creeping exclusion of the right from online platforms like Twitter and
Facebook is well-known, drawing the attention of
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale and the RNC. But a greater
challenge is on the horizon: the exclusion of the right from financial
have long been the target of shadowbans, biased
algorithms, and account
bans on social media. Not content with silencing
their voices online, the left now wants to stop the right from using the
web to fundraise. Thanks to the increasing willingness of online
fundraising platforms and payment processors to ban clients for
political reasons, they are getting their way.
of the most popular fundraising platforms is Patreon, a site that allows
users to collect monthly recurring donations from their supporters. With
the decline of ad
revenue on platforms like YouTube, Patreon has
emerged as an important and effective tool for online content creators
to earn a living. In some cases, it can take little more than a hundred
fans contributing set amounts per month for a creator to support
theory, this creates an environment similar to that of talk radio in the
1980s: a decentralized ecosystem where new creators can quickly
establish an independent support base, without relying on gatekeepers in
the establishment media. With only their fans to answer to, as opposed
to controversy-shy advertisers, it should be the perfect formula for
just one problem — Patreon itself. Like the rest of Silicon Valley,
Patreon has decided it wants to be more than just a neutral platform,
and now routinely cuts off income from content creators for political
reasons. Chief among them is “hate speech”, which Patreon says it
does not tolerate on its platform. It has used “hate speech” as a
justification to ban a number of figures on the far-right, including
white nationalist Jason Kessler. But although the alt-right is shunned
by most, including Breitbart
News, the idea that politics should dictate whether someone is
allowed to access financial services is even more controversial.
is often the case, banning extremists was the start of a slippery slope.
Patreon’s purge quickly escalated beyond the alt-right to target
independent conservative journalists. The latest example is
YouTuber and author Brittany Pettibone, who was banned from the platform
last month. Patreon cited her
support for the European identitarian organization Generation Identity,
a group Patreon claims is a “violent organization.” (The organization
explicitly disavows political
also banned the independent journalist Lauren Southern in 2017 over her
work exposing globalist NGOs assisting the illegal trafficking of
persons into Europe via the Mediterranean. Patreon said her work could
“cause loss of life” by stopping the work of NGO “rescue vessels” — but
migrant deaths in the Mediterranean actually fell
by 40 percent as attempted crossings declined in
the wake of her reporting. Also, if interfering with the illegal
activities of NGO vessels in the Mediterranean is unacceptable to
Patreon, they should make it clear that the governments of Italy and
Malta, which now
bar NGO ships from their shores, aren’t welcome
on the platform either.
the bans documented above, Patreon used tenuous, insufficiently
supported accusations of “violence” to suspend services to
right-wingers. But with the exception of one token
ban against It’s Going Down, a far-left site that encourages and
celebrates political violence, the platform does not appear to apply its
rules to the left with the same level of strictness.
graffiti in Berkeley, California, where violent riots by
self-proclaimed “anti-fascist” protesters led to over
$100,000 in property damage JOSH
left-winger Mike Stuchbery currently collects donations
from Patreon. Yet he has repeatedly encouraged and supported violence on
his Twitter account, most recently defending an
incident in which a teenage Trump supporter was attacked and robbed in a
Whataburger restaurant for wearing a MAGA hat. Although he later
backtracked on those statements, Stuchbery has also said that
Trump supporters are the modern-day equivalent of Nazi brownshirts and
that Nazis should be punched.
insists that Generation Identity, which publicly disavows violence, is
violent, and went so far as to ban Brittanny Pettibone simply for
expressing support for the group. But Stuchbery, who uses Twitter to
openly defend violence, is allowed to continue using Patreon.
not hard to find more examples like Stuchbery. Heidi Culliman is a
far-left author who has over 200 supporters on Patreon. She has also called
her member of congress a
Nazi, has called the President and
U.S. administration Nazis, and, you guessed it, has called for punching
Nazis. When people say the President is a Nazi, and that
Nazis should be punched, that isn’t just a problem for Patreon — it’s a
problem for the Secret Service.
Stuchbery, Culliman, and other violence-supporters who collect Patreon
donations might clarify that they only want actual white supremacists
like Richard Spencer to be punched, and not the President (they haven’t
yet, by the way). But you don’t get a pass to punch someone like Spencer
just because they’re morally wrong. Punching actual white supremacists,
unless they punch you first, is still unprovoked violence, and
advocating for it is still against the law, as well as Patreon’s
policies (if they were enforced consistently.)
bias can also be seen in its approach to Antifa, a far-left organization
that, much like Stuchbery and Culliman, supports the use of violence
against people they determine to be “fascists.” As you might expect,
those are frequently just ordinary Trump supporters and conservatives.
