Posted on April 27, 2021

How Mastercard’s Rules Against Child Pornographers Could Be Used to Ban Conservatives From Banking

Margot Cleveland, The Federalist, April 19, 2021

Last week, Mastercard, Inc., announced new rules for banks processing credit card payments to pornography websites, designed to combat child pornography and sex trafficking. Unfortunately, for a country whose corporate overlords refuse (or are unable) to distinguish between intrinsic evil and prudential policy judgments, this promising development will likely also serve as a beta test to further attack conservative groups.


When applied to illegal activities and especially child pornography, Mastercard’s policy promotes the common good. But leftist activists have already been pushing Mastercard, Visa, and other payment providers to expand their ban beyond illegal activities, with the eventual goal of demonetarizing opposing political organizations and views.

In 2019, the group SumOfUs—a partner organization to George Soros’s Open Society Foundations—forced Mastercard to hold a shareholder vote on “Proposal 5,” presented as a “Human Rights Proposal.” Proposal 5 provided:

Resolved: Shareholders of Mastercard Incorporated (‘Mastercard’) request that the Board direct the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee create a standing committee to oversee the Company’s responses to domestic and international developments in human rights that affect Mastercard’s business.


{snip} Mastercard presented Proposal 5 to shareholders for a vote, along with SumOfUs’s statement in support of the proposal. That supporting statement and its reliance on “hate” groups, as defined by Color of Change at its webpage, exposes left-leaning activists goal of enlisting corporate America in their political fight against the right.


“Mastercard’s exposure to conflict in human rights risk is significant,” SumOfUs’s supporting statement begins, noting the “company operates in over 210 countries and territories, some of which have a significant risk of human rights violations.” The supporting statement continues:

Companies can face risks related to human rights even when they only perform support functions. Internet infrastructure companies like web host GoDaddy, social media platform Facebook and payments firm PayPal have come under pressure for doing business with or providing a forum for neo-Nazis and other hate groups. Mastercard has received native publicity for processing of payments to white supremacist groups. According to the website, Mastercard continues to process payments for organizations such as American Border Patrol, League of the South, Proud Boys and Stormfront.

While SumOfUs framed its concern as Mastercard’s processing of payments for “neo-Nazis” and “white supremacist groups,” SumOfUs’s reliance on “’s list of hate groups gives away the game. is a website run by the far-left organization Color of Change, “an online organizing organization created by Obama administration’s former ‘green jobs czar’ Van Jones and the former director of grassroots mobilization for, James Rucker.” On its webpage, Color of Change equates “Right Wing Politics” with “White Nationalism,” and stresses its work seeks to “dismantle” right-wing infrastructure and support.

The website furthers that goal by pushing people to “tell” payment networks, such as Mastercard, American Express, PayPal, Visa, ApplePay, and Discover, to ban “hate groups” from receiving funds. The list of “hate groups,” however, includes mainstream conservative organizations such as the American College of Pediatricians, Family Research Council, and the Center for Security Policy.


Mastercard opposed SumOfUs’s proposal, arguing other units of the business already focus on illegal activities {snip}


During the annual meeting, Mastercard’s chairman of the board, Rick Haythornthwaite, elaborated further: “There are many views out there and so we have to sit down as a company and ask ourselves, first of all, is there any illegal activity taking place, is there an unlawful transaction? And if there is, we turn it down, we talk to law enforcement agencies, we talk to acquiring banks and shut it down.”

But, “If it is lawful, then we need to respect that transaction,” Haythornthwaite added. “If it is something that is sort of against the tide of society, it’s the society to rise up and change the law.”

Mastercard’s focus on the illegality of the transaction mirrors the approach the company took following the murder of Heather Heyer by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“We have all seen the news reports from Charlottesville this week, as we have from too many other cities in the past several months,” a press release from Mastercard began. After condemning “the violence, intolerance and hatred that were on display,” Mastercard noted that it shut down the use of its cards on sites “that make specific threats or incite violence—because this activity can be unlawful.”

The press release added, however, that “our cards may still be accepted at some sites that people find offensive.” “Our standard,” Mastercard stressed “is whether a merchant’s activity is lawful, even when we disagree with what they say or do. That supports the ideals of free expression,” and “we believe that offensive speech will be seen for what it is and that it will lose its force in the free marketplace of ideas.”

While SumOfUs’s so-called human rights proposal failed to pass in 2019, the last two years have seen an acceleration of the left’s attempt to silence speech, with few companies standing up for the “free marketplace of ideas.” Google and its YouTube subsidiary, as well as Amazon, have demonetized speech with which they disagree, while FacebookTwitter, and Amazon Web Services have banned conservatives and alternative social media companies from their business offerings.


Other attempts by SumOfUs to pressure financial institutions to demonetize legal, but in its view offensive, organizations have proved more successful. In its 2019 Form 990, SumOfUs identified as one of its programing activities its “pressuring JP Morgan Chase to stop funding private prisons and detention centers.” After years of pressure, JP Morgan Chase announced in 2019 that it intended to stop financing two of the largest operators of private prisons and immigration detection centers.

Now that activists know banks will bend, the push will continue beyond JP Morgan Chase and beyond businesses running prisons and detention centers. Once corporate America departs from the legal-illegal dichotomy, there is no limiting principle. {snip}