WordPress Deplatforms Conservative Treehouse

As announced on their website, one week after the 2020 presidential election, The Conservative Treehouse received the following notification from WordPress:

”Given the incompatibility between your site’s content and our terms, you need to find a new hosting provider and must migrate the site by Wednesday, December 2nd.”

The good news, such as it is, rests in the fact that the company WordPress is kicking The Conservative Treehouse off of their hosting servers, but they are not banning them from using WordPress software as the authoring application for their website. That would be much harder, because the WordPress application is open source software and is not directly owned by the company WordPress.

Nonetheless this represents another escalation in the war against free speech online. WordPress may not directly control their app, but it is closely linked to their hosting business. If any entity might successfully find a way to restrict the ability of users to author websites using the WordPress app, it would be the company WordPress. This bears close attention going forward, given the high percentage of websites that are built in WordPress. And of course, like all companies that are deplatforming conservative content, WordPress provided no specific example of how The Conservative Treehouse violated their terms of service.

It will be relatively easy for the operators of The Conservative Treehouse to move their site, extensive as it is, onto a new host. They will have to preserve their legacy URLs and their archives, but these migrations are commonplace as website operators find new hosting services as their traffic and other needs change over time.

What WordPress has done, however, is consistent with attacks that are increasing on all fronts. The most obvious and publicized is deplatforming by the social media monopolies: YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. But the crowdfunding platforms (the big three are PatreonGoFundMe, and SubscribeStar) have ejected thousands of websites, and in every case, when they migrate to a new crowdfunding platform they lose all of their paying subscribers and have to start over. The payment processors – and only two, PayPal and Stripe have captured nearly the entire market –  are also ejecting clients they find undesirable.

The ultimate sanction, already happening, is for ISPs (Internet Service Providers, i.e., Verizon, AT&T) to block URLs they find undesirable, or for banks to put individuals they find undesirable on the MATCH list, which makes it impossible to operate a merchant account to process credit card transactions. The MATCH list was formerly reserved for members of organized crime and terrorists, but now it’s being used against content providers. ISP blocks and MATCH list sanctions are already happening, and the victims are becoming both more numerous and less extremist. When the ISPs blocked Stormfront, few people cared. But that was just the beginning. Where will it end?

The Conservative Treehouse, with a US Alexa rank of 3,647, attracts between 500,000 and 1.0 million unique viewers per day. It is one of the preeminent sources of alternative news in an age, sadly, when nothing the establishment media produces can be trusted.

Alternative media must prepare for the possibility that all conventional avenues of content delivery will eventually get blocked – by the authoring apps, the hosts, the ISPs, social media platforms, crowdfunding sites, payment processors, and banks. How far will these powerful entities go to stop people from publishing what they believe, and how wide will they cast their net?

With difficulty, but without any doubt, The Conservative Treehouse is going to land on its feet. This time. But what comes next?

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