We want the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Paypal and Stripe for wrongfully suppressing competition.
A team of 80 volunteers is working together to generate and submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking the FTC to initiate an investigation into the possible collusion and anti-competitive behavior among Patreon, PayPal and Stripe in an attempt to suppress free speech.
Over the past 18 months we’ve seen many attempts by online platforms to cut off services to disfavored speakers. One such instance took place in December of 2018, when a website called Patreon moved to terminate services to a YouTuber. Patreon allows fans (or patrons) to financially support content creators (like Youtubers) and other artists using recurring financial contributions. Having pioneered this patron model, Patreon quickly became the dominate company in its market.
Normally most would dismiss the banning of a single content creator as an independent act by a tech platform. However, something else happened …
As a result of the popularity of the banned Youtuber, unsolicited attention and free public relations has been focused on a startup called SubscribeStar, a competitor to Patreon. Very few ever heard of SubscribeStar. It was started only a year prior to these events. It had very few creators on its site. When fans of the banned Youtuber started looking for a way to show their support, they turned to SubscribeStar.
As a result of the banning of the popular YouTuber, many fans and supporters terminated their accounts with Patreon in protest. This movement gained national attention as several prominent public figures announced their intention to stop utilizing Patreon.
Functionally, SubscribeStar was a direct competitor to Patreon. It too utilized the services of PayPal and Stripe, the two most dominant players I the credit card processing industry to enable financial contributions between fan and their favorite content creators. Having never heard a single complaint or objection from PayPal and Stripe, within a few days SubscribeStar’s credit card payment facilities were cancelled.
What would make PayPal and Stripe terminate their services to their new client (SubscribeStar)? It makes no business sense. If one of your client (Patreon) is losing many users as protest for the banning of a popular youtuber, wouldn’t PayPal and Stripe benefit from having another client (SubscribeStar) regain all those users? It’s that decision that is at the heart of this complaint.
It is the position of this group of volunteers that PayPal and Stripe moved quickly to kill off SubscribeStar in order to protect their client, Patreon, from damages. What is the basis for this contention? It’s what the courts call the “Plus Factor”. When you see two actions taking place in parallel to one another, a plus factor is any action that makes no sense that otherwise connects those two parallel actions.
The banning of a popular youtubers by Patreon, followed by the termination of credit card facilities to a Patreon competitor that received unrequested attention and focus … That’s the plus factor. The acts by PayPal and Stripe make no business sense unless you understand it in connection with the move to ban the youtuber and the negative resultant impact on Patreon.
This is where we come in. We are working hard to draft and file a complaint with the FTC to urge the agency to start an investigation into the anti-competitive and collusive behavior of Patreon, PayPal and Stripe. Companies may have rights to terminate any single user, but the law forbids collusion that undermine the competitiveness of the marketplace.
Join our efforts by becoming a volunteer by filling out this form.
Help share the word by sharing our message.
Identify your representative or senator. E-mail them with a summary of the case with a polite request to “ask the FTC to take up the case.”
Submit your story. Tell us how you were affected by the actions of Patreon, PayPal and Stripe. If you have information relevant to this case use this form.
18 Feb 2019 update from Lior Leser
I've been holding calls with team leaders. It's hard to express how impressive the volunteers are. They're spending so many hours doing research, drafting documents, building a website, designing tools for internal organizations and managing a large organization. Progress is steady and moving forward. We've set many internal goals and timelines. Many of these goals will become obvious over the next few days and weeks. Other goals, we've going to hold closer to the vest in order to no undermine the efforts through disclosure.
12 Feb 2019 update from Lior Leser
Back at work full time after a terrible week. The team needed some restructuring after its fast growth (over 80 volunteers as of a week ago). Nonetheless, all is moving forward. The legal and business analysis teams are working hard on the complaint, the web team is putting finishing touches on the initial website and the tech team is kicking ass on powerful new tools.
29 Jan 2019 update from Lior Leser
Progress so far today: (1) shared goals and tasks with the IT/web team (2) drafted specific goals and tasks for business research team and (3) shared outline of the complaint with the legal team. On top of that, I've been scheduling another full day of interviews with volunteers. I think I'm at over 10 Skype calls scheduled for tomorrow.
25 Jan 2019 update from Lior Leser
One of the challenging area in this project is how to build organization and efficiency around a loose association of individual with a common goal. It requires a great deal of focus on driving concrete goals and establishing realistic tasks so that everyone understands what must be done first and what can be done later. It’s the only way to assure that the organization efficiently performs rather then spins its wheels. That’s My biggest immediate challenge. I’m working on drafting specific and timely goals for each sub-unit or group. Wish me luck!
24 Jan 2019 update from Lior Leser
Over the past two weeks, I've worked with many volunteers on setting up the organization that will enable our complaint to the FTC. This has been (still is) a fairly large undertaking. Originally, when I announced on Dec 27th that I will be filing a complaint, I thought that I will be doing this alone. I did not realize how many felt a personal responsibility to contribute to this cause.
Since that time, I've organized the project into five working groups including (1) legal research, (2) business research, (3) IT, (4) Content, and (5) Admin. I've spoken by phone/Skype to the majority of the volunteers and now I'm working on setting up small working groups around the tasks outlined in my original plan.
I've also been working on outlining the FTC complaint. After speaking with several volunteer lawyers and law students, I'll be dividing up the complaint into questions. Each lawyer/law student team will work on a small and manageable series of legal questions. We'll be work cooperatively on producing a single final product.
We'll that's the plan. It is somewhat of an experiment. Alone, I can do this, but it will take a long time. Together, we hope to accomplish far more and in a shorter period of time. Can a group of individual across the globe crowd-source an effective complaint to the FTC?
Join us and help us defend free speech!