PayPal Cuts Off Pam Gellar

Pamela Gellar, whose Atlas Shrugs blog is devoted to exposing instances of Muslims behaving badly, dhimmitude sightings, anti-Zionist activities, and evidence Barack Obama is a secret Muslim reports that PayPal has threatened to freeze her account if she doesn’t take down the donation box from her site.

Apparently the jihad is hard at work trying to kill free speech (and the bus ads and the 9111 no mosque movement) from making its way to those in pursuit of truth. Paypal contributions helps pays for bus ads, rallies, live coverage (everything) and I so much as said so when asked repeatedly by the press who paid for the bus ads. Readers do and did.

Paypal is calling Atlas a “hate” site and will close my account if I do not remove the paypal option from my website. Accurate reporting and news is hate.

Full Disclosure:  I’ve been a PayPal customer for more than a decade.  I took down my PayPal tip jar years ago, feeling silly accepting donations once the site started generating ad revenue.   But my most important ad networks use PayPal.

Does Gellar’s site “promote hate, violence, racial intolerance or the financial exploitation of a crime” in violation of PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy?  While it’s far too polemical for my tastes, I think it falls short of that.   She’s passionately Likudist and opposed to the whitewashing of the legitimate horrors perpetrated in the name of Islam.   But it’s not unreasonable to think regular readers who find her persuasive will have increased contempt for even mainstream Muslims and by extension most Arabs.

But PayPal gets to make the call, alas, putting the onus on those whose accounts they freeze to fight them.   Gellar’s soliciting donations — via mail rather than PayPal! — to do just that.   I am not a lawyer, but I think she’ll have a hard time.  Moreover, as the old saying about our legal system goes, the process is the punishment.   Even if she wins, it’ll cost her an inordinate amount of time and money.  Almost certainly more than her PayPal account is worth.

Regardless, this isn’t a new issue.    Indeed, Wizbang‘s Kevin Aylward and Daily Pundit‘s Bill Quick had similar horror stories back in 2004, related to posting cheesecake and hostage beheading images, respectively.  As I wrote way back then:

PayPal is essentially without competition at the moment, so one’s options are limited. A practice I’ve adopted since Kevin’s announcement of his problem (and an unrelated problem that I had) is to immediately transfer any balance from my PayPal account to my bank account. PayPal has a habit of freezing the funds of people’s whose accounts are suspended.

I’ve been a little less aggressive about this lately, mostly out of laziness.   But it’s good practice.

Alas, PayPal has a market dominance in online payments that Microsoft could have only dreamed of during its heyday.  Regardless of your feelings about Gellar’s content, the power of a private business to decide what constitutes legitimate speech rather creepy.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Economics and Business, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. matt says:

    As an “American hating communist loving jihad cuddling sharia endorsing libtard” I find myself disappointed in Pay Pal’s choice here 🙁

  2. steve says:

    Does bring up the larger issue of what happens when a private company gets itself into the position of being a public utility monopoly. I dont know Paypal’s history. Were there government enabling rulings? In theory, a new company should be able to move in if they are engaging in this too often. In reality, it is hard to break up monopolies.

    Steve

  3. RightKlik says:

    “Regardless of your feelings about Gellar’s content, the power of a private business to decide what constitutes legitimate speech [is?] rather creepy.”

    I guess the idea here is that in this instance, a private business has taken it upon itself to regulate the marketplace of ideas.

    That would be problematic enough, but it might be worse than that.

    Maybe PayPal is concerned about the bottom line, maybe they’re worried about offending someone…but it’s not unreasonable to think that they might worried about life and limb.

    Think back to the recent South Park episode:

    “We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show…”

    And the show was censored. Threats work.

  4. James says:

    I haven’t ever agreed with Pam or her approach. However, she has not been convicted, nor even charged, with libel, slander, or any other action that would result in the legal limitations of her First Amendment rights. Only a judge and/or jury can make such finding of facts. PayPal’s choice here means a global corporation, answerable to no one, now essentially decides what is acceptable speech.

    The law invites courage. Corporations would rather we all shut up an buy,

  5. Mithras says:

    I find it delicious that a website named after Ayn Rand’s novel is trying to use the power of the state to force a private company to do business with them.

  6. Patrick says:

    Hi James,

    Look up Gpay… and if you’re using BlogAds, switch to check instead. Most other Ad Companies will pay you via check too.

    Just a suggestion,

    -Pat

  7. Duracomm says:

    Mithras, missing yet another example of a problem caused by big government, said

    I find it delicious that a website named after Ayn Rand’s novel is trying to use the power of the state to force a private company to do business with them.

    Mithras, if it were not for government action the website would have other options available.

