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.