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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

For instance, antifa groups have objected strongly to being lumped in with the Tommy Robinsons and Proud Boys of this world, whom they vehemently oppose. But they have no grounds to complain. The Guardian reports that these same activists welcomed PayPal’s ban on McInnes. They are all too comfortable with big corporates policing political activity, they just want other people to be policed.

Regardless of one’s political views, we should be as worried by PayPal’s decision to bar Tommy Robinson as its decision to bar antifa groups. We need to push back against PayPal’s attempts to clamp down on groups it considers to be hateful or intolerant, and we need to challenge those who want to outsource censorship to the tech giants.

Fraser Myers

33 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Rich Rostrom

    One difference: “antifa” is not merely loud and malevolent, it is violent.

    Robinson has never (AFAIK) been accused of, much less shown guilty of, political violence. At most, it may be possible to find that some act of political violence against Moslems or immigrants or non-whites was incited by something Robinson said.

    But “antifa” has an extensive documented record of political violence which they brag on. They carry weapons and hit people with them.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Very true, Rich.

    And I’d like to know just what is meant by “push back.” Some people merely mean offering a counter-argument, but some people mean bashing them over the head with a baseball bat.

  • pete

    Perhaps we need a state backed internet payment system open for all lawful payments. This would be a modern addition to the state endorsed cash system which has been used for centuries.

    After the Belfast bakers decision it is difficult to see how a private company can be forced to offer a service to people with values and beliefs it doesn’t like.

  • Rich Rostrom writes:

    Robinson has never (AFAIK) been accused of, much less shown guilty of, political violence.

    Now, I have no special knowledge of such things and have to rely on what I read, from sources that IMHO are not discredited.

    And I find this on Infogalactic about Tommy Robinson under the heading Criminal Record During Leadership [of the EDF]. It includes:

    a. [WRT an occurrence on 24 August 2010] “Eleven months later, in July 2011, he was convicted of having used “threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour” on the night of the incident. He was given a 12-month community rehabilitation order and …”

    b. “On 29 September 2011, he was convicted of common assault after headbutting a fellow EDL member at a rally in Blackburn in April that year. He was given a 12-week jail term, suspended for 12 months.”

    In addition (not violence) “In October 2012, Robinson was arrested and held on the charge of having entered the U.S. illegally. Robinson pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to using someone else’s passport—”possession of a false identity document with improper intention”—to travel to the United States in September 2012, and was sentenced in January to 10 months imprisonment.” Outside of his time with the EDL, there is the mortgage fraud issue, mentioned in the above-linked article.

    Now, I agree there are some aspects of Tommy Robinson’s political campaigning that are understandable, even possibly creditable. However it goes to far to claim, for him, no accusations of and no guilt of political violence. This when a few minutes ‘research’ on the WWW shows otherwise.

    Best regards

  • Eric

    Is football hooliganism the same thing as political violence?

  • Eric writes:

    Is football hooliganism the same thing as political violence?

    Maybe it is, if you are (i) at the time the leader of a political organisation (EDL); (ii) Shouting “EDL till I die” (as is reported in the Infogalactica article I linked, and in the same paragraph from which I quoted above).

    Best regards

  • Paul Marks

    Before the “secret barrister” turns up I know that “Tommy Robinson” is not his real name – the fact remains that the man has done nothing to merit a PayPal ban. He was punished for his “mortgage fraud” (why are other people who exaggerate their income for a mortgage not arrested – this was a POLITICAL MOVE by the British authorities and everyone knows it), and reporting on the Islamic doctrine and practice of raping infidel girls is not a crime – at least not in a free country it is not a crime. “Tommy Robinson’s” view of Islam is the same as that of Prime Minister Gladstone and Winston Churchill – would they be subjects of persecution in the modern P.C. world?

    As for Gavin McInnis and “Proud Boys” – again how is DEFENDING yourself against attack a crime? Can “PayPal” produce one case (just one) where Mr McInnis has started the trouble with the Marxists? If one does not defend one’s self (and others) against attacks then the Marxists-own-the-streets (the control the public square and only pro Marxists can operate) is that what the shareholders of “PayPal” want? I suggest that they should NOT want this.

