Corporate Punishment

About 18 months ago, some lonely voices on the dissident right in the US began warning of the worrying antics of large tech and financial organisations with respect to political wrongthinkers. The ZMan was particularly vociferous on this, citing the case of some obscure neo-Nazi website having its domain name yanked without any transparency or due process. Within months of that we saw alt-right figures being denied hosting and other web-based services such as Cloudflare, which prevents DOS attacks. These actions at the time appeared to be the result of Antifa mobs piling pressure on the service providers and finding sympathetic (or scared) managers within who would do their bidding. As usual, the traditional right did nothing except help the enemy by holding aloft their principles; I’ll come onto that in a minute.

Pretty quickly Antifa worked out they could get anyone from the alt-right booted from social media and their contracts with web service companies cancelled, and that’s precisely what they did. As I wrote here, I thought Antifa would overreach and put people in a position where they had little recourse but to violence:

Ordinary people suddenly found a handy source of income has been cut off simply because the tech giants were unable or unwilling to stand up to a gaggle of hard-left thugs. It’s only a matter of time before ordinary Americans find themselves denied access to the website or payment processing platform their livelihoods depend on, without ever knowing the reason why. If that happens, people will start throwing their support behind whichever outfit professes to be on their side and against the people responsible, regardless of how nasty and thuggish they are.

The ZMan took it one step further, and said these tactics were endorsed by the ruling classes, happy to allow Antifa mobs and social media companies to enforce the censorship they are forbidden by law from imposing directly. He was one of the earliest voices to warn that political censorship and punishment was being meted out via compliant social media giants and other corporations, and it appears he was absolutely right. Look how quickly we’ve gone from Antifa mobs getting Nazi websites shut down to this:

Facebook and PayPal accounts used to organise “yellow vest” protests that have seen MPs verbally abused in Westminster have been deleted.

Organiser James Goddard’s Facebook profile disappeared amid calls for police to prevent the group from “harassing” politicians, journalists and pro-EU protesters.

His PayPal account was disabled a short time later on Tuesday afternoon.

The reason this chap’s PayPal account has been deleted is because he upset Anne Soubry, and someone made a call to PayPal to tell them to inflict the standard punishment. If it were you or I being abused, or even knifed on a London street, nobody would be interested. But attack a member of the ruling class and suddenly services on which you depend are cancelled without warning. Where’s the transparency here? Where’s the due process? And where’s the consistency? When Nigel Farage was attacked by a mob in a pub, the media classes thought it highly amusing. Plod didn’t seem much interested either, simply because their masters don’t like Farage very much.

Now the conservative right have thus far defended the actions of the likes of PayPal and Facebook on the grounds private companies should have the right to do business with whomever they please. I have two problems with this: firstly, businesses don’t have a right to do business with whomever they please as whole rafts of anti-discrimination legislation attest. There’s not much point in defending a principle which hasn’t been upheld in these lands since flares were in fashion, unless as part of a philosophical discussion. Secondly, whereas it may be reasonable for a restaurateur to refuse service to someone who can eat next door, how does this work with PayPal? And where does it stop? Credit card providers, banks and insurance companies are already coming under pressure in the US to refuse service to those who own guns or wish to buy one. How long before Mastercard (who’s politics are evident) decides it’s going to cut people off without warning? Well, you just switch to Visa, right?

Not quite: as we saw when three or four social media companies all banned Alex Jones within hours of one another, these actions are coordinated. If one company bans a wrongthinker, it’s almost certain their peers will follow suit. There are many restaurants in town, but only a few credit card companies. If they collectively decide to blacklist you, you’re screwed. Now the dimmer free-market fundamentalists will say “If you don’t like it, start your own service, market forces, innit?” Which again is a great topic for discussion in an Ayn Rand convention down the local pub, but the average person is not in a position to start their own bank. And where does this stop? There used to be a principle that utility companies such as electricity, phone, and water providers had to supply all customers regardless of who they were. Nowadays people are just as dependent on credit card, banking, and insurance services yet they appear to be allowed, thanks to a few lines of font 4 text in 18 pages of terms and conditions, to just immediately halt services without warning and without explanation. “Don’t like it?” say the free marketeers. “Well, start your own insurance company, then!” If the right can’t come up with a better response than this, they deserve the left’s foot on their necks for the foreseeable future.

