PayPal has a new initiative to reduce hate and extremism that will result in nonliberal groups and individuals being banned by the finance giant, conservatives say, because it has succumbed to pressures to be “woke.”
PayPal and the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, announced a new partnership initiative last week to combat racism, hate, and extremism across PayPal’s platform and the financial industry more broadly.
The initiative will focus on researching and then disrupting the financial pipelines that support extremist and hate movements by not allowing those individuals and organizations to use PayPal to make and receive payments.
The intelligence that the initiative gathers on those spreading hate and extremism will be shared broadly across the financial industry and with policymakers and law enforcement, which could result in further punishment for those identified by PayPal and the ADL.
“It’s essentially a signaling mechanism to all the woketarians out there — it’s a fist bump for other woke people. They just want to signal how great and virtuous they are,” said Dan Bongino, a conservative commentator and entrepreneur who is a prolific investor in tech startups, particularly those popular with conservatives.
“But this will end up hurting anyone who is conservative, libertarian, nonliberal, anyone who doesn’t toe the company line,” he said.
Bongino said the initiative was risky for PayPal’s business in the long run because it could alienate 50% of the country.
PayPal says that the new initiative will not change the way it operates “in any way,” a spokesman told the Washington Examiner.
“PayPal’s long-standing policy is not to allow our services to be used for activities that promote hate, violence, or racial intolerance.
“We base our reviews of accounts on these parameters, taking action when we deem that individuals or organizations have violated this policy,” the spokesman said.
In 2019, PayPal’s CEO Dan Schulman said the company removed 10 to 100 accounts every month that have been flagged by the company’s internal algorithm or by outside groups as potentially promoting hate, violence, or racial intolerance.
In the past, PayPal has taken input from groups on the Right and the Left, Schulman said, regarding who might be violating the company’s policies, including taking advice from groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, a controversial civil rights advocacy group.
However, neither PayPal nor the ADL clarified what criteria would be used to determine what qualifies as a “hate group” or what will guide its research for identifying extremist individuals and organizations.
Conservatives are worried the initiative could be used to suppress speech and cut off financial resources.
“It’s like 1984, except the 2021 version is outsourced to private companies. Modern technology is much more advanced than Orwell would have possibly imagined,” said Dan Gainor, a vice president at the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog that tracks censorship on Big Tech platforms.
“We’re on a scary path of suppression given how many millions rely on PayPal for payments. So many organizations and freelancers could be affected,” Gainor said.
He specifically took issue with the ADL using its credibility with the Jewish community to promote cancel culture.
“ADL used to be a respectable organization that I myself contributed to, to help [fight] Jewish discrimination. But now, it’s just another lefty group that hates freedom of speech and nonliberal ideas,” said Gainor.
Gainor said he was against hate and extremism of any kind that led to violence and rioting, but he was worried that PayPal and the ADL would not be fair in who they classified as hateful and extreme.
Conservatives and libertarians also say the initiative is a brand-building strategy for PayPal to get more liberal customers and make more money in the short run.
“They are pushing an initiative that has nothing to do with their business but instead pushes cancel culture, which can be very profitable in a world where free speech is not popular,” said Jeffrey Wernick, one of the top investors and the former chief operating officer of Parler.
“This will be good for their profits and their bottom line but will not make the world a better place or reduce their objectives of hate and extremism,” he said.