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Patreon loses lawsuit with Owen Benjamin fans (nationalfile.com)
48 points by pgrote 9 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 37 comments





> Patreon’s terms included language that allowed any users of the platform to litigate their case individually under California’s JAMS arbitration scheme.

Regardless of the merits (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owen_Benjamin#Views) of the comedian in question, I'm enjoying watching arbitration - intended to fuck over users - come back to bite companies in the ass.

DoorDash learned this the hard way, too. https://www.vox.com/2020/2/12/21133486/doordash-workers-10-m...

> Under Judge William Alsup’s order in Abernathy v. DoorDash, DoorDash must arbitrate over 5,000 individual disputes with various workers who claim that they were misclassified as independent contractors, when they should be treated as employees. It also must pay a $1,900 fee for each of these individual arbitration proceedings.


William Alsup is a name that seems to come up frequently in tech litigation, and I'm rarely disappointed with his opinions.

He was the one who learned Java in order judge to Google v. Oracle case better.

Fun fact: his middle name is Haskell.


He has been programming for decades actually https://www.theverge.com/2017/10/19/16503076/oracle-vs-googl...

> arbitration - intended to fuck over users

Arbitration is disadvantageous to users in the case of class actions.

In cases of individual grievance, it’s vastly cheaper to bring and settle claims in arbitration over courts. A lot of the conflicts-of-interest issues in arbitration, moreover, can be avoided with competent counsel. The same counsel one would require to get started in state or federal courts.


> In cases of individual grievance, it’s vastly cheaper to bring and settle claims in arbitration over courts.

Cheaper, sure. You get less out of it, though.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/05/03/google-wo...

"Arbitration produces clear winners and losers. Employees win less frequently and receive lower damages in arbitration than in litigation. Employers win more frequently, especially if they use the same arbitrators repeatedly. That’s hardly surprising, given that the employers typically choose the arbitrators."


Agree for employee-employer cases. These are complicated lawsuits involving highly personal claims. There is an original power imbalance. And it concerns peoples’ livelihoods.

For customer-vendor relationships, the field is more even. These suits tend to be simpler. And they are, on average, less material. Lowering the bar to litigation is a fair compromise for slightly-lower payouts.


> For customer-vendor relationships, the field is more even.

I disagree. If a company screws a million people out of $10, it's not at all worth the trouble of arbitration for the individuals. That's where class actions shine.


> If a company screws a million people out of $10, it's not at all worth the trouble of arbitration for the individuals. That's where class actions shine.

Correct. Arbitration is good for moderately high-value customer-vendor disputes. Bigger disputes should go to courts. Smaller ones be organised into a class. (Though someone arbitrating a $10 dispute will get far more, including, usually, their arbitration costs, than that person settling in a class.)

In the middle, about $500 to $25,000, arbitration is the better option for the public. It’s faster and cheaper. And the amounts are material enough to not warrant paying out 90% of it to lawyers.


I just saw this on a YouTube news clip last night. ONE YouTuber was banned form Patreon and he encouraged his followers who had been supporting him on Patreon to file a "tortious interference" lawsuit which asserts breach of contract against Patreon. In letting this go forward the judge also asserted that Patreon's change in their terms of service on January 1 does not apply to complaints about actions which give rise to legal claims prior to that date.

In short: Patreon has to front $10,000 in legal fees per arbitration claim. The source of the suit is only about 100 people but if a sizable portion of the supporters of some of the larger names who have been banned from Patreon file suit as well then Patreon could be facing the requirement to put aside hundreds of millions of dollars to pre-fund arbitration cases... which could, theoretically, force them to file for bankruptcy and/or cease operation.

The above-mentioned news clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHzEJ6ESRY8


It's sad that Patreon is paying a price for kicking an abusive person off their platform, but forced arbitration needs to die, and I hope cases like these end the practice entirely.

Patreon would have been fine if they hadn't cancelled a comedian for having political views that they don't like. Pretty much every comedian has said things that others find offensive.

The Patreon arbitration is the beginning of the revolt against cancel culture and the censorship of conservative voices on various platforms.


When you say "political views they don't like", it sounds like he wanted more or less taxes, more or less regulation, more or less public transit.

Let's be clear, he's a holocaust denier, and that's not just an unpopular "political view".

He has every right to say it to whoever will listen, but private companies should not be forced to amplify that shit.


> he's a holocaust denier

From what little I've seen, Owen Benjamin rejects that description of himself, so I'd be interested to hear why you think he is.

Worth noting that outlets that reported him as a "holocaust denier" also claimed that he would definitely lose this lawsuit, which was clearly false. Not only did Patreon lose, but the judge went so far as to point out that the cases they cited undermined their own case.

> He has every right to say it to whoever will listen, but private companies should not be forced to amplify that shit.

Private companies have an obligation to honor their Terms of Service, which Owen did not violate, and why he and his fans filed for arbitration in the first place.