Note what’s interesting in this latest incident is the ruling classes don’t even need the Antifa mob any more. No, all it took was 50 MPs writing to Plod and PayPal got the message loud and clear. The Antifa mobs were useful in terms of testing the water, seeing if these companies would knuckle under and do as they’re told, but now they’re surplus to requirements. Bear in mind all his has happened in less than two years, and try to imagine where we’ll be in another two. We’re rapidly heading into a situation where the ruling classes can effectively cut you off from services on which you depend as punishment for stepping out of line. People are making lots of noise about China’s social credit system, but at least the CPC is open about it. Our ruling classes are doing the same thing while claiming it’s nothing to do with them because we live in a free society. Free for whom, exactly?

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40 thoughts on “Corporate Punishment

  1. To be fair to Cloudflare, I think they have only booted one far-right organisation, and aren’t proud of the fact. Absent a warrant or court order (and note, they claim to fight all such to exhaustion), they pretty much don’t care who does what on their service.

    I have actually hosted a web forum that got booted by the provider. It was around 15 years ago, during a public consultation on granting some legal status to a particular organisation. I was a member of said organisation and lobbying against the proposal. The organisation got the provider to shut my forum because they didn’t like the courteous discussion on whether or not to do this!

    Most hosts are not prepared to fight for their customers. It’s cheaper, easier, and lower-risk to terminate, as I found out the hard way. The lesson is – if you want to be controversial – get your own server (and hide behind Cloudflare). Which is not difficult.

    The other stuff is more difficult. Yes, it is a problem that Facebook is a de facto monopoly. That Paypal is a de facto monopoly, so introduce a service requirement, due process or something. Or get some damn competition going, but that will be difficult given the network effects (Facebook will die when everyone switches to the next thing, which is a question of when, not if. It can’t survive alongside a serious competitor – which is of course why it buys them all up).

    Those companies will always be beholden to the ruling classes, because somewhere in the annual ten thousand pages of legislation, there is guaranteed to be something that will put the CEO inside for 20. Something that could be discovered given a sufficiently-thorough investigation. This is yet another problem.

  2. The lesson is – if you want to be controversial – get your own server (and hide behind Cloudflare). Which is not difficult.

    Blimey, don’t you remember the discussion under this post?

  3. You don’t need your own physical server. There are companies that will host your site and let you fill it with all manner of pirated filth, malware, and far-right politics and not give a damn.

    Try identifying the host of any website behind Cloudflare and you run into a brick wall, which is precisely why the controversial, terrorists, and pr0n pirates use it. The hosts are prepared to turn a blind eye, but that relies largely on complaints not being made to them in the first place.

    Peterson, Condell, all the rest are on youtube because youtube has peoples’ attention and they are seeking attention. Not like the old days before the tech giants monopolised attention and people might go looking for videos on “I-am-a-far-right-nazi.com”. What do we do about it? I don’t know.

  4. You don’t need your own physical server. There are companies that will host your site and let you fill it with all manner of pirated filth, malware, and far-right politics and not give a damn.

    Ah, I see. Fair enough.

  5. On payment, isn’t this the kind of thing that Bitcoin etc should solve?

    The problem with being Paypal, or a bank, or Google, is that you have an address and legal representatives. Like I said, it’s cheap and easy to terminate a troublesome client, and if you don’t get terminated, the Antifa (or whoever) who want to make your life a misery can just sue Paypal, Google and so on, to achieve the same goal. Even if they lose, the service provider has lost a bunch of money defending. You can’t stop anyone using a bitcoin, and it’s so hard to find out who the hosts and webmasters behind Cloudflare are (at least those that don’t want to be found) that that it is essentially impossible to sue them.

