Carl Benjamin, otherwise known by his nom de plume Sargon of Akkad, is one of the most prominent YouTubers in the Western online dissident community. So naturally it sent ripples of alarm through many writers and YouTubers and thinkers who care about freedom of speech when he was banned from Patreon last week.
Many are now wondering who will be next and if they need to consider switching their own donations services from Patreon to another service.
So what alternatives are out there?
Lunacy Now connected with BitBacker, a brand-new crypto based funding alternative, to ask what their service can offer people looking to switch from Patreon.
[Editorial Note: Lunacy Now has an account with BitBacker, but it is new. We have not tested it out fully yet, so we cannot attest to the technical functionality of the service. We recommend that our readers do their own due diligence when researching funding options. Sargon himself has switched to SubcribeStar. Of course, there is nothing stopping anyone from running multiple accounts on different platforms. Diversifying your income streams when any platform could censor you or go bust at any moment is probably a good idea.]
A fuller explanation of the Sargon ban and the broader tech platforms/free speech controversy can be found at the bottom after the interview.
We’d like to thank BitBacker for taking the time to speak with us and explain their new platform.
Lunacy Now: What inspired you to start BitBacker?
BitBacker: I created bitbacker.io to provide a cheap crypto-based answer to donation sites like Patreon and YouTube’s SuperChat.
There is and has always been a huge ‘tipping culture’ in the crypto community. However, despite the enthusiastic willingness of the community, many creators and builders still resort to using fiat-centered services like Patreon so support their work. This is embarrassingly true among crypto’s most prominent members: patreon.com/aantonop whose YouTube channel is practically an advertisement for Patreon.
These services are also expensive. Patreon takes 10% of the donations, half of which goes to outsourcing the regulatory compliance of being a money transmitter to an external payment processor. YouTube takes an even larger 30% of the SuperChats!
/Bitbacker.io/ takes only 1%. We do this by leveraging the ability of crypto to handle all transactions in the client’s browser. Bitbacker.io *never* touches a user’s private key. This provides security against hacks and avoids the large costs of regulatory compliance.
Lunacy: Do you need a crypto wallet to set up BitBacker?
BitBacker: You only need an email to sign up! However, since we don’t ever touch any of your funds, if you want to spend or receive any money you will need your own wallet. /Bitbacker.io was specifically designed to be non-custodial to maximize security for the user!
Lunacy: Do you take specific crypto currencies and not others (ie Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dash)?
BitBacker: We take BTC and BCH right now, but are working on adding others!
Lunacy: What’s the payment schedule?
BitBacker: There is an option for monthly payments as well as a one time ‘powerchat’ that you can send to a user during a livestream or directly to their wall.
Lunacy: Does BitBacker allow people to donate in fiat currency?
BitBacker: No, but donations are denominated in US dollars. We are thinking about adding support for a stable coin in the future as well.
Lunacy: Can you withdraw the money in fiat?
BitBacker: No. We are 100% crypto 100% non-custodial.
Lunacy: How long have you been going? How many users do you have?
BitBacker: We just started 2 1/2 weeks ago! We are still small, but have experienced steady growth and a very enthusiastic response!
Lunacy: Has the government given you any trouble?
Bitbacker: No. Since we designed the site so we never touch the user’s money we don’t expect any trouble either. We also won’t be subject to pressure from payment providers to censor our users as we only have to answer to the blockchain.
Lunacy: For those unfamiliar with Crypto, how does the payment process work?
BitBacker: We are working on making a how to video addressed to exactly such individuals.
Briefly: when you wish to make a payment you will be provided with a QR code that you simply scan using your favorite crypto wallet. The quantity and recipient are autofilled for you. You will be prompted to confirm and send. Within a second or two you receive confirmation that everything went through!
Now, a major part of our service is also the ability to make money for creators. For that, you simply go the the ‘receive’ tab in your favorite wallet, copy the address they provide and paste it into your bitbacker.io wallet. We will route all payments to that address, directly into your wallet!
We want /bitbacker.io to become a pillar in the crypto community for supporting it’s creators. We also believe that bitbacker.io will serve as a fantastic way to expose new people to the world of crypto by giving creators a way to earn money in a secure manner with minimal fees!
Lunacy: Final Question, what is your stance on free speech?
BitBacker: We will never ban or censor an account for speaking their mind!
The Sargon Controversy Explained:
The ban on Sargon of Akkad’s account comes as part of a broader debate on the role of free speech online.
Patreon claims it’s decisions on who to ban are based on a concept called “manifest observable behavior,” in other words specific posts or actions which violate the terms of service, and which have nothing to do with ideology. By his own admission, Sargon was banned for using the n-word in a YouTube video in which he was responding to attacks from neo-nazi trolls who had been harassing him. Lunacy Now does not endorse Sargon’s use of the n-word. Patreon is of course a private company and have every legal right to ban whoever they want (or even shut down their entire service with no warning).
Here is Sargon’s explanation of the events, posted to his YouTube page:
Those who support Patreon’s decision are calling Sargon’s ban a welcome move to clamp down far-right extremism. For example, Mashable ran the headline “Patreon Ban’s Alt-Right Content Creators From Earning Money On It’s Platform.”
Patreon’s critics point to the large number of conservative commentators and other non-traditional individuals who have been banned from the platform recently, including Lauren Southern, Milo Yiannopoulos, and James Allsup, and are calling Sargon’s ban ideological.
Whether or not you agree with Patreon’s decision to remove Sargon in particular, the general trend towards censorship, both from Patreon and other major tech companies, is evident. Many prominent dissidents have also been banned from Twitter, including most recently the satirical account Titania McGrath, whose biting parody of a certain type of left wing activist left many in fits of laughter.
Claire Lehmann, the founder of the popular independent online magazine Quillette, has hit out at the censorship on Twitter, championing a #BringBackTitaniaMcGrath campaign. “This is bad. Really Bad. Things are getting worse by the day,” she tweeted. Eric Weinstein, managing director at Thiel Capital tweeted out “Following Alex Jones being disappeared & Tim Cook’s Orwellian remarks, I’d say watch the moving goalposts on words like “Hate Speech”. I believe in my heart, that this is war on dissent more than hate.”
Tim Cook is the CEO of Apple. During a speech accepting an award from the Anti-Defamation League he said “We only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division, and violence: You have no place on our platforms. You have no home here.” He later added “I believe the most sacred thing each of us is given is our judgement, our morality, our own innate desire to separate right from wrong. Choosing to set that responsibility aside at a moment of trial is a sin.”
He did not define “hate,” “division,” or “violence,” or justify on what basis he ought to be considered the arbiter of what constitutes sin.
Many users are switching away from Patreon in response to Sargon’s ban. Podcaster Tim Pool outlines the situation on his YouTube channel here:
Perhaps the most prominent supporter of Sargon in this controversy is Professor Jordan Peterson, a Canadian psychologist who rose to international prominence after challenging a proposed compelled speech law in Canada.
Dr. Peterson tweeted ”I’m doing everything I can to contact people in my circle and formulate a plan and response.”
Lunacy Now will continue to update readers on censorship developments and alternative options for dissidents.