    Did you notice the statement James made toward the end of his post.

    PayPal has a market dominance in online payments that Microsoft could have only dreamed of during its heyday.

    Mithras, paypal has that monopoly position in large part because of big companies use of the power of the state.

    eBay Invites Internet Regulation, Backs Online Gambling Ban

    The young start-up stammered. And fell. In the end, complying with the regulators, appeasing the politicians and fighting off the civil and criminal litigation was too much to bear.

    Thiel and Levchin abandoned their vision, and sold PayPal to eBay, a company with an established Internet presence, an experienced legal team on staff, and — to the detriment of PayPal’s loyal customers — a conciliatory corporate culture.

    And once the government crushed the small competitor and put it in the arms of a more compliant large corporation things got worse.

    What’s more, the letter eBay government relations director Brian Bieron sent to Goodlatte announcing the company’s support of his bill actually goes above and beyond what any gambling foes in Congress have called for.

    Bieron in fact calls for the actual prosecution of Internet gamblers themselves, a policy which could only be enforced by allowing law enforcement officials to essentially begin monitoring everyone’s online activity, including tracing visited websites back to IP addresses.

    Another example of big government supporters protecting big business while harming the individuals and small companies they are supposedly concerned about.

  8. MM says:

    To James Joyner and commenter James: How are Pam Geller’s free speech rights being restricted here? PayPal isn’t throwing her in jail, PayPal isn’t launching a DOS attack on her blog. PayPal is just saying: ” Given the content of your blog, we will not be your processor of choice”. Isn’t that precisely what the marketplace of ideas is about?

    Everybody running around proclaiming that Pam Geller is having her rights abridged sounds as silly as Geller does when she tells the world that she bought 3 limes at the store and when she got home, one was spoiled BECAUSE THE BAGBOY IS A JIHADI!

  9. James Joyner says:

    How are Pam Geller’s free speech rights being restricted here? PayPal isn’t throwing her in jail, PayPal isn’t launching a DOS attack on her blog. PayPal is just saying: ” Given the content of your blog, we will not be your processor of choice”.

    I explicitly acknowledge PayPal’s right to do this in the post. But PayPal isn’t simply one “processor” among many; it’s got essentially monopoly standing in the market. That means they essentially act as the censors of the net. And I find that troublesome.

  10. steve says:

    “What’s more, the letter eBay government relations director Brian Bieron sent to Goodlatte announcing the company’s support of his bill actually goes above and beyond what any gambling foes in Congress have called for.

    Bieron in fact calls for the actual prosecution of Internet gamblers themselves, a policy which could only be enforced by allowing law enforcement officials to essentially begin monitoring everyone’s online activity, including tracing visited websites back to IP addresses.”

    Nothing there suggests it is govt regulation resulting in a monopoly. I still know of nothing stopping other companies from going into the same business.

    Steve

  11. MM says:

    I explicitly acknowledge PayPal’s right to do this in the post. But PayPal isn’t simply one “processor” among many; it’s got essentially monopoly standing in the market. That means they essentially act as the censors of the net. And I find that troublesome.

    That’s like saying that IE is the censor of the net because I haven’t taken the time to find Firefox, Chrome or Safari. Just on a lark I found 3 or 4 alternatives to PayPal, at least 2 of which don’t require a shopping cart or merchandise to be sold. Total time: about 4 minutes. Then again I’m not a member of the party of personal responsibility like Stacy McCain and Pam Geller, so I looked for a solution and found one in less time than it took to write 4 blog posts condemning liberals, dhimmis and Google (oh my).

    If I cared, I bet I could have one of them up and running by Monday morning, while McCain and Geller continue to whine about creeping jihad. I don’t though, mainly because I wouldn’t put Geller out were she on fire.

    People use PayPal because it’s easy. But there are legitimate lternatives out there. Geller and McCain being lazy (which is ironic for Stacy McCain, given his views on the black folk) doesn’t change that.

  12. James Joyner says:

    People use PayPal because it’s easy. But there are legitimate lternatives out there.

    Well . . . .

    The problem is that transactions are two-way. So, yes, it would be easy for Gellar or any of us to set up an electronic account other than PayPal. But it also requires anyone wishing to send money to any of us to set up yet another account. Whereas, those wishing to accept funds via PayPal don’t have that obstacle. That’s not an inconsequential obstacle.

  13. matt says:

    Bravo Duracomm bravo that’s a mighty helping of delusions there. The reality is the creators of paypal sold out to “the man” because they saw dollar signs. As someone that was closely watching paypal at the time I can’t help but find the revisionism going on in that article offensive. Thiel and Levchin were quite happy about the sale at the time but apparently they couldn’t resist the right winger welfare money and are changing their stories..