Patreon: A Threat To Free Speech

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

What began as a laudable business model to fund individual content creators such as writers, bloggers, vloggers, and artists–providing many now with generous incomes aggregated from their subscribers–has devolved into heavy-handed practices antithetical to the basic tenets of Free Speech, small business, and the spirit of Self-Employment and  Self-Sufficiency. The platform exercises the worst kind of censorship, cutting off the incomes of individuals and their families for often arbitrary accusations of unacceptable speech off-platform or for association with those Patreon finds objectionable.

This censorship is not just for content hosted by Patreon, as many former subscribers to their service report that they are forced to walk a fine line in their own personal lives for fear that Patreon’s “Trust and Safety” team will take away their patrons and lifestyle for engaging in wrong-think or speech.

For those unfamiliar with Patreon the company describes itself as a funding source where, “Membership allows [content creators] like you to have a direct relationship with your biggest fans, get recurring revenue for your work, and create on your own terms.”–content creators being those such as artist, videographers, writers et al. Or, as Jack Conte states, “is a membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service as well as ways for artists to build relationships and provide exclusive experiences to their subscribers, or patrons.”

Among other tools afforded for the use of its subscribers in specific essence customer content creators may use the service to attract “Patrons” who are individuals or entities to fund their enterprise or content. In consideration of Patreon’s service, the company states it allocates five-percent of the Patrons’ pledges to payment processing, five-percent for fees on their service, and returns ninety-percent to the content-creator. Aside from a minor controversy regarding these fees several months ago, the company presents itself as transparent to what it charges.

If Patreon chose to limit its supervision and marshaling of members’ accounts to payment transactions, compliance with banking and credit card rules and compliance with applicable federal and state laws, it could maintain what I believe to have been a reasonable solution for a growing niche market of customers who wish to supplement or supplant their ordinary income and in a way that is neutral and liquid. Unfortunately, recent actions by Patreon show that its priorities have deviated. It has chosen a path of political idealism that threatens not only free speech, but in my view the long term health of that type of business model.

By its actions, Patreon appears to be using a political litmus test to decide which content it will permit to fund. Starting in the late part of this year the company began its purge of members espousing beliefs for which they do not agree, it is especially come to notoriety because it recently sacked one of its most successful revenue generators, Carl Benjamin, who Vice reportedly formerly earned over $12,000 per month from the Patreon Service.  Here is a video of Mr. Benjamin’s position:

While the above video is lengthy–the first seventeen minutes establish the row–I highly recommend listening to this as it brings forth most of the nuances of the problem Patreon faces with its perceived need to censor others. (One can adjust the speed of the playback using the gear-like icon in the video.)

The censoring and banning of Mr. Benjamin began to have cascading effects on other Patreon customers, both Patrons and Content-Creators. Often Patrons benefactor more than one Content-Creator. Those who witnessed the censorship of on of their artists voted their objection with their pocket book and closed their Patron account, leading to the removal of patronage of all their other donation recipients.  Here are three examples:

Escaping from the controversy and emotion that might be swept up in this latest dust storm we should look at the matter from a business perspective of the ordinary content-creator who desires to earn income from their work and speech. All things being equal would it be wise to trust one’s livelihood to an uncertain partner?

Trust is the basis for business. For myself, I am not willing to risk that a vendor or transaction processor will without warning take away my livelihood. Why would I do business with a credit card processor who might at some point not like an advertisement outside my place of business and suddenly close my credit card merchant account when half of my sales are transacted using plastic? In fact, I would honestly be foolish to place all my eggs in one basket and become dependent on a merchant such as Patreon. My overlord giveth and he taketh away.  They provide an income and then expect to control me as a result of that income. And from the examples alleged above, nobody in my view is truly safe.  If you say one act that the Praetorian Guard, I mean Patreon’s Trust and Safety Team, objects it’s time to close up shop.

To those who have a false sense of hope that because they might align politically or at least idealistically with Patreon’s management and are thereby safe, think again. I believe history shows that once an organization or a nation empowers itself to dictate behavior and begins decimation of its ranks of those who do not subscribe or comply, each successive iteration of the ten-percent purge further concentrates the realm of acceptable behavior until only the rule makers are the ones having sanctuary. Moreover, the loss of a diametrical opposition within the group, despite this as being the spoils of victory for the censors, only means the enforcers will turn inward in seeking out others to purge.

