What does a white supremacist group need in order to exist? Willing members and charismatic promoters, to state the obvious. But it also, like any other organization these days, needs a website and a way to raise money online.
It’s easy for anyone, from a mayoral candidate to a college-age artist advertising her portfolio, to book some online real estate and set up a simple system for receiving payment. One would think that it would be more difficult for a white supremacist group to find a big company that’s willing to do the same for them.
But that hasn’t necessarily been true. Last week’s lethal Unite the Right rally, which saw neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups band together to march in Charlottesville, Virginia, has drawn attention to the numerous companies—from payment processors to music-streaming services—that, one way or another, have aided white supremacist groups’ efforts. While the groups that gathered at the Charlottesville rally have been characterized as a small, fringe group of extremists, many of the website hosts, payment systems, and social-media platforms that they’ve used to help promote their message and spread their ideology aren’t.
In response to public outrage around the Charlottesville rally, several companies have been forced to decide between maintaining the neutral, customer-agnostic position they have taken for so long and appeasing their customers (and employees), who have made clear their distaste for services that have anything to do with white supremacy groups. Weighing this, many companies have severed ties with and denounced white supremacist groups in recent days, citing a need to uphold the values and policies of their brands. But despite these stated ideals, it seems like some companies have been slow to act.