Palo Alto, CA — Online payment servicing giant Paypal was targeted for boycott on Monday by outraged Republicans who hit back against the company’s discontinuation of at least two accounts run by conservative organizations.
PayPal discontinued the accounts belonging to Jihad Watch and the American Freedom Defense Initiative on Monday after receiving complaints from ProPublica, a left leaning investigative journalism group.
“I am contacting you to let you know that we are including your website in a list of sites that have been designated as hate or extremist by the American Defamation League or the Southern Poverty Law Center,” the reporter, Lauren Kirchner of ProPublica wrote to administrators of both organizations.
Kirchner made both publications aware that she had identified “all the tech platforms that are supporting websites on the ADL and SPLC lists,” including PayPal, Newsmax, Revcontent and Amazon.
“Can you confirm that you receive funds from your relationship with those tech companies?” the reporter asked in a veiled threat. “How would the loss of those funds affect your operations, and how would you be able to replace them?
Robert Spencer, who heads Jihad Watch, was quick to respond, making it clear that he nor his site would in no way be intimidated.
“The intent of your questions, and no doubt of your forthcoming article, will be to try to compel these sites to cut off any connection with us based on our opposition to jihad terror. Are you comfortable with what you’re enabling? Not only are you inhibiting honest analysis of the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat, but you’re aiding the attempt to deny people a platform based on their political views. This could come back to bite you if your own views ever fall out of favor. Have you ever lived in a totalitarian state, where the powerful determine the parameters of the public discourse and cut off all voice from the powerless? Do you really want to live in one now? You might find, once you get there, that it isn’t as wonderful as you thought it would be,” Spencer posted to the group’s website (https://www.jihadwatch.org/2017/08/leftist-journalist-lauren-kirchner-of-propublica-threatens-jihad-watch).
Pamela Geller, who heads the American Freedom Defense Initiative, was also quick to respond.
“Once you start shutting down people on the claim that they operate “hate groups,” you have made the use of such platforms contingent upon holding certain political opinions. Beware, because in doing so you will be setting a dangerous precedent: one day your own opinions could be out of favor, and you will find yourself cut off,” Geller replied to her website (https://pamelageller.com/2017/08/paypal-bans-geller.html/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook).
Within hours of being contacted by Kirchner, both Jihad Watch and the AFDI were notified that their accounts had been terminated by PayPal.
“We have recently reviewed your usage of PayPal’s services, as reflected in our records and on your website,” an email to both online publications read. “Due to the nature of your activities, we have chosen to discontinue service to you in accordance with PayPal’s User Agreement. As a result, we have placed a permanent limitation on your account.”
Geller and Spencer both took to social media to spread the word about their being targeted and patriots around the nation almost immediately called for boycott.
“Hi, I’ve been using paypal for close to 20 years. I am reading on social media that PP is shutting down accounts of conservative commentators based on hate speech, and SPLC recommendations,” one PayPal user wrote on the company’s website (https://www.paypal-community.com/t5/About-Payments/Question-about-Paypal-s-silencing-of-conservative-politics/td-p/1293775). “I am not overtly political, but I do know that SPLC is not a politically neutral organization. I am considering shutting down my account as a result. The 1st amendment is important to the US. Regardless of what people say, we need to respect this freedom. What is paypal’s stance?
The online backlash seemingly worked as within hours both parties were notified that their accounts had been reinstated.
On Monday, Spencer posted another message he said he received from PayPal notifying him that the group’s account had been “reinstated.”
“Effective 08/21/2017, the limitation applied to your account associated with (your website) pursuant to our User Agreement was removed. Your services are being reinstated,” an email from PayPal to both parties read.
However, the payment processor closed with a direct threat to shut them down again should either party step out of line.
“If we become aware of a website or organization using our services that may violate our polices, our dedicated team of professionals conducts a thorough review,” the email stated. “Ultimately, a decision is made and communicated to the organization. In this instance, we have made the determination to lift the limitation applied to your account associated with the Acceptable Use Policy.”
Despite PayPal’s reconsideration, Spencer said he will no longer do business with PayPal.
“I have no intention of restoring the PayPal buttons on Jihad Watch. I know where they stand now, and do not intend to place myself at their mercy again,” Spencer wrote Monday on JihadWatch.org. Regardless, Spencer went on to thank his supporters for their efforts, calling PayPal’s second thoughts a “victory” for conservatives and the First Amendment.