    Banning Antifa from PayPal achieves nothing – the Marxists have unlimited funding (they do not need PayPal), but banning people who oppose the Marxists (and oppose the Islamists) does great harm.

  • the other rob

    They carry weapons and hit people with them.

    In some places, yes, but they don’t do that round here. If they did, they would be shot by their intended victims.

    Which is why the statists are so keen on “gun control”. Can’t have Kristallnacht when the common people are gunning down the SA in the streets…

  • Runcie Balspune

    I’m with pete on this one, PayPal can do business with who they choose, and they do not have to give justification for it (apart from shareholders).

  • Stage one of the correct solution is to find or build social media and paypal-like businesses that are not PC-ruled. The talent is available. Not only do the west coast tech giants expel talented people for PC offenses from time to time, but there are many in the industry who might be attracted to an employer that adopted a meritocratic policy with guaranteed no firing for having the wrong politics – except that of wanting colleagues fired for having the wrong politics. The is also a pool of recently retired techies with the right skills and politics and the ability to work from home.

    Stage two of the solution is preventing the HR department of such businesses from becoming the trojan horse of a new PCness. Strict subordination of HR functions to the productive parts of the company should be designed in. Long before the present PC craziness, one of the mantras for reviving a failing company was “Sack the HR department!” and this can certainly be updated for modern conditions.

    (I’ve thought of this, but I like my current work, and happily work at a company with some aspects that protect against PC madness. Obviously I only have a subset of the wide range of skills needed.)

    Perhaps we need a state backed internet payment system (pete, November 14, 2018 at 8:24 am

    Always imagine a Clinton or Corbyn in charge of it before agitating for a state solution.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Runcie Balspune
    I’m with pete on this one, PayPal can do business with who they choose, and they do not have to give justification for it (apart from shareholders).

    I have actually changed my view on this due to some discussions here. I think what you say is broadly true, however, they cannot claim they are neutral carriers of material (and therefore not subject to slander, copyright infringement, and miscellaneous other laws) and then act as if they are not neutral carriers by picking and choosing. If you let everyone post nobody can question your choices, if you let Alice post but ban Bob then you open yourself to the question of why you did so, and a cascade of legal responsibilities follow.

    However, it seems to me that people who contribute to either Robinson or Antifa are probably pretty committed, and were these two to find an alternative payment processor that such committed followers would be willing to go to the inconvenience of setting up accounts to use these alternatives.

    Again, the solution is not banning, or laws insisting on action, or, god forbid, trust busting, it is competition.

  • bobby b

    The Paypals of the world exist because we’re in the infancy of internet security. People are wary of transactions which require that you type in your credit card information in order to transfer funds. Paypal simply registers your credit card information in your account, and then gives you an authorization password so that they can transfer your money for you. You go to Paypal, and ask them to charge your credit card without having to transfer your account information over an inherently insecure internet, or to possibly sketchy people.

    At some point, this security lapse will be fixed – likely as a result of competition amongst internet carriers and programmers – and then all of the Paypals of the world will instantly become obsolete.

    So, like most problems, this one goes away not through regulation, but through competition-driven advancement.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Paypal is successful because they have managed to sell the idea of an easy-to-use API that people can integrate on their retail websites, it won’t be long before mainstream banks get the same idea off the ground, and combine with blockchain to improve security. Paypal’s current dominance is based on first to market, and the initial rise in popularity was on the back of eBay. That wont hold forever, there are dozens of competitors out there waiting for acceptance by retailers, and probably with competitive fees.

    The bother of not being able to send money to an individual via Paypal is moot, the “faster payments” system is in almost every UK bank and I regularly pay for work like tree surgery and window cleaning using my regular bank app as they stand at the door.

    Paypal does not offer any anonymity and often charges a fee (to the payee), so its actually a no-brainer not to use it for payment to a known individual.

    If anything this is a PR move, whether it gains Paypal any credibility is not is open to discussion.

  • Kevin B

    It seems that UKIP members are now being suspended from Paypal so as the saying goes, “That escalated quickly.”

  • Sam Duncan

    I was about to post the same thing, Kevin. First they came for Tommy…

  • Fraser Orr

    Regarding the UKIP thing, I have a philosophy that one should never attribute to mendacity that which can be explained by stupidity. Let’s see how that one pans out before becoming too horrified.

