Gab, a social media platform that is extremely popular with neo-Nazis, is in trouble with its payment processor — not because it is overrun with white supremacist propaganda and Holocaust denialism but because there’s too much porn on the site.
Stripe, which processes payment for Gab’s paid accounts, told Gab CEO Andrew Torba on Wednesday it had frozen Gab’s account after identifying “adult content” on the platform. Stripe gave Torba until Oct. 19 to make changes to its terms of service and implement controls that would prevent pornographic material from appearing on Gab.
If Torba doesn’t make those changes, Stripe will stop doing business with Gab, the payment processor said. In the meantime, Torba can’t transfer money out of his Stripe account into his bank account and Gab users can’t sign up for GabPro, the paid account.
Stripe is “effectively cutting off a big portion of our revenue at the knees until we meet their demands, Torba said in a video statement posted on Twitter.
Torba claimed in a Securities and Exchange Commission report earlier this year to have had more than 3,800 GabPro subscribers as of Jan. 25. But the company is in a financially precarious situation. In the March SEC report, Torba wrote that he was trying to raise up to $10 million to keep the company afloat. “Even if the maximum amount is raised, we may need additional funds in the future in order to grow, and if we cannot raise those funds for whatever reason, including reasons outside our control, such as another significant downturn in the economy, we may not survive,” Torba admitted.
Torba, who positions himself as a free-speech crusader, has long claimed that he and his Nazi-ridden cesspool of a platform are under attack by everyone from journalists, to politicians, to web hosting providers. He has presented Gab as a content-neutral alternative to Twitter, a proposition that appealed to swaths of neo-Nazis who had been kicked off of Twitter for being too violently racist. But it’s no accident that Gab has attracted flocks of white supremacists — the platform’s frog logo is reminiscent of an internet meme that has turned into a hate symbol.
Stripe’s move, according to Torba, is the latest example of censorship from the mainstream.
It’s possible that Stripe got fed up with all the white supremacists on Gab and cited porn as a pretext to stop doing business with the social media platform. But there’s not a lot of evidence to support that theory. Stripe has quietly worked with a bevy of white nationalist groups and publications: Fash the Nation, a neo-Nazi blog; Oath Keepers, a far-right anti-government militia; League of the South, a white supremacist group; and Red Ice, a Swedish white nationalist website, to name a few. Although other payment processors, like PayPal, have taken a public stand on deplatforming hate groups, Stripe has refused to engage publicly on the matter and did not respond to a request for comment.
But porn is one of the few things that Stripe, like most payment processors, explicitly prohibits. Stripe is not allowed to process payments for adult content, according to its agreements with banks and credit card companies, explained a source who used to work with a payment processing company and who requested anonymity to discuss internal decisions. That’s because adult content requires a “high-risk merchant account,” which Stripe doesn’t have, the source said.
Torba said Wednesay that it would be “impossible” for him to purge Gab of porn. He also claimed, without providing evidence, that websites like Pinterest and National Geographic have porn on their sites but go unpunished by payment processors.
The Gab CEO theorized that Stripe’s move was related to Twitter’s decision to kick conspiracy theorist Alex Jones off its platform last month. “Gab is one of the only places on the Internet that you can now find Alex Jones, so it comes as no surprise that we are being targeted at the infrastructure level for hosting him and for hosting other people that are now banned effectively from the rest of the entire internet,” Torba said in his video statement.
This article has been updated to include information from Gab’s SEC report.