    I see solutions in the making already, even if they aren’t the ones we would really want in an open and democratic society.

  6. On payment, isn’t this the kind of thing that Bitcoin etc should solve?

    In theory, yes. The trouble is, you can’t pay your rent in Bitcoin yet. And once you can, I’d imagine the ruling classes will be looking for ways to shut it down.

  7. I can’t pay my rent by Paypal either. But I can change bitcoin for euros and get those euros into my bank account to pay my rent. I hope the terminations don’t extend into peoples’ personal bank accounts (yet).

    There was an animal research company in the UK some time ago that got targeted. Or rather, its bankers did, and they ended up with no bank in the country prepared to hold an account for them. The Bank of England then offered them a current account (which they do for almost nobody) – of course that would be rather less likely to happen today as the protesters would simply force the BoE to bend to their will.

  8. But I can change bitcoin for euros and get those euros into my bank account to pay my rent.

    It depends where you are, but if you deposit more than a thousand or two into your account your bank will ask for documentary proof of where it came from (France gets interested at around 2k Euros, the Swiss around 100k I think).

    There was an animal research company in the UK some time ago that got targeted. Or rather, its bankers did, and they ended up with no bank in the country prepared to hold an account for them. The Bank of England then offered them a current account (which they do for almost nobody) – of course that would be rather less likely to happen today as the protesters would simply force the BoE to bend to their will.

    Huntingdon Life Sciences, IIRC. The BoE did this because it was an exceptional case, but at the time I thought the authorities should have come down on the protestors like a tonne of bricks, especially when they crossed the line into threatening, intimidating behaviour. One way to solve this is to guarantee anyone and everyone can open a post office bank account, but this would run up against the legislation requiring customers to leap through 100 hoops just to open an account anywhere.

  9. I’ve made six-figure international transfers no questions asked. Though, curiously enough, I did get pulled over by customs every time I went back to the UK for about three years afterwards.

  10. I’ve made six-figure international transfers no questions asked.

    From an account in your name to another in your name? Yeah sure, so have I. But if 60k suddenly arrives in your account from one not in your name, the bank rings you up (or at least, they do in France). But it depends on where you are.

  11. “But if 60k suddenly arrives in your account from one not in your name, the bank rings you up (or at least, they do in France). But it depends on where you are.”

    Not in the UK. Or at least not as a matter of legal requirement, it might be done as an internal fraud check if its unusual activity for your account. My bank used to ring me if I paid out a large cheque (£50k plus, in the days before bacs) but I’ve never had a call about a sum arriving. And I’ve had a some hefty ones in the last few years, in and out.

  12. Cloudfare, crypto and rest of the remaining options existing only because by some reason communists have not attacked them yet. There was no internet in Soviet Union from 1917 to 1953 but liberal left still got things done.

  13. It’s like the old cashless society problem, where the endgame is to have everything done through you citizen ID card. Annoy the wrong person and they only have one card to cancel in order to shut down your entire life
    Strangely enough, many people want this

  14. Pingback: The net closes on dissident voices | Al Jahom's Final Word

  15. Shorter Tim: Because those who value freedom of association have lost some political battles in the past we should Nationalize all credit card companies, internet payment processors, social media companies, server hosts, and anyone else who might even think of denying service to a conservative.

    Then we’ll sit back and enjoy all that beautiful freedom as giant bureaucracies do God’s work and never, ever become arms of the Democrat party or become little fiefdom’s filled with petty dictators who punish conservatives with the impunity that comes with such institutions. Shit, I’ll be HAPPY to pay my taxes just like all those good progressives say.

    Puke. Well, at least you’re finally being explicit about solutions, rather than merely pissing on ideological allies for trying to expand liberty.

  16. I don’t think anyone is arguing for nationalisation. I think the argument is to expand the set of companies subject to universal service obligation. Just as the water company can’t cut you off, legislate so that the credit card company can’t cut you off.