Patreon would've also been fine if they'd just avoided forced arbitration. A class action suit would've flopped early on (as Patreon has every legal right to ban a Holocaust denier from their private platform) and been substantially cheaper as a result.

DoorDash's arbitration clause enabled the same attack, with no free speech concerns at play.


seems unlikely while Epic Systems vs. Lewis remains US law

Legally they won't be going away. My point is that if having arbitration clauses is more expensive and disruptive than not, it will deter companies from using them.

It’s not sad at all. If you want to decide what speech you want on your platform, there’s a cost. Patreon deserves this.

No, the cost here is because Patreon tried to screw over users and wound up with a loophole that let them do it back. It has little to do with free speech.

I think we’ll disagree, but I’m excited to see others use arbitration weaponization like this against other platforms when they unilaterally take action against users (free speech or otherwise). Cheap force multiplier.

I do agree.

I'm excited to see forced arbitration hurt companies that intended to use it to hurt their users.

I'm a bit disappointed to see it benefit a Holocaust denier at the same time.


I can’t help but feel free speech absolutists are the same species as economists, all believing that every human is a rational actor with perfect information.

The Orion Welles “War of the Worlds” recital should feature more in the discussion of the ethics of free speech, along with study of propaganda and the predisposition of humans to believe the first version of a story they hear.

Holocaust denial does hurt people, just because you don’t see the harm being done doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Typically what happens is one person with a public position denying the Holocaust happened empowers their audience to engage in anti-Semitic behaviour, which ultimate devolves to abuse of semites (typically Jews more than arabs).

As an example of how unlike the rational actor with perfect information most humans are, just one newspaper report here in Australia regarding two POC violating quarantine has friends who are also POC starting a petition wanting the quarantine violators thrown in jail — no regard for the rich white COVID-positive couple who returned from Aspen Colorado and hosted multiple dinner parties while in “quarantine.”

Some folks are so focussed on their perceived rights they have no time o pay attention to social obligations such as duty of care.


It’s your duty as a human being to be a well-adjusted person emotionally and to develop emotional fortitude along your life journey. You have no right to not have your feelings hurt.

Cool story bro.

Meanwhile in the real world we are not all born psychopaths with the privilege of only working with people like us who like us. In addition we live in the same world where “only following orders” is still a thing: so one person’s public suggestion that you are not a nice person is someone else’s call to action to punish you for being you. Accusations that a woman used sexual favours to get better reviews for a computer game led to complete strangers turning up on her doorstep threatening violence.

Words aren’t just words. What people are scared of isn’t just the words but the retribution they have learned follows those words as surely as night follows day.


It’s not people’s feelings I’m worried about. Blood libel led directly to the murder of a ton of Jewish people. Neonazi movements actively promote mass violence against Jewish people. There have been mass shootings at synagogues in very recent memory.

“Just be an emotionless robot” misunderstands the complaint completely.


In the real world, we encounter folks who aren't "well-adjusted". Society winds up having to decide how to deal with them.

I’m a staunch supporter of absolute free speech (as much as possible, caveat “Fire!” in a crowded theater). Denying the Holocaust doesn’t put anyone in imminent danger. I don’t agree with the speech, but I’ll defend the right to speak it (rights are not for the speech we all agree with, but that which is most contentious).

The existence of auschwitz is undeniable; you can visit it. If someone wants to look like a fool, let them. If you believe the fool, equally a fool. If fools are responsible for the suppression of fundamental rights, the system is broken and an immune response should be expected.


Holocaust deniers have every right to speak their views in the US. They don't have the right to demand a specific platform; just like they can't demand an oped in the New York Times, they can't demand Patreon carry it.

I also subscribe to the concept of the paradox of intolerance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance) - that having a tolerant society requires intolerance of certain beliefs. There's some good evidence that deplatforming works. (https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/bjbp9d/do-social-media-ba...)


To play devil's advocate for a moment, would the Holywood Blacklist in the 50's count as Holywood studios denying a platform to writers associated with an ideology they believed to be dangerous?

Would it what?

Be legal? I suspect so.


I hope that we see more situations like this. Providers need to stop moralizing IMHO and it would be nice to see this severely affect their bottom line or even put Patreon out of business.

He's actively directing harassment of anyone who gets in his way. Deciding not to be part of that is not moralizing, it's very practical and might actually be self-defense.

"In order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance


Unrelated; this site runs ads literally between each sentence. smh

It's a grifty conspiracy theory site; the ads are its primary purpose for existing: https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/national-file/

Maybe it is just my content blocker, but I only see links that are pretty easy to distinguish. Your child would love GoGurt, a quick and easy snack that they can take on the go! At least there is some clear delimitation in that form, but yeah a lot of these sites are surviving off accidental clicks it seems. If you’ve been in an accident, call the law offices of Howard, Howard, and Howie today!

How did their lawyers screw this up so badly?

Any site with a binding arbitration clause is vulnerable to the same sort of attack.

California shouldn’t have ~ banned class action lawsuits.




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