By Caleb Parke
Published February 28, 2019
Paypal is under fire from religious groups and conservatives after its CEO recently revealed it works with the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to help identify accounts to ban from the payment platform.
The groups are calling for a boycott of the digital payment system because it is collaborating with a group that lists several conservative Christian organizations as "hate groups" or "extremists" because of their religious views.
SPLC has targeted conservative groups like the Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom, but also more recently it went after Maajid Nawaz, a liberal who was a former Islamic radical. The SPLC labeled him and others "anti-Muslim extremists" but later apologized and paid him $3.375 million to settle a lawsuit. Columnist Marc Thiessen said the SPLC "has become a caricature of itself, labeling virtually anyone who does not fall in line with its left-wing ideology an 'extremist' or 'hate group.'"
PayPal CEO Dan Schulman told The Wall Street Journal it uses SPLC as part of its mission toward "diversity and inclusion."
"Our mission is to democratize financial access for all citizens so that managing and moving money is a right for everybody, not a privilege for the affluent," he said.
But conservative groups wonder if working with the SPLC means the platform will begin banning Christians.
"PayPal relies on the radical left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center to decide on who to ban from their platform. #BoycottPayPal," tweeted Brigitte Gabriel, the founder of ACT! for America, a group that is against radical Islam and has been deemed a hate group by the SPLC.
In 2010, SPLC placed the Family Research Council (FRC) -- a conservative Christian advocacy group that opposes abortion and same-sex marriage -- on its "hate map." Two years later, a gunman walked into the FRC headquarters with the intention to "kill as many as possible and smear the Chick-fil-A sandwiches in victims' faces." He told the FBI that he had used the SPLC website to pick his target.
The FBI removed the SPLC from its list of legitimate resources on hate crimes, but other groups have not.
Schulman said their "brand-reputation group" monitors and enforces the bans with help from outside groups that align with their values.
"There are those both on the right and left that help us. Southern Poverty Law Center has brought things," Shulman said. "We don’t always agree. We have our debates with them. We are very respectful with everyone coming in. We will do the examination carefully. We’ll talk when we don’t agree with a finding: We understand why you think that way, but it still goes into the realm of free speech for us."
He admits "hate speech" is subjective.
"Where do we draw a line around hate?" Schulman said. "Because the line between free speech and hate, nobody teaches it to you in college. Nobody’s defined it in the law."
PayPal has blocked Infowars host Alex Jones for "hate and discriminatory intolerance," and the online platform, Gab, after it was revealed the suspect in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre posted anti-Semitic notes on the messaging platform.
PayPal defended itself by says it has the right to terminate a user's account "for any reason and at any time" under its user agreement.
The move has many conservatives and Christians worried, especially since the payment platform canceled plans to open a global operations center in Charlotte, North Carolina after the city passed a transgender bathroom ordinance, a move that would've brought an estimated 400 jobs and $3.6 million investment to the city.
The left-leaning group, Electronic Frontier Foundation, which supports free expression and privacy online, slammed PayPal as "de facto internet censors" who "don't have the expertise to judge whether speech has societal value or violates the First Amendment."