterson announced in January 2019, that they would leave Patreon that month and create a new subscription-based platform of their own because of rising censorship risks. Peterson blamed “Patreon’s proclivity to censor” and specifically cited the ban of Carl Benjamin (YouTuber Sargon of Akkad).
- Top Patreon creator and liberal atheist Sam Harris quit the platform in December 2018. At the time, he had the fourth largest podcast account and 9,000 paying subscribers. He accused Patreon of political bias after it banned several right-wing creators including Benjamin and Milo Yiannopoulos. “Although I don't share the politics of the banned members, I consider it no longer tenable to expose any part of my podcast funding to the whims of Patreon's 'Trust and Safety' committee,” Harris said.
- In December 2018, Patreon banned Benjamin for “hate speech,” even though his use of the N-word happened on a different platform and the YouTuber claimed it was used in self defense. It also banned Yiannopoulos for "association and support of violent organizations" and banned YouTube alternative BitChute. BitChute said Patreon told it that it was allowing or inciting violence on their site “which we’re absolutely not [doing].”
- Patreon banned Jihad Watch’s Robert Spencer in August 2018, just weeks after he created an account. Patreon told Spencer by email that Mastercard’s “stricter” rules forced the platform to remove his account. Spencer wrote, “what is almost certainly going on here is that MasterCard/Patreon is deleting accounts that have been smeared by the hard-Left propaganda hate group the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).”
- Right-wing Canadian investigative journalist Lauren Southern was banned in 2017. Initially Patreon told her it was because she was raising money to participate in “activities that are likely to cause loss of life.” She disputed that characterization of her documentation of anti-migrant groups in the Mediterranean. After the ban stirred controversy, Conte went on Rubin’s podcast and said Southern was banned for telling a boat captain to turn in front of a migrant vessel. He added that Patreon users are “allowed to talk” about anything, but as soon as they raise money or take actions that violate Patreon’s policies it will ban them.