Charlottesville: Crowdfunding sites refuse to host campaigns raising money for neo-Nazi murder suspect

GoFundMe and Kickstarter among those turning back on donors seeking to bankroll legal defence of James Alex Fields Jr, accused of driving Dodge Challenger into Virginia counter-protest crowd

Sheila Dang
Wednesday 16 August 2017 07:56
Comments
Mugshot of James Alex Fields Jr
Mugshot of James Alex Fields Jr

Online fund-raising sites are turning their backs on activists looking to offer financial support for James Fields, the man accused of driving his car into counter-protesters at a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday.

GoFundMe, Kickstarter and other mainstream crowdfunding firms have policies that prohibit hate speech or abuse, the latest example of technology firms making it harder for far-right groups to organise online.

Fields is accused of killing one woman and injuring 19 others on Saturday after the rally in Charlottesville turned violent. Supporters of Fields, who was denied bail at a court hearing in Virginia on Monday, have turned to the internet to raise money for his legal defence.

GoFundMe, one of the two leading crowdfunding firms, said on Monday it has removed multiple fundraising campaigns for Fields, because the company prohibits the promotion of hate speech and violence.

"Those campaigns did not raise any money and they were immediately removed," said Bobby Whithorne, director of strategic communications at GoFundMe, adding that fewer than 10 campaigns have so far been posted. GoFundMe will continue to delete similar campaigns if more are created, he said.

Most mainstream crowdfunding sites, which let people fund projects or ventures by raising money online, have policies that prohibit campaigns that promote hate speech or violence.

Kickstarter, which vies with GoFundMe as the largest crowdfunding platform, said it also has a policy prohibiting hate speech or encouraging violence. It said its service focuses on creative projects and has not seen any campaigns related to Fields or the Charlottesville protest.

Indiegogo, a smaller rival, said it has a similar policy prohibiting campaigns that promote threatening or abusive behaviour. It said it is monitoring campaigns but has yet to see any funds supporting Fields.

The block on mainstream crowdfunding is just the latest blow to far-right activists operating online. In the last 24 hours, neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer had its domain registration revoked twice, by GoDaddy and Google, for violating terms of service.

The rejection by mainstream crowdfunding sites means white nationalists have been forced to use other platforms that champion freedom of speech.

Jason Kessler, who organised the far-right rally in Charlottesville, has raised $2,659 as of Monday afternoon on RootBocks, a crowdfunding site that is "free from political or social censorship," according to its website.

He started a campaign called the "Unite the Right Legal Defense Fund" on Sunday night and aims to raise $50,000 to sue the city of Charlottesville for failing to protect the speakers and protesters at the rally.

Another campaign on RootBocks opened on Saturday has raised more than $8,000 of its $50,000 goal to support a lawsuit against Charlottesville by Nathan Damigo, founder of white-nationalist group Identity Evropa. On Saturday, Damigo said on Twitter he was wrongly arrested at the protest, in violation of his civil rights.

CrowdJustice, a site that focuses on raising money for legal cases, has not seen any funds connected to Fields or others who were in Charlottesville, said Chief Executive Julia Salasky.

The firm verifies that defendants or plaintiffs have an attorney or nonprofit who is taking their case before they can start a fund on the website, Salasky said.

"That filters out people who are promoting hatred and without a legal basis," she said.

Reuters

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in