“Go create your own website” has been a common reply to conservatives concerned about Big Tech censorship, but now Leftists can shut them down even when they do that.
Bitchute has marketed itself as the Free Speech alternative to Youtube, but has recently been blacklisted by PayPal. Bitchute founder Ray Vahey announced that PayPal shut down his website’s ability to receive funding through its payment service, effective immediately.
It should be noted that BitChute does have community guidelines about removing content that is truly illegal, violent, or qualifies as a call for violence.
“A few hours ago BitChute received a notice that our PayPal account has been permanently limited, with immediate effect, and that we will no longer be able to accept or send payments,” the statement reads.
Vahey continued by affirming Bitchute’s importance and their company mission, saying,
“BitChute is pro-free expression which is a universal human right. Furthermore, censorship and deplatforming are poor ways to tackle societal problems as they merely create echo chambers that can lead to bigger problems in the long run. It’s important to platform all ideas, as this exposes them to immediate opposition and allows for a public deconstruction of any flaws they may contain. If you are against bigotry or racism or hateful ideologies, you should be pro-free expression.”
The same people who have opted out of using mainstream tech platforms because of their censorious policies are now realizing that even when free speech advocates create their own platforms, they too can be undermined by payment processors. When a company like PayPal withdraws its service, it can functionally deplatform a website by cutting off its flow of income.
When conservatives have previously voiced their concerns about the deplatforming of various Youtubers, many leftists and libertarians often smugly reply that in a free market, companies have a right to deny service, and that conservatives should build their own platforms. The issues with this line of thinking are twofold: 1) It is extremely difficult to build alternative platforms (consider how Google+ with all of their parent company’s resources and reputation, failed to provide a remotely competitive alternative to Facebook) and 2) Payment processors that keep platforms up and running can deny their services with no repercussions.
Even the liberal nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation has expressed concern that payment processors withdrawing their service are acting as “de facto internet censors.”
As Breitbart Tech Senior Reporter Allum Bokhari observed in July 2018,
“Not content with silencing their voices online, the left now wants to stop the right from using the web to fundraise. Thanks to the increasing willingness of online fundraising platforms and payment processors to ban clients for political reasons, they are getting their way … As the left prepares for the 2018 midterms and the 2020 general election, they want to ensure that only they have access to that tremendous power. And with PayPal and Stripe withdrawing support from politically neutral fundraising platforms, they are well on their way to achieving that aim.”
The debate over private companies using their institutional power as a form of non-governmental censorship is one that has deeply divided not only Republicans and Democrats, but the Republican party itself.