Shopify Won’t Remove Breitbart’s Online Shop, Claiming Free Speech
In recent days, Silicon Valley executives have been among the most vocal opponents of Trump administration policies, including its travel ban. At the same time, stores including Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom have backed away from selling Ivanka Trump merchandise, despite presidential protest.
But ecommerce company Shopify is heading in the opposite direction. Company co-founder Tobias Lutke is offering support to far-right website Breitbart News, and says it will continue to sell the site’s political merchandise on its platform as a matter of free speech. Breitbart’s merchandise includes politically themed t-shirts, mugs and doormats that support Trump’s proposal for a border wall, and the Second Amendment right to own guns, among other things.
Steve Bannon, a senior counselor to President Trump, co-founded Breitbart in 2007. The site is known for its inflammatory views on women, racial and sexual minorities, immigrants, and Muslims.
In a blog post from Wednesday, Lutke said that despite more than 10,000 emails, tweets and messages urging him to terminate the relationship, Shopify’s stance is about protecting free speech.
“We don’t like Breitbart, but products are speech and we are pro free speech,” Lutke writes. “This means protecting the right of organizations to use our platform even if they are unpopular or if we disagree with their premise, as long as they are within the law. That being said, if Breitbart calls us tomorrow and tells us that they are going to switch to another platform, we would be delighted.”
Reached by email, a Shopify representative referred Fortune to Lutke’s blog post and a corporate statement, which says the company is politically neutral.
Lutke, himself an immigrant, moved to Canada from Germany in 2002, and launched Shopify in 2006 with business partner Daniel Weinand. The platform hosts 325,000 merchants, and has sales volume of $24 billion.
Shopify’s decision runs counter to the activity of groups that want to use commerce for political leverage. In recent months, protest group Grab Your Wallet has urged a boycott of companies either owned by the Trumps, that carry Trump-branded clothing and accessories, or that have offered financial support to President Trump’s political campaign. In addition to Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, Grab Your Wallet has urged Amazon and Zappos to stop selling Trump family products.
Social media campaign Sleeping Giants has similarly targeted hundreds of companies, attempting to get them to stop advertising on Breitbart and fake news sites. “We are trying to stop racist websites by stopping their ad dollars,” the campaign’s Twitter account says. In recent months, Sleeping Giants has gotten AT&T, Kellogg, BMW and Visa to remove ads from Breitbart.
Shopify went public in 2015, raising $131 million. Its stock was up 2.4% in early morning trading to $54.66.