You might be familiar with Patreon, an online platform which enables users to pledge monthly donations to support their favorite artists, podcasters, and other content creators. You’re probably not familiar with its evil twin, Hatreon. Founded in response to moves by sites like Patreon and Kickstarter to crack down on hateful individuals, Hatreon provides the same tools to far-right bigots with none of the oversight. And in a few short months, it has been wildly successful.
In August, when Hatreon first went live but before it fully launched, alt-right luminary Richard Spencer began pulling in a modest $85 per month. Today, just a few short months later, he clocks in at $918 per month and counting. Back in August, Andrew Anglin, proprietor of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, was taking in $700 a month from fans. Today, he is raking in $7,739 a month, or a whopping $92,868 a year. In other words, despite the feel-good foisting of Anglin and company from mainstream internet crowdfunding platforms and online hosting services, he is still approaching a six-figure retainer for racism.
The success of Hatreon offers a cautionary corrective to those who argue that the solution to online hate is simply to censor it. Setting aside the free speech concerns raised by such an approach—who decides what is hateful?—it is not actually adequate on today’s internet. Bigots cannot truly be booted off the web, and can easily create their own alternative platforms when required. Bump them off one web host, and they will find another in a place like Hong Kong, as the Daily Stormer did. Knock them off Patreon, you get Hatreon.
Much like European bans of Holocaust denial have utterly failed to eradicate Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism, social media bans of bigots will not succeed in silencing their sentiments. Ultimately, there is no shortcut to beating back bad ideas; they must be overcome with better ideas.