    For the content companies (less so the payment) you can argue that if they don’t want liability for what they carry, then they can’t choose what to carry.

    The individual baker being harrassed should not be captured by this as the universal service is hitting a standard product (the baker was happy to sell off the shelf, but did not want to be forced to create something they disagreed with), and can’t deny service does not have to be universal (just as today it only applies to utilities), you are just expanding the definition of utility.

    This is a sensible and liberal law – but the state likes the ability to silently harrass people they dislike and as such these laws are unlikely to be proposed/passed by the current statist governments.

  17. Bullies are generally also cowards. Hit the companies’ leadership where it hurts. If LeftyTechGiant deletes an account then the aggrieved can get angry and noisy yellow vest demos going outside the boss’ home.

    I also read that Pornhub and other skinflick sites are becoming the ‘go to’ social media sites for a variety on consciously non-lefty connectivity. The deep state, even in the British Reich, will find it hard to switch off the porn. Wanna organise a demo or pay a friend for something on the quiet? Do it via a video load of the sort your granny would find troublesome.

  18. “The deep state, even in the British Reich, will find it hard to switch off the porn”

    They’re making a start:

    “Age checks for online porn are expected to come into force around Easter 2019, as peers yesterday signed off on the final regulations and guidance despite acknowledging they will not be wholly efficient”

    I’m sure that Pornhub will be one of the sites affected…
    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/12/12/age_verification_smut_guidance_approved/

  19. The end state of all this will not be what the activists and agitators are hoping for, which is that they shut down all dissent. Macron is dealing with the first intimations of where this sort of thing finally ends, and will likely find that the French populace is still as enthusiastic about the guillotine as it always has been. I suspect that when the time comes, most of the graduates of the Ecole Polytechnique are going to be riding tumbrels, with shocked looks on their faces, muttering about how they’re graduates of that school, and shouldn’t be held accountable for the things that went wrong under their “expert” watch…

    You push people far enough, and shut down the safety-valve of being able to complain about it…? You haven’t stopped the dissent; all you’ve done is what a lot of idiot boiler operators have done in the past, taping over the gauges and blocking the safety-valve. When the pressure in that social boiler finally reaches the vessel limits, the whole thing is going to make a really big bang, and there’s no telling where the fragments are going to go.

    So, yeah… Shut down that dissent, geniuses. In a generation or two, when the descendants of your anointed ones are just getting comfortable on the top of it all, you’re going to see a social earthquake that rips the world out from under them. Nothing lasts forever; the lesson of the Soviet monolith ought to be clear to everyone. None of the anointed ones of my generation saw 1989 coming, and if they had…? They’d have wound up in a rubber room, somewhere, had they ever tried to project the fall of the Soviet Union and dismantlement of the Warsaw Pact.

    In other words, this too shall pass. The problem is, however, how much mess its passing will create.

  20. Credit card providers, banks and insurance companies are already coming under pressure in the US to refuse service to those who own guns or wish to buy one.

    This was Operation Choke Point and officially ended back in 2017. No doubt it continues unofficially since there is no such thing as a temporary government program. Even if it doesn’t, the recent SESTA/FOSTA legislation, aimed (officially) at sex trafficking, rolls back some of the protections of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and makes websites responsible for what people using their site post. The immediate effects were felt by sex workers but it is also a convenient way of browbeating others, should they be considered beyond the pale. Whether this was co-incidence or the intention all along is left as an exercise of the reader.

    As a pragmatic liberal/libertarian type I’m sympathetic to the “their platform, their rules” argument but since we aren’t actually going to have as much competition as we might like in the social media or financing space in order to keep firms honest, a friend of mine suspects (and I agree wth her) that the best we can hope for is that said companies are designated as Common/Public Carriers. I’m not going to hold my breath though.

  21. Problem is how to espouse freedom when TPTB are complicit in silencing. ECJ?

    Re: Paypal

    They accept payment by Credit Card – there is a UK Law (<1992) on this:

    Based around discrimination, preference etc. Display CC accepted and Cash discounts not allowed, refusal to trade with individual not allowed.

