Fighting a Speech Monopoly: Lawyer Seeks to File Complaint with the FTC Against Stripe and PayPal

Lior Leser, otherwise known as YouTuber Law, a medium-sized, part-time YouTube creator, and lawyer specializing in Copyright and Networking law, has decided to file a formal complaint against internet payment processors PayPal and Stripe for violating Anti-Trust laws in their pulling support from SubscribeStar, a site built to compete with the likes of Patreon, both services wherein artists and creators can receive direct support from their fans in exchange for the service taking a cut off the top to facilitate the transfer.

To explain further, if you’ve been living under a rock lately perhaps you might not have heard, but there is a big stir in the online community that has gained a lot of attention and traction. Everything started when Patreon, a payment platform that allows users of the service to donate their money to creators, where Patreon takes a cut off the top for payment processing, recently removed a series of creators from their service for problems that can at best be described as spurious, and at worst seem to be ideologically motivated.

There are several videos on the matter, which I will reference as necessary, but in summary, British YouTuber and political personality Carl Benjamin also known as “Sargon of Akkad” was removed from the platform after a mass flagging campaign by 4Chan’s /pol/ board saw a pastebin message containing various citations that attempt to make Carl out to be some active member of the alt-right. Patreon’s Trust and Safety committee, apparently taking these complaints and claims, as well as a video clip of Carl referring to the very Neo-Nazis he is being compared to as “White N*ggers” when they acted in the very same belligerent way they they describe black people to do and in doing so showing them up for their blatant hypocrisy, as proof he is somehow a vile racist.

With that said, I am not here to pick sides, to condemn Patreon or to be an apologist for Mr. Benjamin. I merely bring up his name and his case as it was considered by many who operate on Patreon to be the final straw in regards to censoring of creators who operate upon the platform. The likes of Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson and Sword and Scale (9th biggest creator on the platform) have all either pledged to remove their presence from Patreon, or have taken steps to do so and are working on building an alternative. One would assume that if another option was available, they would have already done the former, and perhaps they would have. However, following Carl’s forced exodus from PayPal, he and several others who had not been banned, moved to a recent alternative called SubscribeStar, which was picking up a good deal of former Ban victims, as well as those outraged by Patreon’s decision to kick Sargon (on top of other issues) Funnily enough, the moment that people started moving to the platform in protest of Patreon’s business decision, payment processors Stripe and PayPal, who make up the overwhelming share of business transactions online and thereby the majority of payment processing, decided to pull their support for SubscribeStar, making it impossible for that site to process payments through those platforms.

This is the long and the short of where we are now, and why Lior Leser has launched his campaign against the two payment processors. Much has been theorized of why Patreon banned Sargon, and much hand-wringing has been done by Trust and Safety team lead Jacqueline Hart over why the ban happened. In a conversation with YouTuber and fellow Patreon creator Matt Christiansen which she required he not record (but which he thankfully, dutifully transcribed in full) Jacqueline mentions that Patreon may have been pressured by these same payment processors into making such decisions, over a conversation that Sargon had off platform. This of course goes strictly against the Manifest Observable Behavior standard that Jack Conte, CEO of Patreon mentioned months earlier on Dave Rubin’s Rubin Report following the ban of Lauren Southern, and how Patreon’s rules were only ever meant to apply to content released on Patreon, a statement he claimed would prevent anyone from being removed for off-platform violations.

With little cursory examination into these issues, it would seem that there is enough evidence to cast doubt that Paypal, Stripe, and perhaps even Mastercard are innocent in colluding together in a campaign to silence dissenting views online, perhaps even to the extent that they will cut ties with any payment processing platform for merely allowing voices that their preferred competitor has banned to operate. Perhaps further investigation will unearth more, or perhaps this is all coincidental. Regardless, this author believes there is reason to be suspicious when a company suddenly pulls support from another product/service and gives no reason whatsoever for their action, especially when that service just started doing business with the people their competitors deplatformed. It would follow that Mr. Leser seems to feel the same, and as such, this is likely one of the reasons why he has endeavored to file his complaint.