It’s about to get a lot harder for white supremacist groups to fundraise and plan activities, as pressure grows on companies to kick hate groups off of their services.
is cutting ties with hate-group sites, the company said Wednesday, amid growing pressure on financial services to ensure white supremacist groups do not use their sites for funding. “Discover is committed to diversity and inclusion,” a spokesman told MarketWatch. “The intolerant and racist views of hate groups are inconsistent with our beliefs and practices.” Visa, the world’s largest processor of credit card payments, also stopped prohibited processing payments for hate groups, the New York Post reported. Apple Pay also told Buzzfeed it was terminating support for sites that sold white supremacist items and clothing Nazi memorabilia.
Earlier Wednesday, a spokesman for Mastercard said the company did not prohibit the acceptance of Mastercard-branded payments from merchants based on disagreement, but has since updated that statement. “We have reviewed a comprehensive list of websites provided by civic leaders and others,” he told MarketWatch. “We are shutting down the use of our cards on sites that we believe incite violence, as well as those who are wrongfully suggesting they accept our cards, when in fact they don’t.”
These moves come after PayPal
announced Tuesday it would take extra measures in light of the events in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend to ensure its platform is not used to accept payments or donations related to hate, violence, or racial intolerance. “We are dedicated to providing financial services to people with a diversity of views and from all walks of life,” PayPal said in a statement. In July, Gizmodo reported that Airbnb banned users from booking rooms on its service for events like Unite the Right, the rally held in Charlotteville.
Earlier this week, GoDaddy removed neo-Nazi sympathizing website the Daily Stormer from its list of domains for slandering the 32-year-old woman killed at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville on Saturday. The site had violated GoDaddy’s terms of service that prohibit “inciting violence against a group or an individual, GoDaddy chief executive officer Blake Irving said. Google later did the same to the site after it attempted to migrate there.
“We always have to ride the fence on making sure we are protecting a free and open internet,” Irving said. “And regardless of whether speech is hateful, bigoted, racist, ignorant, tasteless, in many cases we will still keep that content up because we don’t want to be a censor and First Amendment rights matter not just in speech but on the internet as well. But when the line gets crossed, and that speech starts to incite violence, then we have a responsibility to take that down.”
On Wednesday, Color Of Change — an Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit progressive civil rights organization formed after Hurricane Katrina — applauded the changes from PayPal and continued to pressure more companies to make a statement by withdrawing their financial services for white supremacist groups. Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color Of Change, called on Visa,
and American Express,
to withdraw services for white supremacist groups.
“White supremacists need money to pay for events like ‘Unite the Right’ and to maintain propaganda websites likes the ones that inspired terrorists Dylann Roof and Timothy McVeigh,” Robinson said. “For months, we’ve been urging these companies to do the right thing and stop providing financial services for white supremacist groups.” Roof was convicted of perpetrating the Charleston Church shooting in 2015. In 2001, McVeigh was executed for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. (American Express and Visa did not immediately respond to request for comment.)
Given the heightened emotions surrounding recent events, more companies will likely withdraw their support for these white supremacist groups in an effort to starve them of money and their ability to appeal to disaffected or vulnerable Americans online, said Ted Marzilli, chief executive officer of YouGov BrandIndex, a measure of brand perception among the public. As more companies ban such activity from their services, the risk a brand faces from doing nothing will outweigh the loss in business from pulling customers, he said.
And the ban is spreading beyond financial companies: Music-streaming app Spotify is removing “white power” tracks from its platform and website-builder Squarespace has kicked off several white nationalist groups from its service. White supremacists are even being banned from dating apps: On Thursday, OkCupid reportedly banned one prominent activist from the app after a female user recognized the man who messaged her from a Vice News documentary on Charlottesville.
“Given the toxicity of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, coupled with the scale and intensity of the current debate playing out on a national stage, the perception of guilt by association could be very harmful to a company,” Marzilli added. PayPal and GoDaddy sent a positive and hopeful message to a public digesting the disturbing events of the past week. Sometimes, the risk of backlash from the public for failing to take a stand is just not worth it, Marzilli said. “Bombshell crises can sink a company’s perception for a very long time and full recovery can take years,” he said.