Left-wing activists have forced Mastercard to hold a shareholder vote on the creation of a “human rights committee” that would monitor payments to the “far right,” with a view to cut off disfavored individuals and political groups from receiving money from supporters.
BuzzFeed reports that the proposed Mastercard human rights committee would “stop designated white supremacist groups and anti-Islam activists, such as Tommy Robinson, from getting access to money sent from donors using the company’s card payment services.”
The Board of Mastercard has opposed the proposal, urging stockholders to vote against it.
The proposal was submitted for a vote at Mastercard’s upcoming meeting of stockholders on June 25, 2019. The proposal was submitted by left-wing advocacy organization ThisIsUs, whose board members are linked to Color of Change, a group that has been pressuring banks, payment processors, and credit card companies to cut off service to right-wingers, Islam critics, and critics of progressivism.
In its supporting statement, ThisIsUs wrote:
Companies can face risks related to human rights even when they only perform support functions. Internet infrastructure companies like web host GoDaddy, social media platform Facebook and payments firm PayPal have come under pressure for doing business with or providing a forum for neo-Nazis and other hate groups. Mastercard has received negative publicity for processing of payments to white supremacist groups. “Organizers Catch Credit Card Companies Profiting From White Supremacy: Online payment companies are complicit in authorizing transactions related to hate groups,” AlterNet, August 22, 2017; and “Color Of Change Is Attacking Hate Groups At The Source: Their Funding,” Fast Company, August 21, 2017. According to the website bloodmoney.org (accessed on December 18, 2018), Mastercard continues to process payments for organizations such as American Border Patrol, League of the South, Proud Boys and Stormfront.
In response, the board of Mastercard recommended that stockholders vote against the proposal, stating that the company operates on the principle that consumers should be able to make “all lawful purchases.”
The Proposal focuses on the use of our products by certain organizations. We operate our network on the principle that consumers should be able to make all lawful purchases, and our franchise rules ensure compliance with the laws pertaining to the acceptable use of our payment processing services by merchants, acquirers and issuers. We regularly monitor activities involving our products and services for any alleged illegal use. When we process payment transactions, we do not have visibility into goods that are purchased or the use of those goods. When we are made aware of illegal activity or rules violations, we work closely with law enforcement and acquirers to shut down those activities.
Accordingly, because Mastercard has a committee with oversight over issues of corporate social responsibility and has disclosed its commitment to and oversight of human rights issues, the Board does not believe that establishing a separate human rights committee is necessary to properly exercise its oversight of this important area, nor does it add to Mastercard’s existing commitment to social responsibility and human rights.Therefore, our Board recommends that our stockholders vote AGAINST this joint proposal.
Although Mastercard’s board says it is committed to the principle of allowing “all lawful purchases,” online payments platform Patreon says that Mastercard asked it to withdraw service from Islam critic Robert Spencer, founder of JihadWatch.org, in August 2018.
Mastercard has yet to respond to why, if Patreon’s allegation is true, the company used its influence to cut off Spencer.
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