In the realm of online payments, two processors garner more than two-thirds of the market: original gangster, PayPal, and Stripe. Brothers John and Patrick Collison started building what would become Stripe in 2010, a company valued at $35 billion in 2019.
Online sales and fundraising are essential for individuals and organizations today. But to do either requires a payment processor. Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk rightly called them “the backbone of the American economy.” The trouble for conservatives is either company could refuse to work with them — and in some cases the payment processors already have.
Stripe suspended Gab following the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, banned conservative video creator Lauren Southern for a social experiment and stopped working with FreeStartr (a free-speech alternative to Patreon) and MakerSupport.
Kirk warned in 2018, “If all the payment processors decided to pool their collective power together and turn off their services in a single day it could totally destroy our lifestyle and chaos would ensue. No ordering Uber, purchasing medicine or using Amazon. Payment processors must be embraced as a central point of the American economy, not an enemy of our country.”
- Because an anti-Semite accused of killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue had a Gab account, Stripe suspended Gab pending investigation. It said Gab had “not provided us sufficient evidence that Gab actually prevents violations of our policies in your Gab Pro service, or any other portion of your service that relies on Stripe for monetization.” As of 2020, after being blacklisted by processors and credit card companies Gab accepted Bitcoin and checks.
- Canadian Lauren Southern was banned for her “Allah is Gay” video experiment, according to Breitbart.
- Stripe withdrew its services from two free-speech alternatives to Patreon and GoFundMe: FreeStartr and MakerSupport. MakerSupport stopped tweeting (and presumably operating) entirely after Stripe terminated the relationship.
- Given the possibility of companies, including Stripe, being asked to censor content, or turn over sensitive information to the government, the Electronic Frontier Foundation called on payment processors to begin publishing transparency reports in 2018. Stripe responded claiming it would start publishing transparency reports “in the near future.” A year later, The Atlantic called the company out because it hadn’t done it yet.