Dug Campbell

Patreon Censorship: The Story Continues

I’d originally planned to start the year with a review of the top books I’d read in 2018. But after seeing this video today, it’s a natural follow-up to my previous piece on digital patronage. As I’d mentioned in the last line, there’s so much more to discuss on this topic. So to see a couple of other big Patreon-supported names confirm today that they’re leaving the platform over concerns about censorship, it feels like the beginning of a more significant movement starting to shape up.

I realise that both Dave Rubin and Jordan Peterson can be divisive. But they both rely on significant financial support for their work from supporters via Patreon’s platform. So to see them announce that have chosen to cut off those not insignificant income streams voluntarily as a result of their discomfort at Patreon’s growing proclivity to censor content places them in a positive light.

Here’s a couple of quotes from the conversation – first up, from Jordan Peterson:-

“I think the biggest danger here…and it’s just made my jaw drop over the last couple of weeks thinking about it…is the fact that the credit card companies are taking it upon themselves to potentially police the activities of their users….I can’t think of anything more totalitarian than that.”

Next up, from Dave Rubin:-

“Maybe this will be the defining idea of 2019, that we’re basically at the point where people have to decide what sort of internet they want. And it’s not just internet – it’s ‘what sort of freedom do you want in a digital world? What type of ability to communicate with other people do you want? And if you want something that’s a little better than we’ve got right now, we’d better standup quick because this window – we know it’s closing slowly but we never know when it’s really going to slam shut quick.”

This is particularly interesting to me as this area is one in which many of my interests collide. Sovereign digital currency, free speech, the rights to self-publication, the ability to spread ideas virally without barriers – here is the crucible in which the concepts comes smashing into one another. It’s where a new sustainable future will be forged – or the existing world will very well break under the pressure. And it’s a great example of just how pervasive (and divisive) the influence of money is in the human world (both ancient and modern).

At this stage, without a solution in general use, as has been pointed out many (many) times before, we’re dicing with passive acceptance of a future that I believe that few truly want to live in. After all, do we not care if our spending habits are monitored by large corporate third parties to whom we then grant the authority to actively police and control the activities of society?

It’s an incredibly thin line to move from cancelling transactions to denying individuals the right to hold political views that run counter to those in power, for example. And even you do believe that some institutions should have the right to do this, my vote doesn’t go to awarding such power to companies such as Visa and Mastercard…

There’s a great page on the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) that focuses on precisely why payment processors can be so destructive to free speech:

“they are attractive points of control for anyone hoping to use Internet intermediaries as censors — especially governments seeking to censor speech”

Today, there are plenty of ideas, and some are very close. But there’s no easy solution out there today. But it’s a challenge that will only get harder over time unless people start to act yesterday. Failing that, start today. You can build and/or support the systems that enable individuals to transact and support each other directly. It’s exactly the reason why a decentralised internet – and cryptocurrency – is so vital moving forwards.