Dissecting the Treachery of Big Tech Monopolies
Why PayPal Employed Mashable in an Attempt to Destroy A Small Business
How far will one company go in the pursuit of market share and financial gain? It would appear by the progression of recent events, that this is still yet to be exactly determined. With a history of seizing accounts from what would seem like countless individuals, one only has to venture as far as the comments section in any Twitter post made by CEO Dan Schulman, to see that not all is well in the land of PayPal. If the experience of Seattle-based domain registrar Epik is anything to go by, PayPal is prepared to inflict damage to anyone caught in their path, by any means necessary, to protect the mandate they believe they have in deciding who succeeds in business and who will fail.
Within 24 hours of Epik challenging PayPal’s decision to terminate Epik’s payment services, Mashable’s Matt “The Binder” Binder — who also refers to himself as the Celtic God of Knowledge — would go on to lead many reputable media organizations down a rabbit hole of unprecedented libel, designed specifically to justify PayPal’s deplatforming action. For those unaware, “The Binder” has a history of writing weaponized narratives that serve to destroy reputations of companies and individuals that run afoul of big tech, challenge their monopolies, or conflict with their approved narratives.
Before presenting a single fact regarding PayPal’s termination, Mashable’s timely news report would label Epik’s rebuttal as unhinged, and falsely portray Epik management as being in support of the KKK. It would further try to tie the registrar to child pornography and a mass murderer through the site 8Chan, which sought safe harbor at Epik for less than 48 hours after being deplatformed by Cloudflare in August 2019. This is ironic, as Cloudflare had protected the site for years with no backlash. Epik terminated service in less than 24 hours after reviewing 8chan’s content, post it being moved to Epik without warning. Cloudflare would go on a month later to close a $5.25B IPO, while transferring outrage to Epik strategically, as they became the target of thousands of inaccurate news articles that wrongfully portrayed Epik as a sponsor of hate and depravity.
Sound familiar? Schulman and The Binder just apparently doubled down with the exact same play a year later, as the article opener went as far as linking Epik to both the Proud Boys and the recent Iranian spoofing op. Even though both Mashable and Binder knew the domain had only been transferred to Epik on October 22nd – a day after the spoofing campaign ended – in a clear attempt to leave Epik holding the bag. From there, the article goes straight downhill, and is noteworthy in itself for the high number of outright fallacies and false conflations as detailed below. Smart minds might ask why PayPal would go to this degree of trouble to topple a boutique domain registrar, even as Epik had just been voted Best Registrar in the World earlier in the year, by a group of more than 900 technology leaders and industry peers.
For the backstory on PayPal’s history with Epik, since 2009 the companies had enjoyed a positive relationship that had been problem-free with minimal chargebacks and no administrative queries. In fact, in the months between December 2019 and April of 2020 – and again even in August – PayPal presented numerous proposals for providing Epik significant amounts of working capital. This was in addition to PayPal’s aggressive pleas to take over all merchant processing and credit facilities for the company, which Epik had respectfully past declined due to the negative experiences reported by other organizations.
Epik had considered requests by the PayPal division Braintree for future merchant handling, up until the point coinciding with COVID emergence, when sources inside PayPal itself revealed several dark secrets that painted a grim path for anti-competitive behavior. Beyond statements regarding Schulman’s pursuit of digital centralization, and the guidance PayPal was receiving from the Southern Poverty Law Center to cause disruption to organizations for political reasons, a number of damning insights came to light. One of the most disconcerting, was projected service disruptions, believed to be related to a PayPal executive that was mid-transition to a board position at the competitive registrar GoDaddy.
While PayPal has now issued libelous statements to journalists, affirming they had reached out to Epik over the month prior to October 21st’s service termination to discuss solutions, nothing could be further from the truth. The last conversation between PayPal and Epik was on June 2nd with CEO Dan Schulman’s executive office, and it was focused on their corrective handling of an “inadvertent” service termination on May 29th against Epik. The call and discussions were rooted in the appointment and impact of PayPal executive Leah Sweet being placed onto the board of GoDaddy, and the support deterioration that had happened soon afterwards. Schulman’s own executive team was extremely apologetic, and confirmed in writing that they would be back in contact shortly to rectify the issue. They knew little about Epik itself, and wanted to learn more about the registrar’s “business model”.
