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PayPal Cuts Off Alex Jones’s Infowars, Joining Other Tech Giants

PayPal Cuts Off Alex Jones’s Infowars, Joining Other Tech Giants
By: New York Times Posted On: September 21, 2018 View: 26

PayPal Cuts Off Alex Jones’s Infowars, Joining Other Tech Giants

PayPal Cuts Off Alex Jones’s Infowars, Joining Other Tech Giants

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PayPal’s decision to stop processing payments for Infowars could be particularly damaging to its operator, Alex Jones, because finding another company to handle transactions will be difficult.CreditCreditJustin Sullivan/Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO — PayPal has become the latest tech giant to cut off Infowars, the conspiracy website run by the right-wing provocateur Alex Jones.

Infowars was informed by PayPal on Thursday night that it would have 10 business days to find a new payment processor.

PayPal handles all transactions, including credit cards, for the Infowars online store. The store has been a significant source of revenue for the company, selling vitamins and nutritional supplements, as well as Infowars-branded apparel. PayPal has also handled donations that Infowars receives from its supporters.

PayPal acted weeks after Twitter, Facebook and other large tech companies blocked Infowars from their services. Most of those companies said the site had violated their policies by promoting hate speech and misinformation.

PayPal said it had made its decision not because of any policy violation but because Infowars’ “promotion of hate and discrimination runs counter to our core value of inclusion.”

“Our values are the foundation for the decision we made this week,” PayPal added.

The aggressive steps against Infowars have become fodder for claims that Silicon Valley companies are biased against conservative voices — an opinion expressed by President Trump and a number of Republican officials. Jeff Sessions, the United States attorney general, plans to meet with Republican state attorneys general next week to discuss the tech industry, competition and free speech.

Mr. Jones attended a recent Senate hearing where Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg discussed efforts by their companies to deal with disinformation on their platforms. And after a separate House hearing that directly addressed Republican claims that Twitter was biased against conservatives, Mr. Jones tried to confront Mr. Dorsey on Mr. Dorsey’s way out.

After the phaseout period of 10 business days, PayPal will stop doing any business with Infowars and its subsidiaries, like the site Prison Planet, a PayPal spokesman said.

The spokesman declined to cite any specific problems that had led to the decision, but said that after “extensive reviews” the company had “found many instances of content that promoted hate and discriminatory intolerance against certain communities and religions.”

This is not the first time that PayPal has waded into politically fraught territory. In 2010, the company cut off payments to WikiLeaks. More recently, PayPal stopped working with neo-Nazi and alt-right websites.

Records from 2014 show that Mr. Jones’s operations were bringing in nearly $20 million, mostly from supplements, such as Super Male Vitality, which purports to increase testosterone, that he hawks on his radio shows, The New York Times recently reported.

Since being barred from Facebook and Twitter, Infowars has had to find new online platforms, and its audience has fallen off significantly. But PayPal’s decision may be particularly damaging, because it will be much harder for Infowars to find another company to handle transactions for the site.

For now, Infowars is still able to sell at least some of its goods on Amazon and eBay, where its payments are not handled by PayPal.

An article on the Infowars site that announced PayPal’s decision said the move was a “political ploy designed to financially sabotage an influential media outlet just weeks before the midterm elections.”

The article said PayPal had told Infowars that the decision was made because Infowars had violated its “acceptable use policy.” PayPal’s spokesman said its decision went beyond the violation of any single policy.

Right Wing Watch, a progressive advocacy organization, published an article in August pointing out areas where Infowars appeared to be violating PayPal’s terms of service. At the time, PayPal did not take action and offered no comment.

Infowars did not respond to an email requesting comment.

Follow Nathaniel Popper on Twitter: @nathanielpopper

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