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Anti-vaxxers banned from raising money on GoFundMe

‘We will remove any campaigns currently on the platform,’ says crowdfunding company

Peter Stubley
Thursday 09 May 2019 09:45 BST
The measles-struck town battling anti-vaccine propaganda

Anti-vaxxers have been banned from raising money on GoFundMe in an attempt to stop the spread of conspiracy theories and misinformation.

The crowdfunding platform announced it was carrying out a “thorough review” following reports that one campaigner had gathered nearly $80,000 (£60,000) in donations.

Larry Cook, who promoted his fundraising efforts using Facebook adverts, targeted mothers with claims the medical community was covering up baby “slaughter”.

GoFundMe spokesman Bobby Whithorne said: “Campaigns raising money to promote misinformation about vaccines violate GoFundMe’s terms of service and will be removed from the platform.

“We are conducting a thorough review and will remove any campaigns currently on the platform.”

However The Independent has found several campaigns promoting the anti-vaxxer message still running on the site, three weeks after GoFundMe’s decision was reported by The Daily Beast.

One, titled “Stop Non-INFO World Vaccinations”, spreads claims about a “national emergency” due to the US Centre for Disease Control injecting mercury into children and pregnant women to vaccinate them against flu.

The founder of the campaign, “Jeb Boston Dawson”, claims he aims to “get the laws changed on vaccines”. So far his campaign has raised just $5, based on a single donation from himself.

Another campaign attempted to raise money to “fight mandatory vaccination” by lobbying US Congress to prevent removal of exemptions on religious grounds. It has no backers.

Other campaigns claim to be raising money for disabilities blamed on vaccinations.

A total of $1,010 has been raised to help a Californian woman who is said to have suffered sight loss after having the shingles vaccine and another has collected $220 based on claims that a pet dog was paralysed after receiving a vaccination for rabies.

Anti-vaxxers also remain active on Facebook, with the Vaccination Information Network and the Truth About Vaccines Docuseries both attracting more than 100,000 followers and likes. The “Vaccine Injury Stories” group has 26,000 members.

It follows increasing concerns over a surge of measles and chicken pox outbreaks across the UK, US, and Europe, and around the world. More than 1,200 people have died in a recent measles outbreak in Madagascar.

Social media companies are under pressure to take tougher action and the UK government has announced it is considering new rules to ban any anti-vaccine posts.

YouTube has demonetised anti-vaxxer videos, Pinterest has blocked search results for the term and Facebook claims to have reduced the prominence of posts spreading misleading information.

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GoFundMe has not yet responded to requests for comment on its anti-vaxxer policy.

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