For more than a decade, the domain registrar Epik utilized PayPal for two primary reasons: to let individuals buy and renew domain names, and to make direct payments from domains sold over Epik’s premium marketplace into validated PayPal accounts. Epik had always viewed PayPal as a critical element for millions of Internet users around the world, many who may have lacked conventional payment methods through a credit card or online banking source to cover domain fees and hosting costs.
Post the interaction with Schulman’s office on June 2nd though, Epik would never receive the promised follow up with their support staff that was expected. Or any follow up or direct human intervention for that matter. In fact, any means or capacity to reach PayPal was terminated for nearly five months, as their online service functionality to address business questions was removed, subsequent emails were not responded to or answered, forms on their website disappeared, and literally all telephone access to anyone across any department was eliminated. This is the capability of technology firms today, as they have developed the capacity and willingness to custom tailor user environments, in an effort to contain liabilities as they personalize attacks with no remorse or accountability. In the case of Epik, PayPal as a monopoly for payment processing would use COVID as the cover of convenience for deplatforming.
There was a public service indication from PayPal that thousands of accounts had been wrongly flagged for account limitation or seizure, reported as the result of a technical glitch that had caused inaccurate reviews to raise false flags against customer accounts. In Epik’s case, the only service interaction received, post promises for research and correspondence going back to early June, was a message saying they were being permanently removed from services. Contrary to PayPal’s defamatory public statements to journalists, the only convenience afforded Epik was an automated notification that there would be no discussion, no process for review, no change in decision, and no grounds for appeal whatsoever. PayPal not only then would terminate Epik’s account and seize the remaining funds for 180 days, but also then seize the private non-related account of a key executive days later, with no notice whatsoever.
Within days of condemning letters being sent to PayPal’s CEO, board members, and executive team, and just hours after providing guidance to the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice for antitrust support, Epik was on the receiving end of an international scandal, that sets a new bar for exactly how much disdain monopolies like PayPal must hold for the intelligence of the American people. A domain name referenced by a possible terrorist organization to strike at America on October 19th and 20th, would not only be moved to Epik after the event on October 22nd without their knowledge, but within less than 48 hours, it would be intentionally used as the opening headline in an attempt to connect Epik to racism, violence, and election meddling. With no regard to truth or the possibility of widespread abuse, Mashable’s Matt Binder would join PayPal in publishing one of the most scathing and libelous disservices to reporting ever witnessed in Mashable’s history.
This egregious 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 in less than 24 hours. All of them were strategically leveraged with the intent to inflict massive damage to Epik’s reputation and credibility. Not satisfied though with just orchestrating a false attachment to the Iranian spoofing campaign, Schulman and Binder would take it to all new levels out of desperation, wrenching every drop of integrity and reputation from Mashable they could, with direct accusations of tax evasion and even money laundering against Epik. This would lead to dozens of additional articles all conveniently citing Mashable as the originating source, that would further defame Epik – turning an innocuous payment dashboard in US currency into an illegal blockchain, an unlicensed cryptocurrency, an unregistered digital coin, and more. The proof? Two words of marketing copy left over from a template that had been used nearly five years ago in an unlinked beta design, that was removed off the server in 2018.
This is the power of the media today. They can destroy lives in an instant, without ever even really knowing what is at stake, or what they are helping to cover up. As calls start to echo and build for the resignation of Dan Schulman, and for investigations into the monopolistic practices of the parties involved, this is what desperation tends to look like. In this case, it has left a visible trail that PayPal, Mashable, and Matt Binder – through their gross incompetence and ineptitude – will be having to explain for some time to come.
The time for Epik’s vindication though is now.