Kickstarter Continues To Get Flak For “Censoring” Pro-Life Projects, But Is It Warranted?

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Kickstarter made headlines recently for what boils down to a disagreement between Kickstarter’s in-house curators and filmmakers producing a documentary about Dr. Kermit Gosnell. For those seeking more details, we broke down the situation in an earlier article. Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler has since rebutted the claims, explaining that the film wasn’t rejected.

Now a second campaign from Jason Vaughn has also run into problems when it comes to getting past Kickstarter’s gatekeepers. The situation was explained in a post to TwistedConservative.com. In short, the campaign seeks funding for a film series called Stolen Moments aimed at telling the potential life stories lost to abortion.

The campaign was rejected on the grounds of being in violation of Kickstarter’s prohibition against “self help campaigns”…

What worries me though is not only can I not understand their reasoning for rejecting Stolen Moments, but they also happened to reject another film that has some talk about abortion in it. I’m hesitant to call it a pro-life film because I don’t think the creators would consider it as such.

katie pavlichIn an article on TownHall.com, Katie Pavlich (pictured, right) calls Kickstarter out for censorship. “Apparently condom bouquets and late-term abortion doctors meet Kickstarter community standards but films exposing the horrors of Kermit Gosnell and the abortion industry are just too much to handle,” she says.

So does Kickstarter deserve criticism?

To a point, yes. As the old adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and nobody has more power in the rewards-based crowdfunding world than Kickstarter. I’ve been critical of Kickstarter in the past for not being more clear on their guidelines. I cannot for the life of me understand how Stolen Moments can be construed as a self help project unless the pitch was vastly reworked before launching on Indiegogo.

Kickstarter owes it to crowdfunding enthusiasts to clarify their rules and stick to them steadfastly

Does that mean Kickstarter is censoring projects? Nobody can say for sure, as we do not have intimate access to Kickstarter’s internal processes and the motivations behind these decisions. For better or worse, Kickstarter remains extremely mum on issues such as these as is evident in the response the project creator received from Kickstarter, which was very terse and final. There was no offer made to rework the basis of the campaign. It was flat rejected.

kickstarter-logoThe reality is that getting cast off of Kickstarter can cost people valuable time and money. It usually doesn’t inspire confidence when you tell potential backers you’re planning to launch on Kickstarter only to later launch on another platform because Kickstarter said no.

Indiegogo is dealing with their own problems regarding the efficacy of their platform right now, and their hands-off approach may have to change especially if they want to wade into the world of equity crowdfunding for non-accredited investors as has been hinted in the past. That, however, is a story for another day.

I think Kickstarter owes it to crowdfunding enthusiasts to clarify their rules and stick to them steadfastly. If they get criticized for not doing so, it seems justified to me based on examples like these. This isn’t akin to a product being rejected from the shelves at Walmart. Kickstarter’s ethos is rooted in the democratization of capital for artistic projects – the term “artistic” being as broad as it is – and that seems to counter the arbitrary and sometimes incomprehensible application of their own policies. Furthermore, in this case the rejection comes with no detailed explanation. That makes it hard to understand what is allowed and what isn’t.

Having said that, the pro-life movement and free market economic policies are invariably linked via conservative politics, so you have to excuse me for being a little cynical about conservative pundits calling a private company to the carpet for exercising their right to deny service based on their own beliefs. Kickstarter’s project guidelines are absolutely part of an evolving belief system. (We are not a store, no GMOs, no seduction guides et. al.)

Aren’t these the same pundits that would, let’s say, fight for Hobby Lobby’s right not to provide contraception to employees on the grounds of a belief system? Let me spoil that for you: Katie Pavlich took to Fox News to argue that Hobby Lobby did indeed have that right under our First Amendment.

Kickstarter needs be more clear, but conservatives need to be consistent, too.

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  • mensmovement

    First off, not all pro-lifers are conservative. Lots of black, Hispanic and Asian evangelicals who regularly vote Democrat are pro-life. Further, lots of white and non-white Catholics are conservative socially but liberal, even socialist/Marxist economically, with the current pope being an example.

    Second, “Kickstarter needs be more clear, but conservatives need to be consistent, too” is irrelevant. Why? Because Kickstarter is inconsistently and selectively applying their own rules. Hobby Lobby, Chik-Fil-A etc. are consistent. You might disagree with them and say that are consistently wrong, but they set rules and stick to them. Kickstarter has one set of rules for people that they agree with and another set of rules for people that they disagree with. This is a general problem on the left. At universities, liberal speakers with offensive views get embraced while conservative ones aren’t even allowed on campus usually, and even when they are liberal groups organize “protests” to shout them down and deny them the right to speak with the university administration doing nothing. As for Mozilla, a company with a similar ethos to Kickstarter, would Brendan Eich been fired for giving a donation to Planned Parenthood or the Human Rights Campaign? Of course not.

    Third, Kickstarter’s duplicity is transparent. They reject a project, then wait until the project goes to another crowdfunding site, and then they issue a statement claiming that the initial rejection was a mistake, they are reviewing their guidelines to keep it from happening again, and inviting the project back, knowing that they won’t come. By doing this, they A) get to keep projects that offends them ideologically off their site while B) retaining plausible deniability when it comes to censorship and ideological bias. They really should not be allowed to get away with this. They should not be allowed to have their cake and eat it too. They need to either make the fact that they reserve the right to block projects based on ideology and politics explicit – and suffer the consequences – or they need to allow projects that offend the sensibilities and views of their leaders, employees and contributors through and suffer those consequences. The fact that people who have conservative beliefs have the same rights to pursue their beliefs through the courts and political process does not excuse Kickstarter’s dishonesty, and for you to claim otherwise is appalling. As if the presence of people who disagree with you politically excuses Kickstarter’s breaking their own rules and lying about it. What would you say if it were a conservative organization who did the same?