Lack of funding can starve any person, group or company. That’s why values-based denial of service by online payment processors is such a serious threat to free speech and civil society.
Silicon Valley’s Paypal is a powerhouse with more than 300 million users and more than $17 billion in revenue in 2018. Its CEO Daniel Schulman has said, “Companies, and by extension, their management teams and their CEOs have a moral obligation to try to be a force for good.” Although the company claimed it values “diversity and inclusion” and democratizes payments for “all citizens,” liberal Paypal axes 10 to 100 accounts monthly according to Schulman’s interview with the Journal.
Paypal has often portrayed this as a deplatforming of undesirables — racists, white nationalists and left-wing, anti-fascists — for societal good. But Paypal has also purged conservatives under the guise of stopping “hate speech.” In 2018 and 2019, Paypal wielded its power of the purse against the free-speech platform Gab, groups including ACT! for America, as well as personalities including provocateur Laura Loomer and Gavin McInnes. In 2011, it banned firearms sales and transactions and applied the ban to the Silah Report in 2020 even though it researches firearms and does not sell them.
Paypal consulted the notorious Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to help it decide who to refuse to provide service to. SPLC has routinely lumped Christian organizations and Muslims critical of Islamic extremism together with skin-heads and neo-Nazis as “hate” groups.
- CEO Dan Schulman claimed it consults right and left-wing groups (about accounts to remove), but only named the SPLC, which labeled Christian, pro-family and traditional marriage advocates as “hate” groups.
- Paypal removed ZeroHedge while the blog was being pressured by Google to shut down or censor its comment sections in June 2020.
- As social networks became censors, platforms like Gab and BitChute tried to create spaces for free speech (except for criminal acts or calls to violence) only to be stymied by Paypal refusing service to them.
- Laura Loomer is a right-leaning, Jewish provocateur who is outspoken about Islam. Paypal banned her in 2019 without providing a reason. She lamented that Paypal joined a long list of tech companies that banned her and asked, “how am I supposed to pay my bills?”
- After ProPublica publicly criticized Paypal for providing service to Jihad Watch, Paypal pulled the plug. Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative was booted around the same time, although public outcry led to both being reinstated.