We were wrong

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Dear everybody,

On Wednesday morning Kickstarter was sent a blog post quoting disturbing material found on Reddit. The offensive material was part of a draft for a “seduction guide” that someone was using Kickstarter to publish. The posts offended a lot of people — us included — and many asked us to cancel the creator’s project. We didn’t.

We were wrong.

Why didn’t we cancel the project when this material was brought to our attention? Two things influenced our decision:

  • The decision had to be made immediately. We had only two hours from when we found out about the material to when the project was ending. We’ve never acted to remove a project that quickly. 
  • Our processes, and everyday thinking, bias heavily toward creators. This is deeply ingrained. We feel a duty to our community — and our creators especially — to approach these investigations methodically as there is no margin for error in canceling a project. This thinking made us miss the forest for the trees.

These factors don’t excuse our decision but we hope they add clarity to how we arrived at it.

Let us be 100% clear: Content promoting or glorifying violence against women or anyone else has always been prohibited from Kickstarter. If a project page contains hateful or abusive material we don’t approve it in the first place. If we had seen this material when the project was submitted to Kickstarter (we didn’t), it never would have been approved. Kickstarter is committed to a culture of respect.

Where does this leave us?

First, there is no taking back money from the project or canceling funding after the fact. When the project was funded the backers’ money went directly from them to the creator. We missed the window.

Second, the project page has been removed from Kickstarter. The project has no place on our site. For transparency’s sake, a record of the page is cached here.

Third, we are prohibiting “seduction guides,” or anything similar, effective immediately. This material encourages misogynistic behavior and is inconsistent with our mission of funding creative works. These things do not belong on Kickstarter.

Fourth, today Kickstarter will donate $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organization called RAINN. It’s an excellent organization that combats exactly the sort of problems our inaction may have encouraged.

We take our role as Kickstarter’s stewards very seriously. Kickstarter is one of the friendliest, most supportive places on the web and we’re committed to keeping it that way. We’re sorry for getting this so wrong.

Thank you,

Kickstarter

Comments
    1. Eloise Tuttle Stathem Sauls on

      ok. you did what you cold to make right. but, what project was it, and what will happen to the product now?

    2. Missing avatar

      Chris Francis on

      @Mike Maring

      Please read over the apology again and follow a link or two. Specifically the first paragraph. There are multiple lines in the project creator's book draft informing the reader to sexually assault the woman they hope to 'get.'

    3. Malcolm Gin on

      Good apology. To be honest I was about to leave you over this and I'm glad I feel like I can stay.

    4. Hayden Schiff on

      @Tom Heydweiller: Of course they're apologizing *after* screwing up, that's the definition of an apology. And they couldn't pull the plug on the project after the project funded because when a project funds, everyone's credit cards or whatever are immediately charged. The funding is now completely in Amazon Payments' hands, not Kickstarter's hands.

    5. Mitchell Saltzman on

      @Mike Maring you must not have read the reddit excerpts of what the guy was planning to put into the book, or the blog post that was linked at the very beginning of this blog post.

      "Decide that you’re going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.”

      "Even when a girl rejects your advances, she KNOWS that you desire her. That’s hot. It arouses her physically and psychologically.”

      That's not "how to meet or talk with women." That's "how to commit sexual assault."

    6. Missing avatar

      Matt Field on

      The fact does still remain however that, due to your inability to take action, this project has still received it's funding. This apology goes some way towards repairing some of the damage, but the fact that this "guide" will still receive it's funds and will still be written and published is, in my mind, a failure on Kickstarter's part.

      "Our processes, and everyday thinking, bias heavily toward creators. This is deeply ingrained."

      Even when the creator is proliferating this kind of content? Hmm. The fact that this project even got past your vetting procedures leaves me incredibly dubious.

      Thank you for trying to make things right but the damage is done.

    7. Herm on

      Many kudos for this apology. This is customer relations done well. So impressed that I'm going to forward to webby colleagues as an example.

    8. Greek Winter Media on

      I dont see a single thing wrong with this. It doesn't promote violence in any way and I honest to god cannot understand how anyone thinks so. Women's magazines are more in depth and sexual than this and you dont see anyone calling them violent or pulling their funding. (hell, they can be found in stores at a height a child can pick up) But when similar tips are directed at men it's suddenly evil? I call BS.

    9. Trevor D McGarrah on

      The creator of the book says that the quotes were taken out of context. His explanation can be found here: http://pastebin.com/zwHYzCZe. I am unsure if this is actually from the author of the book or someone else though. I have no connection with the project and just found out about this a few minutes ago.

    10. Katherine Leah on

      Good apology. Thank you for your openness, recognition, and willingness to admit a mistake and prevent it in the future. Well done, Kickstarter team.

    11. Annette Pew on

      Kickstarter, it's time to add a new "approval" stage to your process, perhaps. Rather than continually trying to catch violating projects off the conveyor belt before they drop, maybe you need one final check stage before the project clears.

