New Report Shows Online Payment Processors Still Have a Hate Group Problem

Members of the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Movement prepare for a rally in Little Rock, Arkansas, in November 2018. (Photo: Jared Holt for Right Wing Watch)

A new report shows that online payment processors and merchants​, including Stripe, Amazon, and DonorBox, continue to facilitate the financial solvency of racist hate groups in a time where extremism-related crimes have spiked.

In a report published Monday, Center for Media and Democracy investigative reporter Alex Kotch found that “at least 24 white nationalist, neo-Nazi, and neo-Confederate groups use one or more online fundraising services​​.” Kotch used Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2019 list of hate groups as a reference. Even as some payment facilitators have attempted to revoke ​these groups’ ability to ​fundraise, determined groups have found ways to get around bans.

“In some cases, these groups have slipped through the cracks of company policies; in others, the policies are not strict enough to ban certain white nationalist groups,” Kotch writes.

Right Wing Watch and ThinkProgress co-published a report in August 2018 that found that many of the country’s best known white supremacist groups were still bringing in revenue through the use of several ​of the largest online payment processors a full year after those companies had promised to combat hate on their platforms​. That promise came in wake of the violent Unite the Right white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia,​ in 2017, which resulted in ​the murder​ of an anti-hate activist. Stripe, one of the most-used processors by extremists, was notified of the problem by anti-hate activists last spring​, but the company chose inaction.

CMD’s report makes clear that the problem continues to persist at an alarming scale. In one particularly shocking example from the report, ​founder Philip Lester of GiveForms​, a paid nonprofit fundraising tool, was asked about his company’s handling of payments for the white nationalist hate group American Freedom Party. After a conversation with the group’s web administrator, Lester reportedly determined that there was no “empirical evidence of racism, hatred or bigotry being promoted” by AFP, an organization founded by neo-Nazi skinheads and ​whose leaders engage with anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

The number of hate groups continues to increase in the United States​, and horrific acts of violence have spun out of white nationalist ideology in the last few years. As ​the United States turns toward 2020 ​and ​an election that many extremists view as make-or-break for their movement, it is unclear when, if ever, payment processors will ​stand up against hate the way many promised they would in 2017.