PayPal and the ADL Are Hiding Their Partners in an Effort To Fight Extremism

Coalition leaders say their goal is to deplatform groups they deem objectionable

(Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
July 28, 2021

PayPal and the Anti-Defamation League are hiding the names of nonprofits with which they are partnering to track and disrupt payments from extremist groups, a move that could increase censorship online.

The two groups announced that they would work together to research "how extremist and hate movements" are transferring money online and that the initiative would involve "the establishment and expansion of a coalition with other civil rights partner organizations." But PayPal and the ADL refuse to disclose the other nonprofits involved beyond the left-wing League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

Although the ADL and LULAC have described the partnership as a research project, both groups' leaders suggested the end goal was deplatforming groups they deem objectionable. In an interview Tuesday, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said better understanding how extremist groups use PayPal could "help disrupt those activities." LULAC CEO Sindy Benavides said she looked forward to "attacking these hateful groups' revenue sources."

PayPal, the ADL, and LULAC did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The move indicates that PayPal is increasingly comfortable letting left-wing activists decide who should have access to their system. Social media platforms have long used concerns about "hate speech" and "extremism" to remove users, but those tactics are increasingly being used to deny access to other sectors.

This is not the first time PayPal has banned users based on their politics. The platform removed a number of alt-right influencers in 2017, citing the need to strike a balance between "respect for people of all backgrounds and upholding the values of free expression." The ADL partnership will not focus on explicitly criminal activity, instead targeting "bigotry in all its forms." Reuters reports that the partnership will target both racial and "anti-immigrant bigotry."

The ADL bills itself as "the world's leading anti-hate organization," but it regularly gets involved in partisan politics. The organization strongly opposed Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, citing his "hostility to reproductive freedom." It has also worked with Al Sharpton to lobby Facebook for more aggressive censorship.

LULAC came under fire for funneling illegal corporate donations to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.

The partnership received immediate support from Democratic officials. The press release quoted Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance Jr. as saying, "I applaud PayPal and the ADL for joining forces to combat hate and extremist movements who seek to utilize financial platforms to bankroll their criminal activities and profit from the spread of racism and bigotry."