PayPal, the popular online payment platform, announced late Tuesday night that it would bar users from accepting donations to promote hate, violence and intolerance after revelations that the company played a key role in raising money for a white supremacist rally that turned deadly.
The company, in a lengthy blog post, outlined its long-standing policy of not allowing its services to be used to accept payments or donations to organizations that advocate racist views. PayPal singled out the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacist groups or Nazi groups — all three of whom were involved in last weekend’s Charlottesville rally.
“Intolerance can take on a range of on-line and off-line forms, across a wide array of content and language,” the company wrote. “It is with this backdrop that PayPal strives to navigate the balance between freedom of expression and open dialogue — and the limiting and closing of sites that accept payments or raise funds to promote hate, violence and intolerance.”
So far I see the backlash to recent events as very much harming the noxious elements behind the Charlottesville protests. I wonder how many businesses — including those who do not supply essential services to such groups (or maybe not any services at all) — will move to make similar announcements. I feel the country has reached a tipping point where businesses will not find neutrality across extremist or fringe or possibly violent groups a profitable or acceptable attitude in the public eye. I applaud this move from PayPal, as I don’t think we are close to a “slippery slope” point where it becomes problematic to decide who should be banned from PayPal services and who not. Nonetheless I do wonder what it will look like when American business gets to the more difficult cases of judgment. Sooner or later, the ideological computational burden placed on businesses will rise considerably, as Twitter and Facebook and YouTube discovered not long ago, and are still struggling to deal with. It will be a kind of mandate placed on business, but put there by public opinion and social media, rather than government. I’ve yet to see a good, data-based research paper on that topic, but it seems that boycotts and refusal to deal are headed back into the public limelight.