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.

How Deep Does Mashable’s Libel and Defamation Go?

In an effort to provide some capacity to repair the unprecedented number of falsehoods, and provide a reasonable scope of what should look like immeasurable corruption, here is a compilation of the fallacies threaded together just in the Mashable article alone. It does not even address many of the parallel claims and falsehoods reported against Epik by external sources. It should though provide a harrowing look of exactly how far many in the media are prepared to go, in crafting the most destructive identities possible, in their efforts to preserve the strength and security of those who pay their bills.

This is not meant to be an all-encompassing list, but provides a short introduction to assist those with the integrity left to do their jobs proudly, to assist with their due diligence as they follow the trails that the SPLC, Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, GoDaddy, PayPal, and others have left so blatantly behind.

1. The Mashable Home Page Feature – “What’s Hot?”

From the opening headline, it is often the same exact attacks for those who go against Big Tech over information control, or anything that risks exposing political malfeasance. The easiest way to reduce credibility is to label threats as white nationalists or racists. There is no shortage of irony here, as two open letters to PayPal, appealing a deplatforming decision made due to false accusations of Epik being racists and white nationalists by the SPLC, are designated straight out the gate as unhinged. Mashable still succeeds in calling Epik racists and white nationalists in the header and content, in an article inferring Epik was unhinged in the first place for implying it would happen.

The treacherous part: in front of the American people, in content that ultimately reached or impacted millions of viewers, Mashable and Matt Binder would label Epik as the “Home to Proud Boys domain”, knowing that it was a total falsehood used to further galvanize irrational hate against Epik. The Proud Boys domain referenced – conveniently located at another registrar just two days prior while Iran supposedly used it to meddle with the US election – was then transferred to Epik on October 22nd. Just in time for utilization as the lead headline for Schulman’s conflated hit piece to protect his own organization.

Mashable even had the audacity to use Proud Boys in the URL for the actual webpage name.

2. Claims that the CEO Once Defended David Duke

This one alone should be concerning for most Americans, as it reflects the deceitful nature and interconnectivity of many of the technology services that should be empowering the public. The CEO of Epik went on a podcast that was discussing the responsibilities to maintain lawful free speech, and what that meant in terms of future technologies and the roles registrars should play in combatting incitement of violence and hatred. It had nothing to do with white nationalists, nor does the registrar Epik have anything but a history of countering and fighting back openly against racism.

His thoughtful comments were anchored in the long term objectives of actually changing hearts, in the belief that sudden termination of services would often drive hateful individuals underground, allowing for their misplaced anger to fester with no attempt to reach them for positive change. Epik’s CEO was referencing that if some of these individuals possessed intelligence at any level beyond their immediate social deficiencies, then reaching out to them with messages of love, compassion, and working in an attempt to reprogram the hate that was taught to them, would yield a brighter path for the future. Epik’s CEO was holding out hope that those who were prone to ignorance through their racist beliefs, could in fact still be reached with a different message.

YouTube would go on to delete the two hour program, facilitating the path for a large number of journalists related to the SPLC and other organizations, to then simply state that the CEO of Epik said that David Duke was an intelligent human being. This reeks of identity politics. Human lives are being mercilessly ruined for the sake of the production and propagation of manufactured narratives that are designed to galvanize and polarize massive voting blocks. If these galvanized groups even began to understand the false polarity to which they were being subjected, the hate would be extinguished.

3. Perpetuating Falsehoods of Epik’s Relationship with 8chan

The journalist selected by PayPal and Mashable to attack Epik with a dozen falsehoods, is well known to Epik. It is not the first time the company has suffered at the hands of his misrepresentation, as he has extended past protection to the most dedicated and fiercest of defenders of racism in the world.

