PayPal, crowdfunding sites cut off white supremacists, hate groups

PayPal and some crowdfunding sites have joined other tech companies in cutting off hate groups after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights advocacy group, called out PayPal on Tuesday, saying that the San Jose company was “integral in raising money to orchestrate the event” despite its stated policies against hatred and abuse.

PayPal responded Tuesday with a blog post by Franz Paasche, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs & Communications, in which he talked about the company having to “navigate the fine lines that exist in these situations.”

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“It is with heavy hearts that we reflect upon the recent events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia,” Paasche wrote. “Maintaining the necessary balance between protecting the principles of tolerance, diversity and respect for people of all backgrounds with upholding legitimate free expression and open dialogue can be difficult, but we do our very best to achieve it.” He urged PayPal users to report content they find offensive.

The SPLC on Tuesday listed the organizers whose PayPal accounts were used to raise money for the rally — today, some but not all of those accounts have been blocked from receiving money on the platform. Blocked accounts on PayPal include that of the National Policy Institute, the “think tank” run by white supremacist Richard Spencer, and the Revolutionary Conservative, whose publisher and founder is Augustus Invictus, a Libertarian who ran for the U.S. Senate in Florida last year. He was one of the listed headliners at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, according to the SPLC.

Meanwhile, GoFundMe said this week that it has removed fundraising campaigns for James Fields, the 20-year-old man who’s accused of driving his car into counter-protesters at Saturday’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. A 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was killed, and 19 others were injured. GoFundMe told Reuters that it would continue to remove any other attempts to raise funds for Fields.

The choking off of funding follows moves by other tech companies to crack down on white supremacists as they organize and commiserate amid racial tensions that have worsened under President Trump, who on Tuesday defended participants of the Charlottesville rally. He said they were not all Nazis and white supremacists, and that there were “bad people” on “both sides.”

Earlier this week, Google and GoDaddy cut off online-hosting services for the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that attacked Heyer. Facebook, which has long grappled with hate speech and censorship issues, shut down eight pages Tuesday, including the Right Wing Death Squad, Genuine Donald Trump and White Nationalist America. The company also shut down the event page of the Unite the Right rally over weekend, it said.

White supremacists are being forced to turn to less well-known sites and platforms, although on the bigger sites some of them are banned one day and back online the next. For example, last year, Twitter banned then reinstated Richard Spencer’s account.


Photo: PayPal headquarters in San Jose in 2015. (Jeff Chiu/AP)


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