Free Speech Platform Gab Financially Crippled by Coinbase, Cash App

January 9th, 2019 3:42 PM

Even when entrepreneurs build their own platforms and use alternate forms of money, companies can still shut off their cash flow.

Coinbase has just banned the accounts of free speech platform Gab as well as its CEO Andrew Torba. Gab has been both famous and infamous for its absolutist stance on free speech. As a result Gab had to find unconventional ways to raise money. Gab used Bitcoin, which can be exchanged for all manner of goods online. However, Bitcoins depend on exchange platforms like Coinbase to be converted back into real money and vise versa. Traditional payment processors like PayPal and Mastercard have denied services to controversial figures and been accused of censorship, and newer platforms like Coinbase and Cash App are following suit.

Gab’s Twitter account claims to have predicted this, saying “The next phase of financial censorship as people move to bitcoin is censoring the on ramps and off ramps (exchanges.)” Gab then theorized that as more people separate themselves from liberal-biased payment processors, more people will begin to rely exclusively on cryptocurrencies whose transactions are harder to trace than traditional money.

Dr Jordan Peterson, the famous academic who has made a career out of intellectually sparring with political-correctness, commented on the wider phenomenon, “Why are MC/Visa/PayPal/Patreon transforming themselves into censors? They have decided to fight "hate speech." But, the crucial question--the Achilles heel--remains: who defines hate?  Answer: those to whom you would least want to grant such power.”

Gab has been the textbook example of responding to censorship by opening one’s own platform. However, it has also become a cautionary tale about the reach of political correctness into the online marketplace. Gab was first crippled by payment processors in the wake of the Alex Jones controversy, “we’ve never had any issues with either of our payment processors for over two years now, but all of a sudden when is the only platform on the internet to host Alex Jones and defend free expression for all people, we become the target.”

BigTech censorship has been on a slippery slope from platforms banning controversial commentators to payment processors cutting off commentators and entire platforms from fundraising. This has caused free speech commentators like Peterson and Dave Rubin to consider building their own Patreon alternative so that other advocates of free speech and controversial political ideas can have a platform to raise money. The problem is that the last time this was attempted with SubscribeStar, PayPal quickly crippled them in the same way by denying them service for hosting controversial political speakers.