[Update: Since the posting of this story, PayPal has restored its account with Jihad Watch, according to Jihad Watch Director Robert Spencer. Spencer said he considers it a victory for free speech, but he will not restore the PayPal buttons on his site after the company’s “overreach.”]
The Internet payment company PayPal banned the website of Islam expert Robert Spencer from using its service after a far-left news service accused Jihad Watch of “extreme hostility toward Muslims.”
Spencer told WND he was contacted by a reporter with ProPublica, a non-profit that conducts investigative journalism, and asked about the controversial Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of Jihad Watch as a “hate group.”
Asked by reporter Lauren Kirchner if he disagreed with the designation, Spencer replied, “Yes, I certainly do,” noting that for years, “leftists and Muslim groups with numerous ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood have smeared as ‘hate’ all attempts to speak honestly about the motivating ideology behind jihad terrorism.”
But the ProPublica article produced by the reporting of Kirchner and three others, published Saturday, presumed SPLC’s “extremist” designation is correct, bearing the headline “Despite Disavowals, Leading Tech Companies Help Extremist Sites Monetize Hate.”
In an email from “Ronita” of PayPal’s Brand Risk Management department, Spencer was informed that, “Due to the nature of his activities,” PayPal has “chosen to discontinue service” to Jihad Watch, placing a “permanent limitation” on the account.
PayPal did not reply to WND’s request for comment.
Spencer told WND he believes the ban is a big issue, because it won’t stop with him.
“Every group that the SPLC lists as a hate group will be targeted in the same way,” he told WND. “That includes many Christian groups and groups devoted to secure borders and sane immigration policies.
“Once they’re all shut down, the last remaining pockets of dissent will be mopped up, and America will be dead as a free society.”
Spencer says the left is “mounting an all-out assault against the freedom of speech, and using Charlottesville to try to crush all dissent.”
ProPublica reported Amazon.com previously removed Jihad Watch and three other sites identified by ProPublica from its program that shares revenue for book sales, Amazon Associates.
The questions Kirchner posted to Spencer on Friday for her article made it clear to the Jihad Watch director that her intent was to try to compel companies such as PayPal, Amazon and Revcontent to discontinue their business relationships.
Spencer replied to the reporter: “Are you comfortable with what you’re enabling? Not only are you inhibiting honest analysis of the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat, but you’re aiding the attempt to deny people a platform based on their political views. This could come back to bite you if your own views ever fall out of favor. Have you ever lived in a totalitarian state, where the powerful determine the parameters of the public discourse and cut off all voice from the powerless? Do you really want to live in one now? You might find, once you get there, that it isn’t as wonderful as you thought it would be.”
In the article, ProPublica said it conducted a survey that found PayPal, Stripe, Newsmax and others “help keep more than half of the most-visited extremist sites in business.”
“Where to set the boundaries between hate speech and legitimate advocacy for perspectives on the edge of the political spectrum, and who should set them, are complex and difficult questions,” the article state. ” Like other media outlets, we relied in part on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s public list of “Active Hate Groups 2016.”
‘Defamatory and dangerous’
In 2010, WND reported PayPal reversed a decision to cut services to websites run by Spencer and activist, author and blogger Pamela Geller, the Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America, as well as Geller’s Atlas Shrugs.
Geller also was contacted by Kirchner and mentioned in the ProPublica article as one of SPLC’s “hate groups.”
WND recently reported the charity watchdog Guidestar has been sued by Liberty Counsel for posting SPLC’s “false and defamatory” hate designations on its pages for numerous mainstream organizations such as Liberty Counsel itself, Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom, largely for their defense of traditional marriage.
On Monday, Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel’s founder and chairman of Liberty, responded to SPLC’s recent “hate label” with a call for “prayer and healing in a country divided.”
“As a pastor before becoming an attorney, my heart then and now is for hurting people,” he said. “Liberty Counsel is a peaceful Christian ministry that opposes violence. We believe that each person is created in the image of God and each one should be treated with dignity and respect.”
He said difference of opinion is no cause for violence or hatred.
“I have previously condemned the violence in Charlottesville perpetrated by KKK and white supremacist groups,” he said. “We must not allow the seeds of the Holocaust or the violence against people of color to take root again in America.
“But instead of speaking with a united voice against violence and hatred, the Southern Poverty Law Center and some irresponsible media have falsely included some Christian, pro-family, or conservative groups with real hate groups like the KKK.”
Staver said the “false labeling is defamatory and dangerous.”
“Moreover, this false label is exploiting a serious situation to push a self-interested political agenda. This must stop! We need to come together to speak against hatred and violence. I urge everyone to pray for the healing of our nation.”