Vox Day’s current attempt at crowdfunding a comic has fallen foul of platform Indiegogo’s terms of service. Vox Day has blamed this on people not liking his politics (i.e. people not liking him praising a guy who murdered teenagers) but Indiegogo has said little other than that the campaign violated its terms of service. Notably, the campaign had reached its final stage, so it is an odd point for Indiegogo to cancel it for almost any reason.
I say “almost”. One reason that might apply towards the end of a campaign is the platform looking at patterns of pledges and seeing something that disturbs them. In particular, a crowdfunding platform would have reasons to be concerned with behaviour akin to money-laundering because it might make the platform implicated in a crime. Now, I’ve zero reasons to think Vox Day is involved in any actual criminal money laundering but the dodgy yet non-criminal behaviour of paying yourself via a crowdfunding campaign is something he might do.
By itself, I don’t believe paying yourself via crowdfunding is illegal but it is in breach of the terms of service:
“Prohibition against self-contribution
You, or anyone acting on your behalf, may not make Contributions to your Campaign–we call these “self-contributions.” Self-contributions are prohibited both by Indiegogo and our payment processor, and either Indiegogo or our payment processor may take actions like rejecting or blocking Contributions for any length of time or suspending your Indiegogo account, if either Indiegogo or our payment processor, in our sole discretion, discovers self-contributions.” https://www.indiegogo.com/about/community-guidelines
However, I don’t doubt all sorts of crowdfunding campaigns will have occasionally added some of their own money to get their campaign over the final finish line. The hazard comes from routinely doing so throughout a campaign, which might be regarded as deceptive by the platform and also might indicate activity that was illegal in some other way and which the platform would not want to be a party to.
A couple of things support this possibility.
- Vox Day has posted that he was told by Indiegogo that his campaign was suspended because of “unusual activity”. http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/10/unusual-activity.html What kind of activity on crowdfunding platform would be “unusual” other than patterns of payments?
- Vox Day’s previous comic book crowdfunding activity on the now-defunct platform Freestartr had patterns of unusually large pledges.
I can’t link to Freestartr any more but the NPR Reveal podcast looked at the pledges in its recent episode on ComicsGate:
Amanda Rob: “Most of it’s from a anonymous donors and a lot of it comes in very large increments, some up to $5000 each which is weird because the average donation to a crowdfunding project is about $66.”
Al letson: “But we don’t know if he actually raised that money. It looks like it, but we don’t know that for a fact.”
Amanda Rob:”I think that’s a really good point because Alt-Hero was raising money on a crowdfunding site called FreeStartr, and apparently Vox Day helped create it. It’s a private site. It’s totally black box. There’s no way to find out who made most of the donations, where the money came from, where it went, if it actually existed. I did find out that the company that processed the credit card payments decided to stop working with FreeStarter a few months back, and I tried to get in touch with the company to find out why and they wouldn’t talk to me. Then Alt-Hero had already way surpassed its fundraising goal and is publishing now a series of comic books.” https://www.revealnews.org/episodes/never-meet-your-super-heroes/
Crowdfunding has its own marketing effect as well as a way of raising money to fund a project. The process of crowdfunding gives a purpose to early marketing of a product by adding a call to action (pledge some money) and also helps hype the project if the crowdfunding is successful. Ploughing your own money into a crowdfunding campaign would be an effective marketing technique but one which violated the rules of the platform.
Mass re-allocation of funds to create a publicity storm via misuse of a payment gateway/station (or massstormpaystation as it should be known) sounds like something close to Vox’s MO. As with Rabid Puppies, a supposed uncoordinated activity by many individuals being surprisingly coordinated.
There is no way of investigating this much further. It could be simply that Vox’s cult-like followers just do stuff that in hindsight is hard to distinguish from one person with multiple accounts. Put another way, we already know that Vox really does have many meat-puppet* like followers who genuinely aren’t him but which can be hard to distinguish from sock-puppets. IndieGoGo would find it difficult to prove any self-payment beyond the most blatant but would have multiple ways of flagging suspicious patterns of payment. Their terms of service allow them to suspend campaigns without explaining why in any depth.
*[I mean this kind of meat puppet https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MeatPuppet and not this kind https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meat_Puppets obviously]