How Far Will PayPal Go?
Proud Boys Email Spoof Appears Purpose-Built For Coordinated Attack Against Epik
Many have heard that between October 19th and October 20th, a number of emails threatening US voters were reported as being sent out, with the intention of disrupting the current election cycle. While the campaign was setup in an attempt to lead the public into believing the emails were originated by the Proud Boys, the FBI and DNI were both quick to step in and label them as Iranian meddling. Within a few hours, most media reporting had been updated to reflect the press conference, strongly denouncing any attempt to try and influence or change the outcome of our Presidential election.
The degree by which the media reports were riddled with errors, inconsistencies, and outright critical omissions, however, should have been cause for major concern for anyone paying attention. A divided split between known cybersecurity experts and two “anonymous sources”, over the legitimacy of the Iran connection itself, should have demanded a second look. Add in false media interviews that inaccurately presented the Proud Boys as the owner of the domain, and the choice by most media outlets to suppress Google’s statements on the quantity of emails actually delivered, and it only gets odder from here. Most people can recognize that journalistic integrity in our country has suffered heavily in our overly-polarized state, but this is flatly and unequivocally something else.
While foreign operators were planning their email targets in an attempt to influence political narratives, Epik was engaged in their own operational battle: calling out malfeasance and corruption at the highest levels of PayPal and the SPLC. On another front, the domain officialproudboys.com was being setup like a homing missile to be shot straight into the unsuspecting arms of the Seattle-based domain registrar, who had no idea the name even existed. Enter Matt “The Binder” Binder, the self-proclaimed Celtic God of Knowledge, who makes a living by helping executives like Dan Schulman of PayPal thoroughly destroy any organization that might stand in the way of absolute market supremacy. Matt is very good at his job, and this would not be the first time he worked to harm Epik intentionally, to protect other clients and companies with vested interests to see Epik fail.
Within days of condemning letters being sent to PayPal’s CEO, board members, and executive team, and just hours after inquiries with the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice for antitrust support, Epik was on the receiving end of an international scandal that could have never been predicted. Within two short days, Mashable’s Matt Binder would further turn that timing into one of the most scathing and libelous disservices to reporting ever witnessed in Mashable’s history. A domain name used by a possible terrorist organization to strike at America on October 19th and 20th, would not only be moved to Epik on October 22nd without their knowledge, but by October 24th, it would be intentionally used as the opening headline in an attempt to connect Epik directly as the home for racism and violence in America. This slanderous disregard for truth – packaged with more than a dozen fallacies in a direct attempt to protect PayPal’s reputation – would become the basis for more than one hundred unique media reports, with the intent to inflict massive damages in reputation and brand identity to Epik.
It is clear from the sheer intensity of organized media coverage, that one of the overarching objectives was to ensure that Epik inherited the negative branding properties of both the email spoofing campaign, and the portrayals by major media organizations of the Proud Boys over this past election cycle. Not satisfied though with just the tactical conflations from PayPal’s bulldog falsely proclaiming Epik as the home of Proud Boys, Schulman and The Binder decided to take it as far as they could go. Anonymous sources both in and directly related to PayPal would double down hard in their contamination of fair reporting, wrenching every drop of integrity and reputation from Mashable they could, with direct accusations of tax evasion and even money laundering against Epik.
While most of Mashable’s manufactured claims centered on trying to deceptively turn Epik’s online payment dashboard Masterbucks into a form of crypto currency or digital coin, the article referenced a number of prior debunked points – including several Matt Binder himself had helped to create in the prior year. With more than a dozen direct fallacies flagged and documented in the first legal review alone, this may be in fact be one of the most intentionally deceptive works of fake news seen this year, prompting calls already for Dan Schulman’s resignation as CEO.
This would not be the first encounter Epik has had with Matt Binder, as he has operated in the past as a technical saboteur to help mitigate and shift damage from large corporations. In August 2019, following the tragic news of shootings in El Paso, Cloudflare ended its long term relationship in protecting 8chan, that had seen the resiliency provider protect the platform where the shooter had published his manifesto before taking 22 lives. The owner of 8chan had then purchased services on a Sunday before an unannounced move to Epik – a boutique registrar favored by domain investors that had less than thirty employees at the time. When the CEO of Epik was accosted by reporter questions regarding digital censorship and the roles and authority a registrar has in deciding who to provide service to, the executive had no context of either the site in question or the content it supported. Within 24 hours and upon analysis of the website in question, Epik terminated services but was still branded a pariah in the industry in a coordinated effort to protect Cloudflare.
Cloudflare would go on to complete a $5.25 billion IPO the very next month, and to this day still provides support services to the highest concentration of hate sites in the industry. The only other organization outpacing them based on registrar numbers alone is GoDaddy, who currently provides direct support and other premium features to 126 – or roughly one third – of the organizations marked by the Southern Poverty Law Center for targeting and disruption on their hate watch list.