Technology companies shun hate groups
Google, GoDaddy, PayPal take action against websites
Silicon Valley significantly escalated its war on white supremacy this week, choking off the ability of hate groups to raise money online, removing them from Internet search engines and preventing some sites from registering at all.
The new moves go beyond censoring individual stories or posts. Tech companies such as Google, GoDaddy and PayPal are now reversing their hands-off approach about content supported by their services and making it much more difficult for right-wing fringe organizations to reach mass audiences.
But the actions are also heightening concerns over how tech companies are becoming the arbiters of PayPal has cut off nearly three dozen hate groups that used the online payment platform to process donations. free speech in America. And in response, right-wing technologists are building parallel digital services that cater to their movement.
Gab.ai, a social network promoting free speech, was founded shortly after the presidential election by Silicon Valley engineers alienated by the region’s liberalism. Other conservatives have founded Infogalactic, a Wikipedia for the alt-right, as well as crowdfunding tools Hatreon and WeSearchr. The latter was used to raise money for James Damore, a white engineer fired after criticizing Google’s diversity policy.
“If there needs to be two versions of the Internet so be it,” Gab. ai tweeted Wednesday morning. The company’s spokesman, Ut- sav Sanduja, later warned of a “revolt” in Silicon Valley against the way tech companies are trying to control the national debate.
Some adherents to racism, white nationalism and anti-Semitism said in interviews they will press for the federal government to step in and regulate Facebook and Google, an unexpected stance for a movement that is skeptical of government meddling.
“Doofuses in the conservative movement say it’s only censorship if the government does it,” said Richard Spencer, a white nationalist. “YouTube and Twitter and Facebook have more power than the government. If you can’t host a website or tweet, then you effectively don’t have a right to free speech.”
He added that “social networks need to be regulated in the way the broadcast networks are. I believe one has a right to a Google profile, a Twitter profile, an accurate search ... We should start conceiving of these things as utilities and not in terms of private companies.”
The censorship of hate speech by companies passes constitutional muster, according to First Amendment experts. But they said there is a downside of thrusting corporations into that role.
On Wednesday, Facebook said it canceled the page of white nationalist Christopher Cantwell, who was connected to the Charlottesville rally. The company has shut down eight other pages in recent days, citing violations of the company’s hate speech policies. Twitter has suspended several extremist accounts, including @Millennial_Matt, a Nazi-obsessed social media personality.
On Monday, GoDaddy delisted the Daily Stormer, a prominent neo-Nazi site, after its founder celebrated the death of a woman killed in Charlottesville, Va. The Daily Stormer then trans- ferred its registration to Google, which also cut off the site. The site has since retreated to the “dark Web,” making it inaccessible to most internet users.
PayPal late Tuesday said it would bar nearly three dozen users from accepting donations on its online payment platform following revelations that the company played a key role in raising money for the white supremacist rally.
In a lengthy blog post, PayPal outlined its longstanding policy of not allowing its services to be used to accept payments or donations to organizations that advocate racist views. The payment processor singled out the KKK, white supremacist groups and Nazi groups — all three of which were involved in organizing last weekend’s rally.
“For the longest time, PayPal has essentially been the banking system for white nationalism,” said Keegan Hankes, an analyst for SPLC.