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. When the CEO of Epik was accosted by reporter questions regarding digital censorship, and the 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 went on to complete a $5.25 billion IPO the very next month, and to this day still provides support services and cloaked protection to the highest concentration of hate sites in the world. The only other organization outpacing them based on direct registrar quantities is GoDaddy, who currently provides support and other premium features to 126 – or roughly one third – of the organizations marked by the Southern Poverty Law Center for disruption on their hate watch list. The SPLC operation to falsely label Epik as a haven for hate is now under investigation by a number of journalists, as well as a subject of conversation amongst antitrust authorities, as Big Tech organizations have continued to leverage the falsely manufactured data against Epik in an attempt to inflict direct financial harm.

4. PayPal’s Unhinged Claims of Money Laundering, Tax Evasion, and Digital Currencies

While anonymous sources and an unnamed spokesperson from PayPal were eager to go on record with journalists at both Mashable and The Verge, and Epik has confirmed interactions with Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek as well, there is one thing PayPal will never be able to produce when they are eventually subpoenaed. That would be any form of evidence or proof, that the subject of tax evasion, money laundering, digital currencies, alternative coins, unlicensed payment methods, or digital coin use of any type or nature, was ever discussed in the four plus months leading up to service termination. Let alone the notion that in the thirty days prior to their deplatforming actions, that PayPal was actively working to seek Epik’s compliance in any form related to any subject.

A source close to PayPal advised that the deplatforming of Epik and other organizations, was in fact made by PayPal’s key executive team, and was outside of the knowledge or handling of their customer support group, causing a number of normal processes to be out of alignment with their actions. In effect, that Epik was a model customer, that would still be subjected to service termination, due to both political pressure being applied by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and commitments related to anti-competitive containment and future centralization objectives as reflected by key alliances. The pivot itself to accusations of tax evasion and money laundering represented a damage control measure done in desperation, and PayPal had relied on the input from advisors and an outside partner in the domain industry itself, to try and find any weakness they could exploit to rationalize service termination.

The only reference to AML or KYC programs received by Epik in 2020, was a request on May 29th for routine updates to payment flow and process handling. PayPal had reportedly flagged Epik – along with thousands of other organizations – as having possible irregularities, and inadvertently suspended services for a time period of less than three hours. An escalation to CEO Dan Schulman’s own office, promptly resulted not only in the questionnaire being removed from Epik’s PayPal terminal, but yielded the admittance that PayPal had no idea what Epik’s business model was as a domain registrar.

With no prompt from Epik whatsoever, PayPal would go on to even offer and approve a working capital loan to Epik on August 23rd. This was on top of significant of working capital loans offered to Epik over the course of the first half of the year, along with repeated attempts to take over all merchant business and credit card processing activities.

5. Masterbucks is an Online Payment Dashboard – Not a CryptoCurrency

In July 2020, Epik migrated all key products and services for the domain management sector into one digital ecosystem, in their efforts to create a Single Sign On experience, so that customers could use one login for universal access across everything. The planned transition would also allow for the company’s “Masterbucks” brand to become fully active, to allow Epik users to have more flexibility and control over future payment distributions.

Contrary to the libel and defamation being actively manufactured now by both Mashable and PayPal, Masterbucks is an online payment dashboard designed specifically for domain name sellers, to control how the proceeds from future domain sales are distributed. Epik customers can create profiles for easy distribution using popular payment methods, or choose to use the proceeds to pay for domain renewals and hosting services. The major convenience compared to other near-identical platforms at competitive marketplaces, is that instead of a customer designating payouts to a single payment method, they would have the option to split distributions across multiple verified payment methods that they may have held on file.

Up until PayPal’s service termination on October 21st, the worldwide payment service was a popular option for Epik customers, as part of the domain market preferred PayPal so they could use the service to pay other bills. Through PayPal’s actions – at a time when COVID is already compounding hardships for many families – customers lost the ability to connect their domain sale proceeds to routine bill paying long connected to their PayPal accounts. In other cases, Epik customers may have only had access to PayPal to cover yearly domain renewals, as their only mode of available payment. Some of these domain renewals were active for as long as ten years without discontinuation.

With the prior relationship between Epik and PayPal going back to 2009, the registrar had never generated a single administrative query or payment complaint in over a decade. The default currency for all new Epik accounts and Masterbucks continues to be US dollars.