  22. Soubry is a hypocrite

    A bit of an uncomfortable scenario where Soubry calls some other folk “fascists” & then they call her a “fascist” in return, & we only condemn the latter & only call for the latter to be arrested…

    https://twitter.com/andrew_lilico/status/1082680514425905159

    Dear Met Police, This woman is recorded here calling innocent Leave campaigners “fascists” and “racists” with “no respect for the law”. Please investigate urgently and protect the campaigners against these abusive individuals.

    https://twitter.com/DancerGuard/status/1082678435112255488

    There is a video clip verifying the accusation:

    Anna Soubry calls UK @GiletsJaunesUK “Fascists” and “Racists” and say they need “sorting out”, then plays the victim when she is called a “nazi” in return.

    Short – 1min: https://twitter.com/NicTrades/status/1082616925547622400
    Longer – 6min: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrLekZuMK1k

    Anna Soubry’s claim of intimidation is the most hollow case of ‘victimhood’ in history. It’s been confected to bring in more legislation to shut us up. People who disagree with her and her policies need “sorting out”.

    How very totalitarian of her. She’s a cry bully.

  23. Huntingdon Life Sciences, indeed, you remember correctly. The demonstrations in the City happened after the greenies got into the LME, and took a battering. A fair few bankers were well up for round 2.

  24. +1
    “You push people far enough, and shut down the safety-valve of being able to complain about it…? You haven’t stopped the dissent; all you’ve done is what a lot of idiot boiler operators have done in the past, taping over the gauges and blocking the safety-valve. When the pressure in that social boiler finally reaches the vessel limits, the whole thing is going to make a really big bang, and there’s no telling where the fragments are going to go.”

    Creating too big to fail financial institutions
    Stopping all forest fires leading to an accumulation of brush.

    Almost as if bureaucracies have a thing for infrequent spectacular disasters over regular small problems

  25. I think this piece is too reliant on fallacies; the slippery slope, the boiling frog, false equivalence etc…

    Firstly, we need to be clear it’s commercial interests at the heart of the complaint, not political rights. The bulk of the evidence is about fringe extremists having their business models disrupted because mainstream market providers don’t want the reputational damage of associating with nutjobs. As has been clearly pointed out this isn’t stopping other, less sensitive, providers from stepping in. The nutjobs can carry on operating their businesses, they are simply pushed out of lucrative mainstream channels back to the fringe.

    Secondly, nobody is being barred from peaceful protest or from lobbying their elected politicians, and nobody has presented any evidence to the contrary. The ‘safety valve’ for honest dissent is well and truly open.

    Thirdly, Farage getting abuse at the pub whilst out campaigning isn’t equivalent to an MP being abused outside the Parliament building whilst it is sitting and the intimidation directly relates to a live issue. This should be obvious.

    Finally, none of this is relevant to ‘ordinary people’, it is all concerned with fringe extremists, who by self-identification define themselves apart from ‘ordinary people’. Every single day protestors gather at Westminster, some in direct opposition to each other, but only extremists such as Goddard’s mob resort to outright intimidation tactics.

  26. Finally, none of this is relevant to ‘ordinary people’, it is all concerned with fringe extremists,

    Ah yes, Martin Niemöller had something to say about this.

  27. I wonder if when Niemöller wrote about vulnerable people being carted off to death camps he envisioned his warning being anologised to professional provocateurs facing the horror of their commercial models being mildly disrupted or being forced to endure the terrible and unbearable burden of keeping their protests peaceful?

  28. People running YouTube channels talking about guns are professional provocateurs, eh?

  29. And when is forbidden to go after communists and Jews, then what to do ?

    Keep immigration going, lose all jobs, become drug addict and just quietly die out?

  30. Finally, none of this is relevant to ‘ordinary people’, it is all concerned with fringe extremists, who by self-identification define themselves apart from ‘ordinary people’.