The danger that this manner of thinking shown by Patreon presents is it forces individuals to self-censor themselves and curtail their own lives for fear the likes of the Praetorian Guard might be looking. Furthermore, creativity remains stifled since any wrong-think results in punishment and banishment.

Patreon probably started its venture as one to foster a marketplace of creativity and ideas, yet it is becoming through what I view it’s actions are more akin to cold-war Eastern Europe. Patreon’s CEO in the video at the top claims that his management team does go to length to verify if its terms of service is violated and thus subject a user to sanctioning (though I disagree since it seems evident to me his actions are otherwise) they are missing the point. Simply having such a team is antithetical to free speech.  Thiers is essentially an ex parte Star Chamber that decides what is and what is not acceptable behavior or speech.  Other than the banking and legal compliance that I aforementioned, this is NOT their place to decide.  My bank does not dictate how I spend my money: who I give it to; which grocery stores I patronize; nor which books I buy or films I see. They frankly have other affairs to manage. They do not take away my savings because I talked with a Episcopalian Minister while in line at the Department of Licensing or the Cowboys who gave me a thumbs up because I had a customized car license plate they found humorous.

Yet, I do see some potential for private enterprise to bypass this type of censorship and gain quite a bit of money in the process–the niche market of crowd funding all the internets misfits and ordinary people.  But thanks to Patreon’s censorship and arrogance, they just might have provided the impetus and opportunity for such a venture.

Dr. Jordan Peterson took exception to Patreon’s behavior and stated that he is researching starting an alternative funding site to the Silicon Valley’s control and domination:

I hope that Patreon elects to make a full reversal of its need to engage in censorship but I have little faith they will. Their actions in this controversy certainly are not based upon good business acumen but rather seems more aligned with politics and personalities. But if they don’t, they can become irrelevant as the only customer base they can attract is an increasingly blander flavor of mediocrity representing only a sliver of the potential human thought expressed as the internet generally.  I trust that they will feel safe in that vision.

By Darren Smith

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

39 thoughts on “Patreon: A Threat To Free Speech”

  1. The definition of VISA and MasterCard. is an instant loan to be used to acquire anything.

  2. The Left has taken a Stalinesque approach to Social Engineering.

    First, the hard Left saturated the education system, from pre-K to graduate school. We now have a national environment where conservative students are openly harassed by the teachers and professors themselves. They have contrived to make campuses hostile to the right.

    Then, they filled key positions in the government alphabet soup. We now have an IRS, NSA, FBI, DOJ, EPA and various other agencies that are weaponized against conservatives.

    The Left controls the flow of information, not only in the classroom, but through all media as well. The mainstream media is blatantly Left, preferentially excluding stories that are favorable to the right. They have repeatedly been found guilty of misinformation about the right, including and especially Donald Trump. No event is too petty, as they even selectively edited the footage of his feeding the koi with the Prime Minister of Japan. They cut out the part where the Japanese minister dumped out the crumbs left over in his feeding bowl to the koi, and only showed Trump doing so, to make him look disrespectful. The lengths to which the media went to protect Hillary Clinton – from not discussing her selling 1/5 of US uranium to Russia, paying Russian spies for false information on her political opponent in an effort to defraud voters, and her smashing of her phones and laptops while under subpoena may be considered a campaign contribution. Hollywood, too, is so far Left that conservative actors are ostracized. The Left controls the news, and the movies, generating entire generations of voters who are dependent upon their propaganda for information.

    Silicon Valley is Left, too, which means that technology is weaponized against conservatives, too. The GOOGLE algorhythm leans so far Left is faceplants. Everything uses that algorhythm – including other internet browsers. GOOGLE has admitted that it will try to influence the next election to go Democrat. Facebook, YouTube, and Patreon all censor conservatives, giving a financial incentive to people to follow the Left party line, or at least not share their views publicly.

    This isn’t freedom. This is like China’s Social Credit program, where citizens are punished or rewarded by how well they obey the State.