      You could even have this be only for 'flagged' projects that are under scrutiny or review, thus eliminating your need for a 'two hour window' excuse. Flag it, take your time to get your facts together, then decide if it should be removed or funded.

      This is your site, your policy, your process. It can be modified to solve these issues in the future.

    12. Raffaele Passarelli on

      qq
      For transparency’s sake, a record of the page is cached here.
      unquote

      the link doesn't give any result.

    13. Erica Friedman on

      I read the same article, went right to the Kickstarter page and reported it as sexual harassment. It took me maybe 15 minutes. In 2 hours, you could not come to the same conclusion? I think you were afraid to anger the anyone, dithered until it was too late, then came up with this apology instead. I bet it didn't take you 2 hours to write it, either.

      There is no excuse for not having the strength of your convictions.

    14. Gaston Ragnar Rippinger on

      This completely went past my radar and I'm just catching up.
      I love Kickstarter and agree with the other comments that this apology is excellently worded and feels sincere and I hugely respect the Kickstarter crew for this.

    15. Sandra Powell on

      I'm saddened that you all weren't able to cancel this in time, but I must admit, that's the damned best apology I've seen online for this type of incident. Thanks Kickstarter. You've renewed my faith.

    16. Chase Layman on

      good job kickstarter

    17. Mark Dell on

      Mr Kickstarter must be married because he really knows how to draft a good apology.
      'Jokes' aside, bravo!

    18. Andy Kitkowski
      Superbacker
      on

      @Robyn: What Alana said:
      * While the Kobe Jerky project was suspended just before it funded, they had at least a few days to review the material and come to that decision: The investigative group posted their funding DAYS before, not minutes. KS reviewed it to make sure the complaints were legit, then pulled the product before it funded. There was lead time.
      * This project, though, had very little lead time between "pointing out the legitimate complaint for review" and "project passing funding".

      Thanks KS for posting that. It is very appreciated.

    19. Jonathan Woodward
      Superbacker
      on

      Well done, Kickstarter.

    20. Forrest Taylor on

      Well done. This is exactly how to handle this.

    21. Allison Lianor Walters on

      Thank you very much for this. Great to see such a clear statement.

    22. Missing avatar

      dubird on

      Mike Maring: This is what the problem is. When a guy writes a book promising to include and expand on this kind of advice, that's creepy as hell and a bit scary.
      http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search…

    23. Dania Cueto on

      I'm with Robyn Strayley. I agree that this seems sincere, however, I have had a project funded in the past, and it took me nearly2 weeks to get the funds. They had to go through Amazon payment before I could get the money. So, yes, they had time to cancel the charges, and refund the money. With that said though, I appreciate the fact they are trying to make this wrong right by donating to a group that goes against this project. I did try to look at this project on the cached link and it is not available. I cannot speak of something I do not know about the project, only the aftermath of it. Surely would be nice if the link they have listed worked for those of us who are out of the loop. I would love to do another kickstarter, but I have done 2 of them, one funded one did not. I have never been featured, despite requests, and that has hurt our funding big time. all kinds of creators get featured multiple times during their project time, and we were never featured once. I feel it is because we are a live theatrical Biblical organization instead of one of controversy. Sad, but that is how I feel. Therefore, we no longer do kickstarter, and we are struggling greatly.
      www.nibda.com

    24. Benjamin Cooper on

      Could you perhaps implement a system whereby a project could be paused pending investigation? It would be just as bad for you to cancel a project in a knee jerk reaction because you are afraid of being too late.

    25. Missing avatar

      Jefferson Leard on

      @Robyn a few other people have already said this but perhaps it was unclear. In this case they had 2 hours from being notified to make the decision. In your cited case, perhaps they took days to make the decision, it just wasn't effected until minutes before being funded. The point at which the cancellation occurred is not at issue, it was the time they had available to make an educated decision.

    26. Missing avatar

      Lauren on

      I don't know if everything here is 100% true and accurate, but what I do know is that a mistake was made, you apologized for it (seemingly very sincerely) and even put money where your mouth is. $25,000 is a lot of money for an excellent organization, and hopefully this entire debacle will raise awareness to what is acceptable behavior for all people, in addition to directly helping women who need it through RAINN. You have done a courageous thing and I thank you with all my heart to taking real action to prevent further misuses of your service, clearly define your core values, and give back to the community. This whole thing was a big mess, but hopefully with all you've done, we can turn it into a huge learning experience for all. Thank you.

    27. Kirt Dankmyer
      Superbacker
      on

      @Mike and @William

      The author was very careful not to put the scary stuff in the Kickstarter pitch. The information comes from excerpts from the book he posted on Reddit.