    @bobby b, FWIW, my use of paypal (and I think I’d like to find a suitable alternative) is not because I don’t trust the internet to carry my credit card number safely, https is a pretty secure protocol (though there are things coming down the road that will make that no longer true), no my concern is that I don’t want some random vendor to have my CC number, so I’d rather that it was managed by one source who’s job is to protect my CC.

    Bitcoin is a great alternative that looked like it was going to be a success, however, speculators ruined the value base, and it is getting crushed by government regulation.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Google Pay, Amazon Pay and Visa Checkout are starting to appear, I just ordered a takeout and they were there.

    Perhaps UKIP could instruct all its members to abandon Paypal anyway.

  • bobby b

    @Fraser Orr, yeah, that’s why I added ” . . . or to possibly sketchy people.”

    It’s going to take some advance in security – maybe some sort of double-entry system where you send your CC info to your seller so they can be paid, and simultaneously send an authorization for ONE and ONLY ONE transaction for $XX to your credit card company so that your seller can’t keep billing you – before all utility for the Paypal-types disappears.

    But it will happen, I think.

    ” . . . so I’d rather that it was managed by one source who’s job is to protect my CC.”

    I’m a bit cynical about PayPutz’s job being to protect my CC – their job is to extract middleman money from transactions, and they have left me hanging and cost me money when my purchases or sales didn’t fit nicely into their worldview. While I’d rather avoid the idea of regulating them into civility, I’d shed no tears at their painful descent into obsolescence and bankruptcy. 😎

  • Laird

    “We need to push back against PayPal’s attempts to clamp down on groups it considers to be hateful or intolerant, and we need to challenge those who want to outsource censorship to the tech giants.”

    Unfortunately, that result is now baked into US law. The Communications Decency Act (47 USC §230) grants legal immunity for “any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.” (My emphasis.) Thus, Paypal, Facebook et al are given carte blanche to censor political opinion of which they disapprove. Whether content is “obscene” or “otherwise objectionable” is strictly in the eye of the beholder, and social media companies should not have the authority to unilaterally make that decision for everyone else. Or rather, since they are in fact private companies and thus should have the right to structure their business as they see fit, they should not be given blanket immunity from suit over the content which they permit to be published. By excluding some content they are effectively endorsing other content, and since the government immunizes such action it is, in fact, complicit in it. In my opinion this amounts to government approval of political opinion, which should be a violation of the 1st Amendment. But as far as I know no one has ever made that argument in court.

  • Laird

    Pete says “Perhaps we need a state backed internet payment system open for all lawful payments.” That won’t work. We have already seen the bank regulatory agencies force banks and credit card companies to close the accounts of perfectly lawful business which they consider “objectionable” (payday lenders, cannabis businesses in states where it is legal, gun dealers, etc.). It’s called “Operation Choke Point”, and it was initiated by (no surprise) the Obama Justice Department. The Trump administration has been trying to rein it in, but so far only with limited success. The “suggestions” issued by the regulators are still out there, and offensive as they are most banks don’t dare cross them. This is the inevitable result of government intervention; however well-intentioned, sooner or later the program comes under the control of someone like Obama or Hillary. Best to leave it private and work out the kinks.

  • bobby b

    “Whether content is “obscene” or “otherwise objectionable” is strictly in the eye of the beholder, and social media companies should not have the authority to unilaterally make that decision for everyone else.”

    Our host, PdH, limits and censors certain race-based commentary that crosses his own personal line. He can do this because this is his site, and he is the site-god.

    Everyone who regularly comments here has (seemingly) accepted that this is his right. I know that I do – I see it as his prerogative, as the proprietor of Samizdata.net.

    Like you, I’m troubled by the YouTube/Twatter/Facebook/Google power over what comes over my internet portal. But if I decide that that power is unacceptable in those corporate hands, how can I continue to support PdH’s right to limit racially-divisive discussion here?

    My point is, we cannot regulate private action and expect to achieve freedom. We need to incentivize private action instead. WE NEED PEOPLE WHO VALUE FREEDOM TO STOP USING FB/TW/PAYPAL/GOOGLE/ETC SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY’RE CONVENIENT.

