Westpac has closed far-right activist Blair Cottrell’s bank account, sparking a furious debate in the crypto community about deplatforming.
The notorious United Patriots Front founder posted a letter on the Twitter-style free speech platform Gab that he claims is from Westpac announcing the closure of his account.
“Lol world-communism in effect. They’re closing my bank accounts now too and won’t even tell me why:
“We hope you will appreciate that we are not able to provide you with any further information about our commercial imperatives”.
Westpac has given Cottrell a month to make alternative banking arrangements before his account is closed.
Crypto community debates closure
The closure sparked a furious online debate in the libertarian crypto community on Facebook and Twitter about whether banks should have the right to close accounts due to political views.
This is not the first time banks have deplatformed unsavoury characters for political opinions.
Anti-mosque activist Julie Hoskins had her Bendigo Bank account shuttered in 2015, and in February Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio had his Chase Bank account closed, with officials telling him they could “no longer support his banking accounts.”
Crypto exchanges have bank accounts closed
Most cryptocurrency exchanges have also had trouble securing and keeping bank accounts.
One local exchange Micky is aware of had to move bank accounts four times, and had numerous PayPal and Stripe accounts closed.
Another exchange, myCryptoWallet, went public in January to decry National Australia Bank’s “unethical” and “unprofessional” behavior after it unexpectedly closed its bank account “without notice” and disabled withdrawals.
ANZ, Suncorp, Newcastle Permanent, and Heritage all expressly ban cryptocurrency exchanges, while St George routinely declines to process transactions to cryptocurrency exchanges.
The adult industry is also routinely deplatformed, and has created its own cryptocurrencies to get around the bans.
Yeah, but Cottrell deserves it doesn’t he?
Cottrell is a convicted criminal on stalking and burglary charges and was famously found guilty of religious vilification in Victoria after beheading a dummy to protest a proposed mosque in Bendigo in 2015.
He was last year banned by PayPal, which he was using to raise funds for an appeal against his conviction under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.
Since the closure, Cottrell has been asking supporters to deposit donations directly into his bank account, which may have prompted the closure.
Cottrell has also been de-platformed by Facebook and Twitter. The UPF Facebook account, with more than 120,000 followers at its peak, was also closed.
Alleged Christchurch shooter – Brenton Tarrant, who claimed to have made his fortune on Bitconnect (possibly trolling) – was an enthusiastic UPF supporter and called Cottrell “emperor”.
Cottrell attributes the bank account closure to a conspiracy because he knows: “the truth about the international ethnic-genocide of white people, I know who’s doing it and why. I know the truth about recent history, I know why they’re pushing your kids to be gay and transgender, I know the real purpose of feminism. I just know too much.”
So yeah, he’s not doing himself any favours.
I disagree with what you say but defend your right to a bank account
Despite his extreme views, the news sparked debate on the Crypto Australia Facebook page, with many concerned about the precedent being set.
Matt P posted the link, commenting: “Regardless of your political stances, this is the biggest reason people should look to crypto for their future!”
James T agreed: “The guy is a spaz, but that doesn’t mean his bank account should be closed due to his views, they’re a bank not a political advocate.
(Micky has chosen not to use last names as it is a private, closed Facebook group).
Matt P said people should ask themselves: “Would I be happy and feel safe if my enemies were in charge for 10 years with the exact same laws in place?”
But Craig P agreed with the decision. “Cottrell is a scumbag. A racist, a shit-stirring nutter who just says offensive shit to get attention… All businesses have the right to reserve or deny service. Old law, been around forever.”
JC said the bank account closure could have nothing to do with politics but have come after the banks’ compliance department: “identified potential criminal conduct or something that could expose Westpac. Their job is to close any such risks.”
boycott westpac. you could be next.
— crimson thread (@ThreadCrimson) June 20, 2019
On Twitter, Joy M called it an example of “absolute dictatorship”, while Purtzian said, “strong freedom you guys have over there.”
Speech not free of consequences
The Brag weighed into the debate: “The right to far right were quick to cry foul of Westpac’s move, slamming it as a move against free speech. We’ll happily remind those that they remain free to say whatever they like, but not free from the consequences.”
Back on Crypto Australia Rory H summed up the general consensus: “This is what Bitcoin is for. Nobody can shut down your account. It doesn’t mean he isn’t a piece of shit though.”
Far right figures made a killing on Bitcoin
Many in the far-Right have already turned to Bitcoin after being deplatformed – and the Southern Poverty Law Centre said, “because they were early adopters, many cashed in as the currency’s valuation skyrocketed at the end of 2017”.
The anti-hate organisation maintains a list of wallet addresses tied to far-right figures.