      Check out these links:

      http://caseymalone.com/post/53339539674/this-is-not-fucking-harmless

      http://t.co/wQaMw7jVKY

    28. Greek Winter Media on

      Now that we've actually seen the quotes in context (Thanks Trevor) it is clear that there was absolutely nothing wrong with this project. Just another example of man-hating feminist hate squad taking down the male equivalent of a common women's magazine because it's ok when a woman does it, but if a guy does it it's suddenly 'rape culture'. Censorship at its finest. Glad the project was funded.

    29. Missing avatar

      Ron Conrad on

      Kickstarters mission is to create a space for cloud funding, self regulated and free from over zealous PC enforcement. If the content of anyone's submission is truly offensive the people would speak out in droves and it would be self evident. I hope Kickstarter refrains from becoming overly cautious.

    30. Sol Houser on

      I'm really glad about this.

    31. Alexander Khanukov on

      "Third, we are prohibiting “seduction guides,” or anything similar, effective immediately. This material encourages misogynistic behavior and is inconsistent with our mission of funding creative works."

      Not to split hairs here, but how is "seduction" misogynistic on its own? Do women not seduce men? I'm all for banning anything promoting violence against anyone, but the additional politically correct language above makes this apology sound like it was written by a recent grad of some sort mid-level university's "gender" studies program.

    32. Dikla on

      Thank you.

    33. Missing avatar

      Robert on

      Fantastic, thanks for listening Kickstarter and being honest and open about this. You have my sincere respect for taking such quick and decisive action.

    34. Rachel Sklar on

      Thanks Kickstarter for taking responsibility for the decision, showing us your thought process, and setting an example for others in the tech community to follow. This post and your donation to RAINN shows real leadership. It is noted and appreciated.

    35. Ryan Bunting on

      As one of the people who reported it, I knew in the back of my mind that you wouldn't be able to remove it in time, only because I know how you approach rejections. With that said, while you can't rescind the funds pledged to the project, I think you've done the right thing by being transparent about the project, your formal apology, and your spectacular donation to RAINN. This kind of maturity and level-headedness when taking on things like this is the kind of thing a crowd funding program needs to ensure that the projects you allow support to are genuine and don't preach any kind of hate. Well done Kickstarter.

    36. Alana Lynch on

      @Jeffrey "Pick her up and put her on your lap. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances."

      That's taking away a woman's bodily agency, it doesn't have anything about asking for consent before you touch someone, it's violence. It's aggressive. It's scary, especially when the person doing it is physically intimidating.

      Women are people -- treat us like it.

    37. Brittany Roberts on

      The other thing that needs to happen is to incroporate a way for kickstarter to put a pause or hold on a campaign that comes to their attention so that they're not having to make that decision within a 2 hr window. A tool to be used when there are exceptional circumstances requiring a project to be reviewed before it is funded. Otherwise, I appreciate this effort after the fact and was glad to see the donation made.

    38. Eva S
      Superbacker
      on

      You have the mechanisms in place to pull projects after they're closed. So um... nice try? :/

    39. kevinwparker on

      @Mike Maring, @Terence Bowlby: I suggest you read some excerpts from the proposed book, for example: "Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don't ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances."

    40. Missing avatar

      Steph Quinlan on

      Well done Kickstarter. :) Thank you.

      That was classy and honest.

    41. Erin Nappe Bellavia on

      Thank you, Kickstarter.

    42. Karl-Johan Sjögren on

      I completely agree with @Luke Michaels, projects such as the Roboroach (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/backyardbrains/the-roboroach-control-a-living-insect-from-your-sm) should also be considered to be banned. In the end it's cruelty against an animal even of most will just think "hey it's just a cockroach".

    43. Missing avatar

      Kate Clancy on

      I really appreciate this apology and its obvious sincerity. But as many have pointed out, you really did have time to cancel this (and you've canceled other projects with less time to spare). It's also still not clear to me how it got through your first check.

      That said, I do appreciate your desire to make things right by donating to RAINN, which is a great organization.

    44. Missing avatar

      Matthew Wilmshurst on

      Possibly some way of putting a hold on a project to give you time to make such a decision would be in order for the future. I also hope the donation is at least as much as you made from this project otherwise you would still be profiting by it, I don't know the numbers involved so I can only hope that you've completely corrected matters. Thankfully I feel I can continue using this service.

    45. Kris McDermott on

      Comments like the one above just prove how right your decision was. Thanks for issuing a sincere apology, not a "sorry but not sorry" statement like so many people would issue in your situation.

    46. Greek Winter Media on

      @Alana, because women's magazines don't say almost the exact same things about seducing men. I've read the damn things but I guess it's perfectly OK giving women advice to push men hard. Also, you are once again ripping the quote out of context and ignoring the fact that the FULL quote continues to say "If she says no, stop immediately and tell her you don't want to do anything that would make her uncomfortable." You're cherry picking to make this look as bad as possible. That is proof you're being disingenuous in your agenda.

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