Antifa’s rampages at pro-Trump events, where random acts of violence are
accompanied by widespread looting and damage to private property, have in
the past caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Last year,
an Antifa member pled guilty to plotting
an acid attack on Trump supporters during the
U.S. government isn’t keen on these self-appointed fascist-fighters, and
has categorized Antifa as a domestic
terrorist organization. Yet it’s a domestic terrorist
organization that is still allowed on Patreon. A cursory search of
Patreon reveals at least six [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
pages, some of them boasting dozens of regular contributors, which are
affiliated with Antifa, express their support for Antifa, or display the
movement’s symbol, the red-and-white anarcho-communist flag.
of these pages, LibCom.org, defended violent
attacks on German police with glass bottles and rocks during the 2017
G20 protests in Hamburg as “large-scale resistance” and “basic
self-defense” via a blog named “Victory of the People.” True to the
Antifa designation as domestic terrorists, LibCom also published a story celebrating the
sabotage of U.S. army materials. Patreon, which takes a cut from the
site’s donations, is directly profiting from this material.
is also directly profiting from the following image, which Antifa
California is distributingthrough
the platform as a reward to supporters:
image of a bike lock is a reference to Eric Clanton, the left-wing
professor and Antifa member accused of assaulting
a Trump supporter with a bike lock in April
2017. Clanton was arrested on assault charges, and faces
up to 40 years in prison if convicted.
in other words, allows Antifa to glorify a real act of violence for
which someone was arrested and charge. Meanwhile, Lauren Southern was
banned because of a tenuous and ultimately debunked theory that her
actions might cause
double standards go beyond its inability to clamp down on left-wing
support for violence. In February, Patreon banned the account of Jeremy
Hambly, a critic of the incursion of progressivism into the community
associated with the popular card game Magic the Gathering (yes, the
culture wars now extend to card games — read more about it here).
Patreon said they banned Hambly for “doxing,” or the release of a
person’s private information online, a charge Hambly denies.
the charge is true or false — and the Southern incident suggests Patreon
is disingenuous in its allegations of rule-breaking against the right —
the Hambly ban again reveals Patreon’s inconsistency. The platform has
for years refused to take action against Randi Harper, a serial bully
who poses as an “anti-abuse” activist, but who herself has a long, well-documented track
record of abusing others. This extends to doxing, which Harper has
unapologetically used as an intimidation tactic. She once revealed the
CEO of a debt collection agency’s home phone number, and threatened to
release those of his family if the debt collectors did not stop trying
to contact her (doing their job, in other words.) Despite this
well-publicized behavior, Patreon has taken no action against Harper to
isn’t the only way to raise money on the web. There are other
fundraising platforms, including Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and GoFundMe,
which allow users to raise money for their projects. GoFundMe, in
particular, has emerged as a popular method for activists, who use it to
raise money for causes and campaigns.
if you’re looking for a neutral platform that doesn’t come with the risk
of a politically-motivated ban, these services are no better than
Patreon. All have publicly committed to interfering in their users’
activities if they offend the company’s progressive values.
this year, Kickstarter banned the
project of a Swedish academic who was raising funds for a book examining
the statistical correlation between immigration and rape in Sweden. The
academic, Ann Heberlein, said she started the project because the
Swedish government no longer keeps adequate records of the ethnic and
cultural backgrounds of offenders in the country.
another crowdfunding site, explicitly bans any
campaign that “promotes hate” or “promotes hate symbols and/or hate
terms on their website, as defined by the Anti-defamation league.” (The
Anti-defamation league, which has previously blamed
Trump supporters for rising anti-semitism,
includes the internet meme Pepe the Frog on their list of
“hate symbols.”) IndieGoGo also has a blanket ban on crowdfunding for
“weapons, ammunition, and related accessories.”
also takes sides politically. It deleted the fundraising campaign of a
Christian-owned bakery from Oregon, which was at the time facing a
$135,000 fine for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
GoFundMe has also deleted conservative Jamie Glazov’s fundraiser for an anti-Sharia
law tour, a campaign to
expose Hillary Clinton’s anti-Israel sentiments during the 2016
election, and a fundraiser by an organizer of the “Draw Muhammed”
contest which aimed
to cover security costs for his family.
and Stripe: Impassible Gatekeepers
not difficult to build a website. If all existing online fundraising
services have been co-opted by censor-happy progressives, why not build
competing services that don’t ban users for political reasons? When you
don’t like what’s on offer, build your own. That’s the free-market
it’s not as simple as that.
order to build a fundraising platform, you need a payments processor.
