May 2, 2015;C|Net
As had happened last month with the campaign to raise funds to support South Carolina police officer Michael Slager in his defense in the shooting death of Walter Scott, crowdfunding site GoFundMe has removed the fundraising page for the Maryland officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. As reported in the Baltimore Sun, spokeswoman for GoFundMe Kelsea Little said:
“GoFundMe removed the fundraising campaign created for the Baltimore police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. GoFundMe cannot be used to benefit those who are charged with serious violations of the law. The campaign clearly stated that the money raised would be used to assist the officers with their legal fees, which is a direct violation of GoFundMe’s terms. Specifically, ‘campaigns in defense of formal charges or claims of heinous crimes, violent, hateful, sexual or discriminatory acts’ are not permitted on GoFundMe.”
What’s interesting here is that the terms as linked above reflect a recent change on the part of GoFundMe—the words “or claims” were added on April 29th, as detailed on the site’s blog. What this means is that it’s no longer necessary for criminal charges to be filed for this term of service to be breached. GoFundMe can now pull down a page connected to defense against civil suits—such as those concerning the violation of state anti-discrimination laws, or the kind filed last month by the parents of Ferguson’s Michael Brown.
Consider the case of the Christian bakers and faith-based florists who refused service to same-sex weddings. Both had fundraising campaigns started to support them; both had those efforts stopped by GoFundMe. The Daily Signal, a news site founded by the conservative 501(c)(3) Heritage Foundation, asserts that the site closed these campaigns down in violation of the previous set of conditions, prompting the change.
GoFundMe describes the new terms as part of an effort to protect its community. Other changed rules observe that the site “reserves the right to share the content from a deleted campaign with law enforcement, donors or stated beneficiaries who wish to file a police report about any misuse of fundraising proceeds.”
It used to be that crowdfunding sites held themselves at a remove from the campaigns they hosted. Now, in the face of a more politicized world, they find themselves taking greater responsibility for their users’ fundraising ends.—Jason Schneiderman