Roosh Valizadeh—a “men’s right activist” who has argued that rape should be legal on private property, organized fat-shaming campaigns, and defended white nationalist Richard Spencer—announced yesterday that his website Return of Kings will be going on hiatus. This comes after PayPal banned him last year, and Amazon prevented him three weeks ago from selling his new pick-up book, Game, which argues “smartphones, feminism, and anti-masculinity propaganda” is making it more difficult for men to meet and have sex with women.
“The first factor for this hiatus is that site revenues are too low,” Valizadeh wrote. “We’ve been banned from PayPal and countless ad partners, which forced me to lay off the site editor last year and also lower payments to regular contributors.”
The announcement bolsters anecdotal support that removing people from platforms who support hate speech effectively limits their ability to spread their ideology by cutting off their money supply. Milo Yiannopoulos, former Breitbart editor who associated with the men’s rights movement and the far right, faded to relative obscurity after he was banned from Twitter last year. And notably, after conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was banned from PayPal, YouTube, Twitter, Spotify, and the iOS store, his daily audience has halved.
Amazon retains the right to remove controversial or offensive listings that could, among other things, “promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.” But Valizadeh argues that his removal from Amazon was not fair, and claims he does not know exactly why his product was removed.
“It [ _Game_] was doing amazing,” Valizadeh said in a YouTube video. “A lot of buyers, people love this book. Not offensive, almost no sexual content—hardly, anyway, compared to my last one. Then three days later, Amazon shut it down. Amazon shut it down and they won't tell me why.”
Valizadeh remains active on several platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Soundcloud. But by Valizadeh's own admission, it’s difficult to go up against big platforms that decide to enforce their terms of service.
That doesn’t mean that people aren’t trying. Yesterday, Alex Jones filed a lawsuit against PayPal for more than $75,000, alleging that by banning InfoWars.com and PrisonPlanet.com, the platform violated California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which protects consumers from discrimination based on protected characteristics.
“A PayPal representative stated that, after extensively looking at the News Sites [InfoWars.com and PrisonPlanet.com], PayPal determined instances that ‘promoted hate and discriminatory intolerance against certain communities and religions,’” the lawsuit alleges. “Discrimination based on political affiliation or ideology is forbidden under Unruh, as it is a personal characteristic.”
Jones has, among other things, promoted the conspiracy theory that families of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting are “crisis actors,” prompting certain followers of Jones to send death threats to the families. Also, the Unruh Civil Rights Act only protects consumers on the basis of “age, ancestry, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex and sexual orientation.” According to PayPal’s User Agreement, the platform has the right to terminate service to a customer “for any reason and at any time.”
Jones has tried his best to paint himself as a victim of online censorship since facing backlash from major tech giants, which has gotten people’s attention but done little to repair his audience numbers. But especially in the case of fringe individuals like Valizadeh, any blow to their money stream is a debilitating hit to their ability to keep functioning.