And the market for payments processors is dominated by just two
companies: PayPal and Stripe. And they’re just as intolerant as the
Lauren Southern was banned from Patreon, she did what free-market
conservatives recommended, and set up her own fundraising platform,
powered by Stripe. Then, directly after Southern hit the headlines again
over her lifetime ban from the U.K. for distributing
leafletssatirizing Islam, Stripe abruptly withdrew their service.
informed Southern that she was banned for violating their rules on “Prohibited
Businesses and Activities”, although they did not highlight
precisely how she violated it. The list includes a prohibition on
activity that “encourages, promotes or celebrates unlawful violence
toward any group based on race, religion, disability, gender, sexual
orientation, national origin, or any other immutable characteristic.”
has also withdrawn services from FreeStartr, an alternative to Patreon
and GoFundMe set up by free speech maximalist Chuck Johnson. Johnson
says the platform has also been banned by PayPal. Already notorious for
freezing WikiLeaks’ account in 2011, PayPal also withdrew
services from nationalist YouTuber Faith Goldy earlier this week.
of the lack of a payment processor, all of FreeStartr’s funds are now at
risk, including a legal defense fund for jailed British Islam critic
Tommy Robinson, a support fund for South African farmers at risk of
racial violence, and income streams for various mainstream conservatives
like organizer Ali Alexander and YouTuber Ashton Whitty.
says Stripe accused him of “obfuscating funds”, although the company did
not respond to a request to comment asking them to elaborate on the
also says Stripe changed their story. He says he was initially contacted
by senior Stripe employee Edwin Wee, a former Democrat operative who
previously worked for Joe Sestak and Mike Bloomberg, who informed him
that the presence of a legal defense fund for white supremacist Richard
Spencer meant that Stripe could no longer do business with him. Because
of one objectionable fund, the entire platform had to go.
will think like, ‘oh it’s Richard Spencer, he can go f*** himself’ — but
they shut down my entire business over his account,” said Johnson, who
claims his goal is to build an open, neutral platform, and not to
personally endorse the people who use it.
position on this is simple, it’s the same position the ACLU had in Skokie.”
said Johnson in comments to Breitbart News. “Everyone has certain
rights… If they need a legal defense, and people donate to it, and all
the money’s legal, then I don’t see an issue with it. People have a
right to donate to controversial causes.”
another alternative to Patreon that promised to allow creators to raise
funds regardless of their political affiliations, has effectively been
destroyed after Stripe withdrew service from the platform. MakerSupport
revealed their difficulties with Stripe back in April, before going
silent. People who donated to creators through the site were left
wondering where their money had gone.
the brutal reality of payment processor censorship. Once a service like
Stripe decides to withdraw support for a platform, thousands of dollars
— peoples’ donations, income streams, and livelihoods — can be left in
a conservative competitor to Stripe or PayPal be created? Almost
certainly not. The regulatory hurdles of setting up a payments
processor, the difficulty of forging relationships with major banks, and
the complexity of the technology and scarcity of talented programmers
with experience in the field mean the operating and start-up costs are
high. A payments processor targeted at the niche market of former
Patreon users who have since been banned from the platform will not turn
a profit. Anyone willing to set one up would have to be willing to burn
a lot of money. Much like competing with Google or Apple, it’s easier
said than done.
a PayPal or Stripe competitor would still be dependent on business
relationships with banks and credit card providers, none of which have
any incentive to be first amendment friendly. MasterCard proved that
back in 2011 when they joined a
financial services boycott against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In
order to fully guarantee a politically neutral service, you would need
more than your own version of PayPal: you’d need your own bank and your
own credit card business.
existing banks can’t be relied on, that’s for sure — even mainstream
conservative causes are too controversial for them these days. Citi, the
fourth-largest bank in America, announced in March that it would withdraw
its services from weapons and ammunition stores
that refuse to accept a range of progressive gun control demands, none
of which are mandated by U.S. law. These included prohibitions on the
sale of bump stocks and “high-capacity magazines.” A week later, an
investing group claiming to represent over $600 billion in assets urged its
members to cut ties with the NRA.
House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was recently refused
service at a restaurant because of her position
in the Trump administration. Now imagine being refused a bank account
because you won’t comply with progressives’ gun control demands.
it’s not just conservatives who are concerned by the power of payment
processors and financial institutions to shut down political expression.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a liberal organization known
for promoting left-wing causes like the Obama administration’s “net
neutrality” regulations, has expressed grave misgivings at the decision
of financial institutions to withdraw services for political reasons.
detailed comments provided to Breitbart News (read
them in full here), the liberal group said payment processors like
PayPal have become “de facto internet censors.”
is deeply concerned that payment processors are making choices
about which websites can and can’t accept payments or process
donations,” an EFF spokeswoman told Breitbart News. “This can have
a huge impact on what types of speech are allowed to flourish
online fundraising as in social media, the internet provides a
tremendous advantage to those who know how to use it. When allowed,
conservatives and critics of progressivism have used these platforms to
great effect. The dissident Canadian academic Jordan Peterson is
supported by over
9,500 small donors on Patreon. Memories Pizza,
the Indiana-based pizza parlor forced to close its doors after it was
publicly attacked by the establishment media for refusing to cater gay
weddings, was able to reopen after
its supporters raised over $800,000 via GoFundMe.
the left prepares for the 2018 midterms and the 2020 general election,
they want to ensure that only they have access to that tremendous power.
And with PayPal and Stripe withdrawing support from politically neutral
fundraising platforms, they are well on their way to achieving that aim.
Like the social media purges, this represents an existential threat to
the conservative and pro-Trump movement.
Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.
You can follow him on
Twitter, Gab.ai and add
him on Facebook. Email tips and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.