There was an in-depth report published in USA Today on 3/28 entitled “Crowdfunding hate: How white supremacists and other extremists raise money from legions of online followers.” Useful as much for what it left out as for what it covered, it is recommended reading.
Two glaring and very common errors informed the report. First, it lumped everyone on the so-called “right” into the same bucket, and second, it made no mention of left-wing groups. There are violent extremists on the right and on the left in America, but the ones on the right are disproportionately targeted.
Most useful was how the article identified four online crowdfunding sites that are attempting to offer services without, as one of their spokespersons said, “discriminating against customers for political reasons.” Those sites are GiveSendGo, GoGetFunding, AllFundIt and Our Freedom Funding.
The conflict over when to cut a group off rests on competing objectives. On one side is the constitutional right to exercise freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. On the other side is the much vaunted need to ensure, as PayPal puts it in their policy, “services are not used to accept payments or donations for activities that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance.”
That is a pretty high bar, especially when one steps back and considers the violence perpetrated across America for nearly a year in the name of “anti-racism” and “anti-fascism” by groups that raise funds with nearly complete impunity, such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter. A recent AP report claims one of the primary BLM organizations, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, took in over $90 million last year.
While Antifa, BLM, and countless other groups have been largely unhindered in their crowdfunding efforts, they hardly need a crowd, thanks to millions pouring in from major corporations, as well as from billionaires including George Soros and Tom Steyer.
There’s plenty of evidence of crowdfunding platforms escalating their war that, from the start, has disproportionately targeted the right. It’s hard to justify why Laura Loomer or Brandon Straka qualify as people so noxious and so dangerous that they have to be banned from raising money online, while hundreds of local Antifa and BLM groups are untouched. But a more egregious example is Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot three people who were chasing him during the Kenosha riots last summer, killing two of them.
This young man, who claims he acted in self defense, faces a blistering onslaught of civil and criminal actions that will probably cost him millions in legal fees. Despite the fact that there is a solid case to be made for his defense and a reasonable chance he will be acquitted of the most serious charges against him, the accounts set up for people to contribute to him on GoFundMe were taken down. Similar accounts set up on another crowdfunding site, Fundly, were also taken down. Finally, accounts set up on GiveSendGo were able to raise funds for Rittenhouse’s defense.
This isn’t about Rittenhouse’s guilt or innocence. It isn’t about his intentions. It’s about his right to legal defense, and the right for people who wish to contribute to his legal defense to be able to do so. How on earth do these crowdfunding sites justify denying people that right?
An even deeper level of financial attack against online fundraising, or any sort of online commerce, comes from the payment processors. These are the intermediaries that crowdfunding sites have to use – along with anyone doing business online – to convert credit card information into actual bank deposits. The only major online payment processors are PayPal and Stripe. And wouldn’t you know it, PayPal and Stripe have cut all ties with GiveSendGo. It is not clear what alternative payment processor GiveSendGo has found, but they remain online and able to accept most – but not all – credit cards.
Perhaps, as Gab is considering, it will become necessary for right-of-center crowdfunding sites, along with all right-of-center websites that engage in internet commerce, to start up their own banks. Maybe they will resort to BitCoin or the totally private Monero. But cybercurrencies come with their own set of challenges, not least of which is the so-called entry and exit points wherein cash turns into cybercurrency, and wherein cybercurrency is turned back into cash.
Better yet, the firms providing financial services in the United States could respect the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, instead of applying one standard to the right wing people they don’t like, and quite another standard to the left wing people they support.
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