4chan, Reddit, Other Forums Provide Crowdsourced Due Diligence On Suddenly Controversial Crowdfunding Campaign

Yesterday the crowd came up with some of the most compelling due diligence in the short history of crowdfunding. In turn, they surfaced possibilities that may have been overlooked by publications like Business Insider, CNET, The Next Web and more.

The story I am referring to is the recent story of a little girl whose mother was seeking to raise funds so her 9 year old daughter could go to a camp to learn to program video games. There are some allegations surfacing about the financial status of the woman who launched the campaign as well as her motives in doing so.

What is even more notable is that this phenomenon seemed to take place largely on 4chan, Reddit and a handful of niche internet forums.

If you aren’t familiar (and many aren’t) 4chan is a challenge to explain because there is nothing else quite like it on the Internet. 4chan was launched in 2003 by a young man named Christopher Poole (or moot) and the site serves as a completely anonymous, anything goes social platform. It is one of the most powerful forces on the Internet when it comes to crowdsourcing, virality and driving eyes to happenings on the web.

In short, you can’t really claim to understand online culture and not know 4chan pretty well. 5-10 minutes on this page will bring you closer to zen. If you’re really adventurous go visit 4chan.org, but be warned that 4chan is NSFW/anything goes.

4chan and Reddit combined account for a lot of the ridiculousness you see on the Internet. I’d venture to guess a majority of the memes you find on the net come from these two sites… LOLcats, Rickrolling, etc. This is now woven into the often fickle (and usually hilarious) culture of the Internet.

However, what took place this weekend was a little more than funny cat pictures. In a very public way, people crowdsourced intelligence using these platforms. From digging through some of the conversation, in my opinion the information captured was best summarized by a single Reddit post. The post follows in it’s entirety…

I’ve been following this story on 4chan, this is a hell of a lot shadier then it seems.

1) She has her own female only crowd funding website so why is she using kickstarter?

Link: http://www.fundher.com/

2) She has tried scamming kickstarter with a previous “project” which is pretty much the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. She was asking for $20k . And I still haven’t figured out what the “project” is about. Something about wearing towels as capes?

Here’s a link to it http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/susanwilson/the-cape-project

Nonsense regarding the failed Kickstarter scam

Who hasn’t wished they could fly? CUSTOM SUPERHERO CAPES! Personalized. Exquisitely crafted. Handmade by U.S. veteran family business.

OUR STORY

Our capes aren’t quite bulletproof or indestructible, but they do withstand the harshest, unimaginative, closed minds on earth. No, your personalized cape won’t allow you to jump tall buildings nor will it give you night vision. But it will allow you to defeat boring days and capture the imagination inside you. And what’s more powerful than that?

3) She’s breaking the Kickstarter Spamming rule

Rule in question:

Evidence of Spam:

She’s spamming celebrities like Lady Gaga & The Ellen DeGeneres show. Why is she spamming celebrities and popular media just to raise $829?

3a) Also evidence of breach of the “Fund my life” rule being broken:

Rule:

Evidence: 

4) As stated by the O.P she’s exploiting gender issues (feminism) such as the debate on women in STEM fields. She keeps referring to the RPG training camp as RPG STEM training camp. (Clearly milking the buzzword STEM)

More exploitation of gender issues:

5) The company that is running the RPG training camp, has an article on this Kickstarter. (Only trying to raise $829??)

6) If she only wanted to raise $829, why is she offering rewards for donating $10k ??

7) Portraying her sons as mean oppressors and throwing them under the bus to make a quick buck (Appeal to misandry)

8) Evidence of her questionable business ethics (Cybersquatting)

Evidence:

9) Relevant articles from her blog, she seems to think mixing gender issues with crowd funding is a good way to make money, which explains her kickstarter, exploiting her children & gender issues.

Conclusion:

She’s a scumbag, clearly has no ethics, is a cyber suqatter and a spammer, exploits her children, exploits gender issues & appeals to misandry to make a few bucks.

Articles in the media about this, they obviously just printed the press release she gave them, without doing any investigating.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57575879-1/9-year-old-girls-kickstarter-for-coding-camp-is-crushing-it/

http://www.examiner.com/article/9-year-old-rpg-developer-launches-kickstarter

http://au.businessinsider.com/a-9-year-olds-kickstarter-project-2013-3

http://pulse2.com/2013/03/22/nine-year-old-mackenzie-wilson-raises-over-11000-from-kickstarter-for-video-game-project-82800/

 


UPDATE: This post on Destructoid has more information about Susan Wilson’s financial situation.  It can be summed up as this: she was on CNN’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneur list in 2009.

I’ve reached out to Ms. Wilson for comment on these allegations. Pending her response, there are some questions and observations that surface from this situation…

  • The crowd outmuscled the media – This shouldn’t be a surprise. Within a day a dispersed group of individuals who didn’t even know each other’s names had gathered a substantial amount of data and information on Ms. Wilson. As far as I can tell, not one member of the mainstream media who produced an original piece about this campaign brought any of this info to light.
  • If these allegations are true, it raises a question about disclosure – Was it important for Susan Wilson to disclose her financial status if she was soliciting donations on Kickstarter? Would you be angry if you contributed to a campaign and later found out that the campaign creator was a millionaire, a marketing professional or had some other trait that may have swayed your decision to contribute in the first place?
  • There are some serious questions about Kickstarter’s rules – This project does seem to be in complete violation of Kickstarter’s guidelines unless I’m missing something.
  • In a way, the outcome doesn’t matter – All of this information already lives on the Internet and threatens to permanently damage the project creator’s reputation in crowdfunding and beyond. It also provides some serious incentive for transparency on all sides. The truth can and should come out. This is the nature and the danger of this type of crowdsourced due diligence. It doesn’t have to be true to be online, indexed by search engines, etc. (That is to say nothing of the validity of this evidence, which we haven’t determined yet in the absence of a response from the project creator)

I’ll have more to come on this story as we get more information. Anyone in the crowd can feel free to email [email protected] with information regarding this project.


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