Matt Taibbi points out that Paypal and others are acting to shut down funding for alternate media that are not “toeing the Party line” when it comes to the news of the day. In effect, they’re using financial sanctions to censor them.
In the last week or so, the online payment platform PayPal without explanation suspended the accounts of a series of individual journalists and media outlets, including the well-known alt sites Consortium News and MintPress.
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This episode ups the ante again on the content moderation movement, toward the world hinted at in the response to the Canadian trucker protests, where having the wrong opinions can result in your money being frozen or seized. Going after cash is a big jump from simply deleting speech, with a much bigger chilling effect … Lauria believes PayPal is basing a potential claim on his company’s funds on a list of restricted activities in its service agreement that includes providing “false, inaccurate or misleading information.” He notes, of course, that “false” is “what they think is false, that is,” which is troubling for a pair of big reasons.
One is the ongoing possibility of government or law enforcement involvement in fact-checking decisions, as PayPal announced just last year it would be cooperating with authorities in a content moderation campaign. The other is that the thread connecting the recent affected accounts — which include the former RT contributor Caleb Maupin and the host of the Geopolitics and Empire podcast Hrvoje Morić, among others — is that they’re all generally antiwar voices, who’ve been critical either of NATO or of official messaging with regard to the Ukraine conflict.
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In addition to the PayPal ban — which hit MacLeod, Adley, and one other former Mint contributor, forcing the company to stop paying its writers via the platform — MintPress last month saw two of its fundraising campaigns on GoFundMe shut down. According to Adley, the outlet was able to receive about 90% of donations across a two-year campaign before they were abruptly cut off. At least GoFundMe didn’t try to keep “damages,” as several thousand dollars earmarked for MintPress were instead returned to donors.
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While companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter at least occasionally explain why prominent accounts have been suspended, neither PayPal nor the ADL will comment about how suspensions and confiscations of companies like MintPress and Consortium fit into their efforts to head off “criminal activity.”
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At the very least, the ADL and PayPal should both explain the nature of their relationship to “policymakers” and “law enforcement.” Are they getting recommendations on whom to suspend from authorities? How do they identify sites for censure? So long as PayPal takes money from customers without guaranteeing they will explain suspension or confiscation decisions, or at least deigns to answer media queries about its decisions, media outlets should probably think twice about using their services.
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All of this is going on at a time when the Biden administration just announced the formation of a dystopian “Disinformation Governance Board,” preposterously headed by a bubbly former Kennan Institute fellow, Nina “The Singing Neoliberal” Jankowicz … There’s a fine line between parody and horror, and we’re tumbling fast to the horror side.
There’s more at the link.
People have often asked me why I don’t have a “tip jar” link on this blog, where those who like it can support me by contributing something. This is why. I don’t want to become reliant on outside support, then find that support cut off at the roots because something I’ve said has offended someone in a position to retaliate. It’s happened to other bloggers I know. I’d rather depend on my own limited resources, and hold a fund-raiser now and then if necessary, rather than depend on a funding mechanism that might be used to try to control what I say.
The First Amendment applies to laws, rules and regulations promulgated by the federal and state governments, and protects free speech. It does not apply to private funding organizations, Web hosting sites, etc. Google can shut down any blog on Blogger at any time it wishes, for its own reasons, without explaining to anybody. It’s done so in the past. WordPress can do (and has done) the same. Any Web hosting site might be placed under pressure to stop hosting a site that annoys the “powers that be”, and if it doesn’t, it might find its avenues of funding, its technical resources, etc. affected in the same way that MintPress and Consortium News have just experienced. That’s why one sees calls by politicians for Big Tech to crack down on “unreliable” and/or “untrustworthy” speech. Who decides what’s “unreliable” or “untrustworthy”? They do – the politicians, and their allies in Big Tech; and they know they can get away with it, because the First Amendment doesn’t apply. There’s no defense against such mendacity.
Some bloggers have already moved to independent platforms to avoid such censorship. Some have even gone to offshore service providers, which they hope will not be subject to such pressures. (Divemedic, take a bow!) I hope they’re right. I’m considering “going independent”, but it’ll cost at least $5K to do it properly, with a well-designed Web site and the necessary software (which will not include WordPress or any program that might be blocked due to political correctness). If I go that route, I’ll have to hold a fundraiser to pay for it – and no, it won’t be with GoFundMe, not after their debacle with the Canadian truckers! Watch this space for details.