    I agree with MJW. Now that the Left has discovered this new ability to silence their enemies on the far-right, they’ll certainly be satisfied and won’t at all be tempted to expand the definition of Doubleplus Ungoodthink to include opinions currently accepted as mainstream.

    Any student of history and human nature knows that political mobs always pull back before they trample ordinary people!

  31. You can find plenty of videos about guns on YouTube, so I’m not sure what the comment about guns means. But ultimately YouTube is a business, a mass market entertainment business at that. If it doesn’t want to be associated with things it believes will tarnish it’s brand, I have no problem with that. There are other sites where those people can go. Their material is not being no platformed. Just because the BBC doesn’t show hardcore porn, doesn’t mean other media channels won’t.

    Now, I can understand people who make revenue from certain types of content being annoyed if a mass market channel is being denied to them, and I think this is particularly salient for fringe/extremists, who might need to trawl a big net to get a viable catch. But I think it’s bad commercial decision making that’s their real problem, there is a balance between being provocative to get eyeballs and taking the schtick too far. For example Goddard was playing to the peanut gallery showing he was sticking it to the gutless politicos, which is what his audience wants to see, but then he oversteps the mark with the bullyboy schtick and some of his key marketing channels drop him. He wanted those eyeballs, it’s not like he doesn’t have competition because there are others selling a similar schtick, but with any business model you have to watch your brand associations. In general it’s the failure to keep the nastier, more aggressive or more explicitly bigotted stuff in check that’s really killing the commercial channels for the fringe/extremists and yes the general mood may have turned so they can’t get away with stuff they might have done in the past, but change happens!

  32. There are other sites where those people can go. Their material is not being no platformed. Just because the BBC doesn’t show hardcore porn, doesn’t mean other media channels won’t.

    You’re doing a wonderful job of demonstrating the mentality I describe in the post. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it makes my job so much easier. Please keep going.

  33. You can find plenty of videos about guns on YouTube, so I’m not sure what the comment about guns means

    At a guess it’s a reference to a channel run by a certain Swiss based Bloke getting kicked off YouTube (as in completely terminated) about 6 months ago for no readily apparently reason. The push back was sufficient that it was restored the following day but it got a lot of people very worried.

    Whilst there the shooting community have a number of fallback media channels (eg Full30) the same isn’t true of payment processors. The possibility of having your livelihood taken away because someone faceless git doesn’t like the cut of your jib should concern all of us.

  34. @MJW

    Have you encountered the words: Gullible, Naive and Useful-Idiot?

    @Squid

    Opposition to Gay marriage was mainstream

    @Tim N
    @a cynic writes

    +1

  35. @Pcar, nice example.

    Brendan Eich was done in for supporting – and not as some kind of super vocal provocateur, but for donating a pretty measly thousand dollars – a view so fringe and illiberal and outside the mainstream that it won a popular vote. In California. I wouldn’t have been on the same side as him in that debate, but those consequences were pretty chilling.

  36. Tim, the crux of this issue is not that ‘wrong thinkers’ cannot ‘wrong think’, they can, just as they can protest, choose to believe in whatever they want and barring applicable defamation and criminal laws propogate their schtick for financial consideration. The crux is that some fringe types are having the mainstream commercial channels through which they monetise their activities restricted because their business partners don’t want the brand association. This is being wrapped up in logical fallacies as some sort of attack on their liberties, but commercial organisations have always disassociated themselves from partners/customers/suppliers when said have become too unpalatable, it’s just business. This isn’t even something only the alt-right types have to worry about, leftie professional grievance mongers have to be careful with their associations when selling their schtick too.

    Now, I can well believe there are some ‘ordinary people’ whose businesses get caught up in this sort of thing by mistake, on such a big base there will always be errors, I know this from professional experience. But the core of this is a commercial problem for people who choose to be on the fringes with their views and activities, it’s a commercial challenge they’ll find a way to get over or they’ll go out of business, maybe someone else will fill the void or maybe they’ll just carry on pro-bono.

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