    All the tech companies are businesses. If they want to discriminate, fine, but they should have to advertise accurately. They should be forced to admit that they are really a Democrat platform, and will be biased and censor all right leaning content. In addition, they will also persecute straight and Lesbian women if they don’t want transgender men with penises in their private spaces, such as changing stalls and showers. Wearing a genitalia hat at the Women’s March did not protect them from the rage of the Left.

    These companies must be found guilty of false advertising. They are not non biased as they’ve repeatedly claimed. Advertise correctly, and fill the niche with unbiased content platforms. In addition, we need the Department of Education to get a handle on the Democrat madrassas all across the country pretending to be public education. No more political bias in the class room. No more common core forcing children to do complicated gimmicks to do basic math. (Die, lattice method multiplication! Die!) Get the politics out of class and force them to be non biased and non discriminatory.

    If there were non biased internet options, search algorhyms, and no more Democrat proselytizing in K-grad school, and no more bias in government agencies, we would have a free country again. The tech companies would just have created a juicy market for their non biased competitors. When the madrassas stop operating in our elementary schools, we would have more high school graduates who understand that Socialism killled millions of people and capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other method. They would have basic critical thinking skills to question the mainstream media and Hollywood. And perhaps they would realize the irony of the big studios moving so much of their operations to other states and overseas for the tax advantages.

    1. I neglected to mention that Square and other payment processors also are Leftist companies. Every aspect of our lives is becoming ruled by the far Left, which is insisting that we all get in line.

      1. “Every aspect of our lives is becoming ruled by the far Left, which is insisting that we all get in line.”

        Utter nonsense from Karen S.

      2. ₮ħḯƨ ḯƨ ѡħƴ ѡϵ ƨħѳǔłđ ӎäҟϵ ϵⱴϵᴦƴ ϵƒƒѳᴦţ ţѳѡäᴦđ ƨϵłƒ-ƨǔƒƒḯḉḯϵﬡḉƴ. Ḯﬡ ӎƴ ᴘᴦäḉţḯḉϵƨ ḯƒ ä Ƀǔƨḯﬡϵƨƨ ţᴦḯϵƨ ţѳ ᴘᴦѳĵϵḉţ ţħϵḯᴦ ǔﬡѡäﬡţϵđ ᴘѳłḯţḯḉƨ ѳﬡţѳ ӎϵ Ḯ ƨḯӎᴘłƴ ƨţѳᴘ đѳḯﬡǥ Ƀǔƨḯﬡϵƨƨ ѡḯţħ ţħϵӎ äﬡđ ḯƒ Ḯ ḉäﬡﬡѳţ Ḯ ӎḯﬡḯӎḯƶϵ ḯţ äƨ ӎǔḉħ äƨ ᴘѳƨƨḯɃłϵ. Ḯƒ ä ḉḯţƴ ḉħäᴦǥϵƨ ţѳѳ ӎǔḉħ ḯﬡ ƨäłϵƨ ţäж Ḯ ƨħѳᴘ ϵłƨϵѡħϵᴦϵ. Ḯţ’ƨ ᴦϵäłłƴ ţħäţ ϵäƨƴ.

  3. A very powerful and informative conversation with Patreon’s representative, a real revelation of the arbitrary rules they use:

    1. Gee Trieste – they did a dramatic (?) reading of the phone call transcript that is available at Sargon of Akkad’s site. 😉 It is enlightening.

  4. Social media do not wish to – It helps to not mix up the whole with the parts or even to speak for all instead of some.

    social media does not …. plural form
    this social media does not … singular form
    social media do not????? illiterate form.

    So just what was your point?

  5. Tried them and got the wrong signals right off the bat but never gave them any correct information. Using another name and computer gave them the answers they seemed to want and no problem. /s/ Frederick T. Gremlin III

  6. It seems to me that what Patreon does is to allow hobbies to turn into businesses. I think what this situation needs is the creation of other funding platforms, with less controversy. It is becoming annoying that more and more YouTube video clips include the Patreon commercial.

  7. Darren, I applaud your passionate defense of free speech and especially your revulsion that an artist’s work was subject to censorship. It brought to mind your anger and efforts to close down the sale of artwork by a prison convict, a native American convicted of murder. I am confused that that artist ought to be shut down, but the Patreon’s censorship offends you enormously. How does that work?

