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In 2013, the United States Department of Justice started a program called Operation Choke Point. Unable to ban industries they deem undesirable, they decided to make it hard or impossible for those industries to work with banks and credit card payment processors. Every single one of the now-undesirable industries, like adult entertainment, is legal.
Operation Choke Point categorized certain industries as “high-risk,” which had the effect of making fearful banks shut down accounts. The program is a way for the Administration to stifle or severely damage industries it simply doesn’t like. Unsurprisingly, the Administration’s biggest targets was the firearms industry. Operation Choke Point led to many banks shutting down the accounts of gun stores:
- Hawkins Guns Targeted by Operation Choke Point
- Operation Choke Point: Choking off Credit to The Gun Industry
- House Report: FDIC Targeted Gun Dealers Under Operation Choke Point
Another industry deemed undesirable is payday lending. To be fair, many feel it’s an unsavory business, that too often takes advantage of people. However, it is a legal industry, as evidenced by the “EZ-Credit” or “Instant Cash” storefront you’ll probably pass on your way to work today.
In February, Kelsey Harkness from The Daily Signal wrote “Is Operation Choke Point Still Happening? A Business Owner’s Story.” It starts with this account:
Running his business, Gregory Bone says he did “everything we could” to avoid a conflict. His industry—payday lending—is overseen by state and federal officials.
But despite his clean record, Bone said U.S. Bank informed him on Jan. 22 that his checking account was being abruptly shut down. The only explanation for it, Bone said, was Operation Choke Point.
“There’s just no other reason for it,” Bone, who lives in Bentonville, Ark., told The Daily Signal.
Later in the article, she writes:
Eighteen months ago, The Daily Signal was regularly contacted by business owners who believed they were being impacted by the program. Since Congress ramped up its investigations into Operation Choke Point, those stories have slowed down.
But according to members of Congress and industry experts, they haven’t stopped.
“It hasn’t gone away,” Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., told The Daily Signal in an interview earlier this month. “[But] it has been reduced.”
We wish Rep. Leutkemeyer — and everyone else in Congress who is fighting Operation Choke Point — the best of luck in stopping this pernicious program, which allows the Obama Administration to attack industries it would ban if given the chance.
As they say, you can fight city hall… but can you fight Google?
The list of items you can’t advertise on Google mirrors much of the list of Operation Choke Point’s undesirable industries: guns, ammunition, tobacco, etc. Yesterday, Google added payday lending to its list:
Bowing to growing pressure from consumer groups, Google will no longer accept ads for payday loans, a move that critics hope will create a new industry standard.
“Research has shown that these loans can result in unaffordable payment and high default rates for users so we will be updating our policies globally to reflect that,” Google’s product policy director, David Graff, wrote in a blog post.
Google defines payday loans as loans due within 60 days of being issued and in the U.S., loans with an annual interest rate of 36% or higher.
The payday lending industry is understandably upset:
A trade group for payday lenders called Google’s new policy “discriminatory and a form of censorship.”
“The Internet is meant to express the free flow of ideas and enhance commerce. Google is making a blanket assessment about the payday lending industry rather than discerning the good actors from the bad actors,” Amy Cantu, spokeswoman for the Community Financial Services Association of America, said in an emailed statement. “This is unfair towards those that are legal, licensed lenders and uphold best business practices.”
Cantu said the statement also applies to Facebook “and others with these policies.”
That last part about Facebook is important in light of the recent news that Facebook has been censoring conservative news sites from its trending topics and curated content. Another social media giant, Twitter, has been accused of “shadow banning” conservatives. Let’s say you’re a conservative that wants to read the latest gun news. Increasingly, the Big Three — Google, Facebook, and Twitter — are not fertile grounds for that information. But if you’re a feminist professor who needs background info for a lecture on “Manspreading,” you’ll probably be overwhelmed with search results.
Google AdWords has a complete listing of what it prohibits, broken down into four categories:
- Counterfeit goods
- Dangerous products or services
- Products or services that enable dishonest behavior
- Offensive or inappropriate content
That last one should set off alarm bells in your head. We know that the tech industry is overwhelmingly liberal, and has proven hostile to conservatives and conservative thought and writing. Something as vague as “Offensive or inappropriate content” can and will be used to censor conservatives, and other people and ideas that Google just doesn’t like.
But, honestly, what are you going to do about it? What can you do about it? Boycott Google?
Google started as a simple search engine and is now a verb. Yes, a verb. Either you or someone in a nearby cubicle will use Google as a verb today. When you get to work, you’ll check your Gmail. The G stands for Google. You’ll probably use Google Maps to find the location of an afternoon meeting. You might live in a city where Google Fiber provides your TV and Internet service. Later today, you might watch a video on YouTube, which Google owns. The web browser you’re using is likely Chrome, which is also a Google product. If you’re reading this article on an Android phone… well, there’s that, too.
Google is a monster that all of us created, and continue to build upon every single day. If Google next refuses to accept ads for your industry, or decides that your thoughts are offensive, what recourse do you have? Honestly, none.