PayPal CEO Dan Schulman recently revealed that his company has teamed up with the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to determine which groups or individuals should be banned from using the online money transfer service. The decision follows a growing trend of businesses and social media platforms who seek to enforce their own standards of acceptable beliefs and values by targeting so-called “hate speech.”
What’s particularly concerning about PayPal’s decision to enlist the SPLC to root out “hate groups” is the organization’s long history of targeting conservatives and those who hold traditional Christian views or speak out against Islamist extremism. The progressive legal organization has sought to silence Christian groups like D. James Kennedy Ministries, the Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom by deeming them “extremist” and “hate groups.”
A growing trend
As Faithwire reported last May, Alliance Defending Freedom, which defended Christian baker Jack Phillips in a landmark Supreme Court victory, was removed from Amazon Smile — an Amazon platform that donates a small percentage of proceeds from eligible items to the nonprofit of customers’ choosing — after the online shopping giant partnered with the SPLC to flag hate groups.
The SPLC compiles an extensive list of these so-called hate groups, and its website features a “hate map” of more than 950 organizations across the country.
“The Alliance Defending Freedom spreads demonizing lies about the LGBT community in this country and seeks to criminalize it abroad,” the SPLC said back in 2017.
And of course, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have on several occasions banned conservatives and Christians for allegedly violating “community standards” regarding hateful content, while allowing select progressive groups and individuals who share hateful content to continue without penalty.
The pervasive modern concept that companies with the power to regulate speech are morally obligated to do so has gained the backing of Silicon Valley giants like Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Tim Cook. Back in December, Cook suggested it would be “a sin” not to ban certain people and groups from social media.
“We only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division, and violence: You have no place on our platforms. You have no home here,” the Apple CEO said while accepting the “Courage Against Hate” award at a gala hosted by the Anti-Defamation League in New York City.
Justice according to whom?
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal this month, PayPal’s Schulman said that his company partners with groups on the right and the left to determine who gets blacklisted.
“There are those both on the right and left that help us. Southern Poverty Law Center has brought things,” Schulman 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.”
Despite these claims, however, the majority of banned groups and individuals fall on the right end of the political spectrum. According to, Breitbart, WikiLeaks, Infowars, conservative commentator Gavin McInnes, conservative activist Tommy Robinson and investigative journalist Laura Loomer have all been blocked from using PayPal.
In his interview with the Wall Street Journal, Schulman offered a valuable glimpse into the rationale behind companies that regulate hate speech.
“Because the line between free speech and hate, nobody teaches it to you in college. Nobody’s defined it in the law,” he said. “The reason we had to expand the group is because websites may say something, but the links they have can link to hateful material and videos. You can’t look at a headline and make a determination. You have to spend time to really think about it.”
“Businesses need to be a force for good in those values and issues that they believe in,” he added.
The problem, of course, hinges on a business’s definition of “good.” If they’re drawing from standards laid out by the SPLC, the chances of a business becoming a force for great evil and injustice are huge. If being a “force for good” means forcibly banning those who believe in the biblical teaching on sexual morality or who oppose radical jihadism, we should be very worried.
“While the SPLC did good work years ago, the group has long since devolved into a far-left propaganda machine that falsely attacks those with whom it disagrees,” Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel, Jeremy Tedesco, told Faithwire. “In fact, the SPLC has been sued multiple times for unjustly spreading falsities about groups in order to shut down speech that they do not like.”
Tedesco mentioned the $3.375 million settlement the SPLC was forced to pay Islamic radical turned conservative Maajid Nawaz last year for including him in its “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.”
“It is deeply troubling that PayPal would rely on a discredited, slanderous organization to operate their business,” he noted. “Free speech and diverse opinions are essential in a pluralistic society such as ours, but the SPLC seeks to sow discord and silence speech. Alliance Defending Freedom and even some of its ideological opponents have sharply criticized the SPLC for attacking free speech. The best response to speech you don’t like is more speech, never censorship.”
The problem of moral relativism
When humans become the moral standard bearers, mistakes are bound to be made. Without any transcendent framework from which to draw, concepts like “justice” and “hate” become relative to the values and objectives of those in power. Under this standard, injustice flourishes.
PayPal’s decision to partner with the SPLC is certainly not surprising, and many other companies are likely to follow suit. This should concern Christians who look to biblical teaching as the ultimate standard of justice, but it also serves as a reminder not to place our hope in man-made institutions that are often just as morally lost as the rest of society.