  8. Darren makes some great points using analogies to the real world. Unfortunately, you cannot change the stench of filth without throwing it all out and starting over, in which case you must then employ policy and practice that prevent stench in the first place. In this way, Patreon has absolutely zero future except in the sewer. Even Dr. Jordan B Peterson believes as much, otherwise he’d call for a house cleaning rather than proposing for a competitor startup.

    I started out as a pioneer user of the Internet, back when you could use any resource on the web without having to log in. It didn’t matter if you were placing a classified ad, reading content, or chatting with someone on the other side of the world, you didn’t need a password because all you needed to do was show up, not unlike showing up in a restaurant when hungry, without having to login at the front door and revealing your identity.

    But that’s all history, because the Internet began devolving when platforms demaned compulsory use of logins and passwords, making it virtually impossible to use the Internet without surrendering constitutional rights and privacy. If the real world was like the Internet, we’d need papers to visit the Grand Canyon, identification to cross borders into another state, login at every place we wish to spend cash, and even reveal our identity whenever we engage in a conversation with a stranger.

    Bottom line, when businesses are allowed to operate without constitutional protections for its users, it should be no surprise that the Internet has devolved into a real-world cesspool. Yet so few people can actually see the Internet for what it has become, perfectly content to roll over and play dead for dictators at the helms of tech companies and social media.

    Imagine what life would be like in the real world if corporations weren’t bridled with equal opportunity laws for employees and constitutional protections for customers? Yet, filth like Patreon can deny employment to anyone it chooses, with impunity, knowing full well that bureaucrats and officials in any branch of government are as brain dead as the Internet users who roll over and surrender their rights.

    1. Reading up on mao and pol pot. The house cleaning will be long and brutal but unavoidable.

  9. At first, it made no sense to me why venture capitalists and Patreon’s board would permit a strategy of banning certain lawful content.
    It’s model maximizes value by increasing subscribers and subscription amounts. Period. So it makes no sense to me why management would pursue a strategy of banning lawful content and foregoing the subscriptions.

    So I was curious who the VC are and who is on the board. Consider this blurb about the company at the end of a press release announcing the addition of an independent board member (meaning not a VC who owns a ton of stock):

    “Last year, Patreon announced they work with over 50,000 creators and sent over 150 million [dollars] to artists and creators who have Patreon pages, whether they are creating podcasts, music, fiction, game streams, online videos, photography, visual art, and more.”

    Notice what is missing. They say nothing about creators of content who focus on politics and current events. I assume that means the creators who are being banned for political speech, or what Patreon pretends is “hate speech”, is a very small segment of the 50,000 creators who use Patreon’s business. It’s still a retarded strategy to ban content creators, but it does not appear that they take a big revenue hit in doing so if their target market is subscribers who are interested in supporting artisty types.

    Second, Patreon only rakes a tiny 5% from subscribers. The other 95% goes to content creators. Patreon has made it impossible for potential competitors to undercut them on price. So if Rubin and Peterson create an alternative platform to compete, they may be able to cobble together a few political commentators who are being banned by Patreon, but the artists/musicians who appear to be who Patreon wants to cater to most are unlikely to defect. They will likely never get a better deal than 95%. A few may leave Patreon based on principle, but it wont be based on rational economics.

    Patreon has the financial wherewithal to continue to scale based on this model. It has raised, cumulatively, $150 million from VCs in three different rounds. In its last round it raised $60 million on an obscene valuation of $450 million supported by a puny $7.5 million in revenue. Not profit. Revenue.

    1. Using your observations, it would be perfectly legal to ban any minority from using Patreon’s platform.

      Look, if a corporation can deny you opportunity to make a living and support your family, it should be shut down or at the very least punished severely. Period!

  10. Editing material proposed for publication has been around for as long as publishing has been around. If one has the power to facilitate widespread distribution of information, one also has an urge to edit that material. That model has worked for centuries. Disbursing information without editing has been considered graffiti, advertising, overall unreliable as a form of communication. It seems like the more people see an opportunity for freedom of speech/press, the more those in power take steps to suppress those freedoms.


  12. I see no big problem here. Patreon is not the government. They are a business and have every right to decide what content is acceptable to run on their platform. Now I also believe, like others have stated here, there are hundreds of other sites that will accept your content, dump Patreon and willingly go somewhere else.

