NGOs attempt to hold MasterCard accountable for servicing neo-Nazi group

Mastercard, like other companies, is hesitant to block profit unless a law is being broken.

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June 26, 2019 15:08
4 minute read.
Illustration photo of a Mastercard logo on a credit card

Illustration photo of a Mastercard logo on a credit card. (photo credit: THOMAS WHITE / REUTERS)

 
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Two social activist NGOs tried to force MasterCard's hand in a renegade shareholders meeting on Tuesday. SumOfUs and Sleeping Giants were hoping to stop payments being made through MasterCard by neo-Nazi and far-right extremist groups. 

A SumOfUs activist, Nandini Jammi, along with other MasterCard shareholders and activists went to the MasterCard 2019 Annual Stockholder Meeting to try to establish an internal “human rights committee.” 


This committee would help stop white supremacists’ groups from receiving funds by overseeing the company’s, “responses to domestic and international developments in human rights that affect MasterCard's business,” according to the Huffington Post. 


MasterCard, like other companies, is hesitant to block profit unless a law is being broken. 


“There are certain things that we find abhorrent. We wouldn’t support them as individuals,” Mastercard board chairman Rick Haythornthwaite said at the meeting. “But there are many views out there, so we have to sit down together as a company and ask ourselves first of all is there any illegal activity taking place.”


“If it is lawful, we need to respect that transaction. If it something that is swinging against the tide, it Is on society to rise up and change the law and then we can move on this.”



Jammi repeatedly asked Haythornthwaite if he knew neo-Nazi groups were illegal in Germany. 


Haythornthwaite responded that, "we think we are doing as much as we can with this but we don’t diminish the challenges we face in our society.” 


League of the South, National Policy Institute, Proud Boys, Stormfront, VDare, Identity Evropa, Occidental Dissent and Radix Journal, are just several extremist organizations that use MasterCard for payments, according to the racial justice organization Color of Change, the Huffington Post reported.  


These organizations are able to receive online donations and sell merchandise through credit card payments. MasterCard believes this isn’t their problem unless a specific law is being broken in regard to these payments. 


SumOfUs disagrees. 


“Right now, anyone could take out their phone and instantly send a donation via MasterCard to fund a violent hate group. Today's shareholder meeting is about cutting off that cash. #NoMoreBloodMoney,” SomeOfUs tweeted before the meeting. 


While Haythornthwaite acknowledge that society has a problem, he also addressed privacy as major concern which would hinder companies from being able to tell if a group was indeed committing a hate-crime. 


“One of the things we are very strong on at MasterCard is privacy,” Haythornthwaite said at the meetings. “Meaning we don’t actually see much details from these transactions and so for us to intervene more on these interactions would mean we would need to do more on to identify the anatomized data and I don’t think that’s a trend that anyone would support.”


At the end of the 35-minute meeting, the chairman announced that human rights committee did not receive enough votes to be created.  According to Jammi at least 2,300 people have written to their pensions and mutual funds in support and another 100,000 signed a petition calling MasterCard to stop processing payments from extremist groups. 


According to the Huffington Post, MasterCard tried to squash the proposal first by trying to convince SomeOfUs to retract the proposal and then by requesting from the US Securities and Exchange Commission to block the proposal because it was interfering with “ordinary business operations.” The Sec rejected MasterCard's appeal. 
 
President Donald Trump responded on twitter to the incident by linking a Breitbart article, titled “Financial Blacklisting: Sleeping Giants and Soros-Backed Group Pressure MasterCard to Censor the Right.”



“The radical left doesn’t just want to blacklist conservatives from having a voice on social media, they want to blacklist them financially too,” Trump tweeted. 

Along with relaying the events concerning the MasterCard shareholder's meeting, the Breitbart article claimed left-wing political activists were blacklisting their political rivals. 

They are "intent on destroying the ability of the political right to do business on the Internet." 


The issue of how much responsibility companies should take concerning who uses their services or products is not a new one. 


US online payment service PayPal has closed accounts for various organizations that have been linked to terror groups. In September 2018, PayPal closed the account of the Germany-based NGO International Alliance – an organization that sympathizes with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Then again in October, PayPal stopped providing services to War on Want, a UN NGO, after UK Lawyers for Israel, a pro-Israel consortium of lawyers, provided evidence to PayPal claiming to show that the charity had ties with terrorist organizations. 


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