Earlier this week, a colleague of mine at the Mercury noticed something that didn't seem right.
While looking into the people behind the racist and violent rally in Charlottesville, and then into support for one of the leaders of the white nationalist movement, Richard Spencer, she noticed that one of Spencer's bile-spewing websites, altright.com, includes a link where it can receive donations via PayPal.
That's odd, because PayPal's rules say it's not supposed to process donations for operations like altright.com. The company's acceptable use policy says users may not use the platform for, among other things, "the promotion of hate, violence, racial intolerance or the financial exploitation of a crime." Which, you know, is precisely what altright.com is up to.
For instance, a recent, whiny post titled "The Alt-Right Were The Victims Of Domestic Terrorism" begins, "On August 12th, the collective brotherhood of the Alt-Right, along with many others who share our beliefs and love for our White race, were victims of a brutal and coordinated anti-White terrorist attack at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia."
(Around the same time we noticed this, the Associated Press was clarifying its rules for using the term "alt-right," with the company's vice president for standards noting, “We have taken the position that the term ‘alt-right’ should be avoided because it is meant as a euphemism to disguise racist aims.”)
Anyway, on Monday, we asked PayPal what the deal was. After inquiring about our deadline, and promising to get back to us ASAP, spokesperson Kim Eichorn sent along a link the next day. It was to a freshly posted statement from the company's senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications.
It reads, in part:
"Regardless of the individual or organization in question, we work to ensure that our services are not used to accept payments or donations for activities that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance. This includes organizations that advocate racist views, such as the KKK, white supremacist groups or Nazi groups. If we become aware of a website or organization using our services that may violate our policies, our highly trained team of experts addresses each case individually and carefully evaluates the website itself, any associated organizations, and their adherence to our policy."
"We don't have further comment at this time," Eichorn wrote when sending the link. When we asked her to clarify whether PayPal was still accepting donations on behalf of altright.com, she wouldn't say.
"Per company policy, we cannot comment or provide information on the status of specific accounts," she wrote.
But it appears a decision was made. Several days ago, the link to altright.com's PayPal account reached a working page. Now it forwards to a message: "This recipient is currently unable to receive money."
The Washington Post reported on the statement PayPal issued after our inquiry, and subsequent terminations of accounts associated with white supremacist organizations.