    1. SupersonicMan – if you had listened to the videos you would have realized that people donate to these YouTubers like they do public radio and tv, on a monthly subscription. That was set up through Patreon. Styx has over 300k subscribers and were he to change, his patrons would have to change, too. They tried setting up a competitor, SubscribeStar and the Left went after it and PayPal who was backing it. It may now be back on line.

      This has now become a feud, like the Hatfields and McCoys. Bodies will dropping everywhere. People are loyal to the people they watch on YouTube if they take the time to subscribe. Sargon is a powerful voice and he has powerful friends.

    2. Silicon Valley are parasitic robber barons. They like Apple often use public funded infrastructure and government research to secure private patents and hen extort as if they were some virtuous captilista. They aren’t. Oh and it’s no rumour cia helped fund googlenits fact. An emergent form of fascism that lacks cool uniforms and strong men, the digital fascist corporatism of today is run by Jewish geeks in hoodies like Zuck

  13. I think it would be agreeable if the characters in Techworld responsible for this mess were (1) scared back into the common-carrier model or (2) run out of business by start-ups. Since some of what’s gone on required collusion between major vendors, a federal antitrust suit against perpetrator companies would be very much in order.

    1. DSS – one of the unidentified YouTubers has a 35 min discussion today on why this may be a violation of anti-trust. His name is Tim Pool and he is the second one in the group. Top is Styxenhammer666. I do not know who the guy at the bottom is.

  14. It makes no bloody sense that commercial companies of this sort would devote human resources to monitoring content (given the quantum of the content involved). So, you have to ask the question as to why the common-carrier model has been abandoned. Two possibilities suggest themselves:

    1. The professional-managerial set in that particular industry is such a monoculture that they fancy this is normal behavior; or

    2. They’re responding to threats. Question: who is making the threats, and why aren’t they told to bugger off?

    Both possibilities are anxiety-provoking.

    1. Perhaps it makes no sense because we have been brainwashed into believing that corporations have an obligation to maximise profit at the expense of social consciousness/ethics. Patreon, no doubt, would disagree.

      1. Perhaps because you have been brainwashed into believing …. that state economics is superior to market economics. stripped to it’s essence.

      2. Nobody’s ‘brainwashed’. They understand what motivates people, which you do not.

    2. You’re right CDA provides safe harbors and they don’t need to police content. So why indeed. You said it.

      And that managerial mentality needs a physical beating to put it back in place. Or this country will find itself slave to these ever more annoying nerds.

  15. Thanks for the great write up Darren. I’ve seen it as a simple breach of contract situation with these guys and I have seen where they are OK with violent leftists on the platform. I hope it is enough to bury the platform. I hope the Jordan Peterson-Dave Rubin project is successful.

  16. In a free enterprise system (such as ours is, usually), Patreon should soon see competitors fill in the niche in the market that Patreon has abandoned. After all, Patreon is not the government and cannot prevent its customers from leaving and going to another vendor. In this case, competition is the answer, as Jordan Peterson immediately saw. As the old saw says: “Find a need and fill it.”

  17. Social media do not wish to offend anyone. They want people to stay loyal to their site. They react to complaints of offense. In social media you have a right not to be offended. Ever.

    There are subjects that are not fit for Thanksgiving Dinner: Religion, and Politics. This is because these are matters of unchangeable belief and do not rely on evidence or reason. No matter what position is taken someone is likely to be offended and spoil the dinner.

    Social media disallows blasphemy. It is wrong to call any religion wrong because someone is sure to be offended.

    Social media disallows political blasphemy. It is wrong to profess to any political position which is not SOCIAList on SOCIAL media. Someone is sure to be offended.

    1. In other words ‘control by any and all means available.’ take away the verbal dressing it still comes out as fascism.

  18. The Patreon problem has been going on for some time and I am surprised that it is Darren who is taking it up, not Jonathan. However, there are some who think that Patreon is working at the behest of their masters (MSM) which is the hand that feeds Jonathan, so I can see him avoiding the topic.

    There are some banks that do deal in free speech. Some are not lending money buy weapons, although if you get a floating loan on your house you can use the money for anything.

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