    PdH can build his audience by using Twitter and FB. But he obviates the entire point of building his audience by patronizing such people. We all need to stop fraternizing with the enemy, and they are, indeed, our enemy.

  • Laird

    bobby b, I agree with you, but that was not my point. Perhaps I expressed it poorly. My objection is to US law granting absolute immunity from suit to companies such as Facebook which censor lawful content based on viewpoint. Sure, they can exclude it on their site if they like; that is their right. But if they choose to engage in such practice they should be subject to liability for the content which they do permit to appear, in the event it is found to be defamatory or otherwise actionable. It is only if the site is truly viewpoint neutral, and does not exclude anything not explicitly unlawful, that it should be protected from suit.

  • bobby b

    No, Laird, having gone back and re-read your comment, you expressed it fine, and I read it poorly – I read that one line outside of context. We are in agreement, on that point and as regards Operation Choke Point.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I don’t know whether they want it or not, but the co.s in question seem to be after the legal privileges of so-called “common carriers” without the restrictions pursuant thereto.

    There are two factors of human psychology in general in this situation that strike me as highly pertinent, because our combined voices do have a major effect on what is or isn’t done; even though the voices may disagree and those most vocal and having the most clout for whatever reason win the given day.

    1. We all like “free stuff,” and once we get used to having it we squeal like stuck pigs if we suddenly have to pay — whether in filthy lucre, or in putting up with ads or obnoxious (to us) people or whatever. That’s why people p-&-m about an article that’s “behind a paywall.” Stuff on the Net should be FREE!

    1.5. We get used to The Way Things Are, if they go on long enough and aren’t unbearably onerous…and when they become so, it becomes all but impossible to change. See the NHS; see Obamacare; see Medicare; see the Dept of Ed; see Venezuela.

    2. Besides, who has the right to withdraw a commodity or a service that we obviously need in order just to survive?! The Internet is clearly one such service/commodity. (The free access of info is another, interrelated one. Which also goes to the “intellectual property” issues, but I’ll skipit for now.) Same with telephone, with ‘lectric, with gas & water.

    Same with food, now that I think of it.

    I think I’ll vote for hard-core socialism next time around.

    (I hope all appreciate how cleverly I was able to jam 3 points into a 2-point space.)

    .

    You can’t get around any of that unless you hold liberty as the sine qua non. And even then, because we are also social animals and have emotions of affection and sympathy for other creatures and especially the ones like ourselves, and because 2 can accomplish in a day what 1 may never be able to accomplish in a lifetime, we are also bent toward “feeling for others” and wanting them to be, if not happy, at least reasonably comfortable in their various situations. And this necessarily comes into conflict with our need for liberty.

    But still, nobody ought to dictate what putzbook can do (short of fraud, violence, extortion). And nobody should exempt putzpal from paying the price of lost or increased custom based on its decisions about policy.

    It boils down to, What Laird and bobby Said, and others similarly down over the 17 years of Samizdata.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    Fraser Orr: “if you let Alice post but ban Bob then you open yourself to the question of why you did so, and a cascade of legal responsibilities follow”

    I don’t buy this at all. Ok, maybe “legal” responsibilities if the law is stupid enough. But moral? No.

    Runcie Balspune: “PayPal can do business with who they choose, and they do not have to give justification for it (apart from shareholders).”

    Yes. Especially “they do not have to give justification for it”, which means no responsibilities follow.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “It’s going to take some advance in security – maybe some sort of double-entry system where you send your CC info to your seller so they can be paid, and simultaneously send an authorization for ONE and ONLY ONE transaction for $XX to your credit card company so that your seller can’t keep billing you – before all utility for the Paypal-types disappears.”

    I’m pretty sure that’s already happened.

    https://www.theukdomain.uk/virtual-credit-card-numbers-everything-you-need-to-know/

  • Mr Ed

    Paypal is entitled to distance itself from funding violence, which is what Antifa is all about. Mr Robinson is not one who advocates violence, his crime is to be a chippy working-class man with a serious concern about what is happening in his country due to the ingress and accommodation of a certain culture. Paypal are not concerned about violence, but PR, it seems to me, and know that they look hypocritical.

