Pro-gun attorney Alan Gura, left, speaking to Cody Wilson at the 2016 Gun Rights Policy Conference. (Photo: Guns.com)
Cody Wilson is no stranger to litigation. Having spent the better part of five years locked in a battle against the State Department over the legality of 3D printed files, Wilson finally won his case and earned the right to publish his digital blueprints. Now, just a month after his victory, Wilson is looking to, again, step into the courtroom but this time against e-commerce platform Shopify.
Shopify, an online marketplace for retailers, shocked the gun industry Monday when it unexpectedly and swiftly changed its Acceptable User Policy — effectively banning firearms and firearms related parts. As gun and parts retailers grappled with the sudden about-face in policy, Wilson said the change in policy was all about silencing him.
“It was prompted because of the victory in the press and everything, as well as, I suspect, third party interference,” Wilson explained to Guns.com in a phone interview Thursday. “I know that the Attorney General in New Jersey, for example, had sent letters asking my host to take my website down, asking CloudFlare to take my website down. I know last year that the Gabby Giffords’ group asked Shopify in a nine page letter to take my website down.”
Wilson was the very first firearms retailer to get the ax from the e-commerce site, receiving his eviction notice by email early Friday. Wilson said he immediately began contacting the company after he received the email to determine why he was kicked off the site.
“Basically they banned me at like midnight on Friday, early Friday of last week. I asked for an explanation for why my shop was banned that day. They didn’t give me one and then they spent the whole weekend coming up with new terms. It was like Monday or Tuesday when they finally updated their use policy.” he said. “So they basically decided to knee-jerk get rid of me and then figured out how to explain it on the backend of that next week.”
Not a man easily silenced, Wilson began digging and unearthed an interesting blog post by Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke written in 2017, detailing his stance on the need for free speech and free commerce. Wilson took to the hallowed pages of Twitter to air his frustration and call out the CEO who Wilson said was acting disingenuously. Since Wilson’s public call-out, Lütke updated the blog post revising it to caveat what free speech he supports.
“Solely deferring to the law, in this age of political gridlock, is too idealistic and functionally unworkable on the fast moving internet. The legislative process is no match for the realities of the internet and has ground to a halt on contentious issues,” Lütke’s revised blog said. “So we have found ourselves in a position of having to make our own decisions on some of these issues. And along the way we had to accept that neutrality is not a possibility.”
He continued, “We addressed this vacuum by creating a carefully crafted Acceptable Use Policy which allows space for all types of products, even the ones that we disagree with, but not for the kind of products intended to harm. We reserve the right to wake up smarter every day. And therefore Shopify will have to make decisions based on judgement when there is not a black and white, or even existing, legal solution.”
Wilson doesn’t buy this explanation. “I know that in his previous post, he was about Shopify being committed to lawful speech. Of course in Shopify’s case, they’re committed to unlawful speech as well. They make a lot of money with marijuana and marijuana products — illegal federally,” Wilson explained.“Their (updated) AUP, it wasn’t things that can harm people. It was all the feature tests that we’re used to seeing you know from like Dianne Feinstein’s office or something.”
When asked what the next step in the process would be, Wilson bluntly told Guns.com that court was his next stop. “My intention is to sue Shopify for breach of contract,” he said. “And I invite others to join me if they feel like a similar thing has happened to them.”
No lawsuits have been officially filed, but other retailers such as Spike’s Tactical and Rare Breed Firearms have also made statements outlining their intentions to pursue legal actions against Shopify.