Shopify Bans Some Right-Wing Groups After Activist Pressure

(Bloomberg) -- Shopify Inc. will ban some right-wing organizations from its service after accusations from activists, such as Canadian non-profit group North99, that it was supporting hate-promoting groups.

The Canadian e-commerce company tweaked its rules to allow it to bar anyone who uses Shopify to sell items that support groups that it believes condone hate or violence. The move affects Proud Boys, a right-wing group founded by Gavin McInnes, a Canadian writer and co-founder of Vice Media, that was recently kicked off Facebook and Instagram. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies Proud Boys as a hate group.

Facebook banned accounts and pages associated with Proud Boys earlier this month after the group was accused of attacking protesters in New York.

“This amendment is a proactive measure on our part to ensure we keep our platform free of anyone seeking to promote hate or violence,” a spokeswoman for Shopify wrote in an email. “We will continue to review new cases as they are reported.”

Shopify, which provides tools to help hundreds of thousands of merchants sell online, has found itself in the midst of political fights before. In August, it banned the sale of some semi-automatic firearms and gun parts, with Chief Executive Officer Tobi Lutke saying neutrality on some issues wasn’t possible for the company. Monday’s change does not affect the online store of Breitbart, the conservative news site some activists have pressured Shopify to stop serving.

The Ottawa-based company’s stock has rocketed more than 700 percent since its initial public offering in May 2015. With the growth has come new scrutiny. Along with political questions about what kinds of products and people to ban from using its service, Shopify has had to develop new tools to stop its stores from being used to defraud consumers.

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