  • Paul Marks

    “Paypal can do business with who they choose” – fine in a world where there were many payment processor companies.

    But in this world (as opposed to a fantasy world) GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS mean there are only a handful of processing companies – and it is easy for the left to control them.

    “You oppose Gay Marriage you homophobe – you can not buy food here!” but this supermarket is the only place in town to buy food “that is not our problem bigot!”.

    Do you really think that the owners of Paypal are like a Mom and Pop store? They are a Corporate Bureaucracy – that dances to the tune of the Frankfurt School left activists (as most big Corporations do).

    Get rid of the GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS that mean that a few big companies dominate most things – and then one can indeed say “it is up to the business who they do business with”.

  • bobby b

    In the continuing saga, Paypal has now shut down Bitchute’s account, for unspecified TOS violations.

    Bitchute offers a politically neutral alternative to Youtube, never banning accounts over philosophical differences.

    Paypal must die.

  • Paypal must die. (bobby b, November 15, 2018 at 5:13 pm)

    Fine by me, but it is rather more important that an alternative (one with bitchutes admirable philosophy) be born (or located or helped to grow larger). The upside is that its market is being vigorously grown by PayPal.

  • bobby b

    “Fine by me, but it is rather more important that an alternative (one with bitchutes admirable philosophy) be born (or located or helped to grow larger).”

    No, you misunderstand. That’s how I want it to die.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Paul, above on November 15, 2018 at 5:13 pm, observes:

    ‘“Paypal can do business with who they choose” – fine in a world where there were many payment processor companies.’

    I have to notice that somehow we lurched along before there were online payment processing companies.

    Anyway, if PP went belly-up because of bad policies resulting in lost custom, I think we would all survive somehow.

    (If it died through being throttled by government control over businesses on whatever whimsical intervention, the whole situation would be much worse. Heck, the whole situation –of businesses and therefore of Joe Sixpack in general– is much worse.)

    Actually, I imagine that PP/Mark II would swiftly appear. Maybe Peter T. himself might invent a better version.

    . . .

    Speaking of whom, the WikiFootia article on Mr. Thiel includes the following interesting passage on his impetus for starting PayPal (my boldface):

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Thiel#PayPal

    ‘…[A]ccording to Eric M. Jackson’s account in his book The PayPal Wars, Thiel viewed PayPal’s mission as liberating people throughout the world from the erosion of the value of their currencies due to inflation. Jackson recalls an inspirational speech by Thiel in 1999:

    “We’re definitely onto something big. The need PayPal answers is monumental. Everyone in the world needs money – to get paid, to trade, to live. Paper money is an ancient technology and an inconvenient means of payment. You can run out of it. It wears out. It can get lost or stolen. In the twenty-first century, people need a form of money that’s more convenient and secure, something that can be accessed from anywhere with a PDA or an Internet connection. Of course, what we’re calling ‘convenient’ for American users will be revolutionary for the developing world. Many of these countries’ governments play fast and loose with their currencies. They use inflation and sometimes wholesale currency devaluations, like we saw in Russia and several Southeast Asian countries last year [referring to the 1998 Russian and 1997 Asian financial crisis], to take wealth away from their citizens. Most of the ordinary people there never have an opportunity to open an offshore account or to get their hands on more than a few bills of a stable currency like U.S. dollars. Eventually PayPal will be able to change this. In the future, when we make our service available outside the U.S. and as Internet penetration continues to expand to all economic tiers of people, PayPal will give citizens worldwide more direct control over their currencies than they ever had before. It will be nearly impossible for corrupt governments to steal wealth from their people through their old means because if they try the people will switch to dollars or Pounds or Yen, in effect dumping the worthless local currency for something more secure.”[28] ‘

  • Fraser Orr

    Rob Fisher (Surrey)
    I don’t buy this at all. Ok, maybe “legal” responsibilities if the law is stupid enough. But moral? No.

    Let’s say you create a song and sell it on iTunes. I get a copy and post it on your web site. Then someone downloads it. Are you complicit in that theft? You could claim “I didn’t know that Fraser posted it”, which seems a reasonable justification. But if you examine your content to the point that you throw off some content you don’t like and leave mine then your claim that you don’t know about the content is really rather weaker. That is what I was talking about.

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