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. Nora Reed Heineman-Fleck on

      Thanks, Kickstarter. I've followed you and a few other projects on similar sites for a while and I was really not looking forward to having to pass over creators I like because I didn't feel comfortable supporting a site with your policies. This change, the donation and your choice to actually post a real apology instead of a bullshit "we're sorry you were offended" line is fantastic.

    2. Pamela Alexander on

      Mistakes happen. The best we can hope for is for errors to be corrected, and I think this apology and the generous donation to RAINN goes above and beyond what most organizations would do.

      Faith restored. Well done.

    3. Aaron Larson on

      Thank you for this.

    4. Carlos MDC on

      While I think the campaign is inappropriate for Kickstarter. The whole teaching men to be "a rapist" claim is far stretched.

    5. Stephanie Tyll on

      To all negative commenters, you saw only what the kickstarter creator carefully curated to slip past the reviewers. The full text of the manual was online (he hid it, but it was cached) and included extremely tasteless suggestions that included coercion and assault. I'm not surprised this got through the review process, he did a careful spin job.

      Thank you, Kickstarter, for your response.

    6. 유녜미 on

      Thanks so much.

    7. Missing avatar

      Trista G. on

      Thank you! I appreciate the fact that you not only apologized, but are also donating money to a worthy cause. I'm kind of disappointed you couldn't retroactively remove funding for this project but I do understand there would be legal ramifications if you did that.
      On the note of this project "slipping through" your system. Maybe it's time for the introduction of a moderator system for project approvals?

    8. Michael Scott Greer on

      Thank you. With a world that is ripe with sexual assault victims and other sick fetishes that morally ill-focused minds come up with it is glad to see that there are others who will continue to stick up for those who are harmed by misconduct of this nature.

      I understand your views about why you didn't cancel it, but I also respect and understand your commitment to protecting the public by establishing this new rule.

    9. Missing avatar

      John Funk on

      Jeffrey Dean, you are blind. Telling men to push on and do things like pulling a woman into their lap or putting her hand on your groin (trust me, she knows where it is, if she wants to touch your dick she will) is absolutely encouraging sexual harassment.

      So-called sex tips in "common women's magazines" are harmful in their own ways, yes, but none of them encourage sexual harassment or sexual assault. There was EVERYTHING wrong with this project, and blaming it on man-hating feminists (gee, I'm a man, do I hate myself???) is myopic and chauvinistic.

      Alexander Khanukov: Seduction on its own isn't necessarily misogynistic, but "pick-up artistry" that treats women like a game or a computer program, aimed at getting sex via manipulation (for instance, 'negging') absolutely is.

    10. Greek Winter Media on

      The quote everyone keeps posting is finished by "If she says no, stop immediately and tell her you don't want to do anything that would make her uncomfortable. "

      Way to cherry-pick to make a mountain out of a molehill and pretend it's about rape.

    11. Missing avatar

      Alex Dunderdale on

      Good apology, guys.

    12. Meredith Yayanos on

      Thank you for this.

    13. Robin Winslow on

      Kickstarter, this is an extremely humble and genuine post. I am very impressed. Most companies should communicate like this.

      Although aren't you worried that 'prohibiting “seduction guides,” or anything similar' might go too far, with regard to your duty to your creators? What's your opinion on [this](http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2013/06/trouble-pick-up-artists/) and [this](http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2012/09/pick-up-artists-2/) and the problem of shy, inexperienced people turning to the pick-up subculture for relationship help?

      It seems to me that there is scope for valuable projects from that subculture, without advocating abuse or exploitation in any way.

      @lukemichaels wow that roboroach project is really cool

    14. Dan Warren on

      Excellent response. Not as good as canceling the damn thing to begin with, but it's still surprisingly responsible behavior.

    15. Stephen Schaffer
      Superbacker
      on

      I don't know...they let this project be approved and get funded but would not let me list my project. My project was a Cigar Nubber. I new invention that works with "Legal" Cigars... Nothing immoral or illegal...but I was not allowed. Even after seeing other projects that endorse tobacco use, were as mine did not. I would say that they need to do more effort in policing projects like this and less about denying projects like mine.

    16. Missing avatar

      James Servino on

      Good apology--I am back on team kickstarter.

    17. VS on

      Thank you for apologising. You have met the basic standards of being decent human beings, which not many people & organisations on the internet can say for themselves.

    18. Missing avatar

      Victoria McNally on

      @Mike Maring: Have you seen any of the excerpts from the book that the author posted to Reddit? Many of them explicitly advocate touching women without their consent and deliberately ignoring their signs of rejection. A direct quote: "Force her to rebuff your advances." That's the literal definition of sexual harassment.

      I agree that the project page in and of itself looks harmless and that's probably why it went unnoticed for so long. If you read the entire blog post that Kickstarter links to here, however, it should be very, very clear why this has offended so many people.

    19. Hope Leman on

      Thank goodness you are addressing this matter at last. Mika A. Epstein Is quite correct here, "I'm not saying fire them, but your entire approvals team needs to all sit down and discuss why this happened, why it's not okay, and how to not have it happen again." There seem to have been no adults in the room.

      I never expected to feel so disillusioned with the leadership team at Kickstarter (which I still believe is a wonderful force for good vis-à-vis the development of new technologies and for the opening up of space for new voices in the arts and culture) as I felt yesterday when I read that Kickstarter was refusing to take that disgusting project down. I feel better now and am glad that you realized what a PR mess you were in and how genuinely outraged many of us were by the hatred towards women that project embodied. What made things worse was the cheery emailed newsletter that came into my inbox at the time from Kickstarter and the happy talk tweets during the whole imbroglio. I kept thinking, "What are they thinking?! How clueless can you be?"

      Good for you for finally doing the right thing.

    20. Melissa Kitchen on

      @Mike Maring... Did you even read the Material? Find the bold face "Sex" section in the guide that shows when you click "Material" above. Then tell me it is not abusive toward women!

    21. matt on

      This is great news. Thank you for your thoughtful response to this serious issue.

    22. jessamyn on

      Good for you. This was the right decision.

    23. Missing avatar

      John Funk on

      Jeffrey Dean: Except the entire thing is about pushing boundaries. If you put her hand on your crotch and she pulls it away because she didn't want to do it, *that's already sexual harassment* if not sexual assault.

    24. Wilhelm on

      I'm going to quote this here -- apology or not money still went to where now everyone believes it should not have gone. As a reduction to the absurd, this would be like, "Oops! We funded terrorists. Our apology now is to give money to the military!"

      Quote for relevance:
      Mika A Epstein:
      That apology is a nice start, but I call horsepucky on 'We only had two hours...'
      "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."
      That sounds ... really wrong.
      You approve every single KickStarter before it goes live, and you've rejected many (for understandable reasons). Frankly, this tells me that whomever approved this particular KickStarter made a bone-headed mistake. This is something that should have been flagged for a high level review, and if it wasn't, whomever said 'Yeah, that's okay,' need to have a talking to about why this was not okay. I'm not saying fire them, but your entire approvals team needs to all sit down and discuss why this happened, why it's not okay, and how to not have it happen again.
      Put some checks and balances in BEFORE it gets approved.
      Unless you're trying to say "We don't review the content before we approve a kickstarter" because if so? You need to start. Now.

    25. Missing avatar

      Kristin on

      The fact that Kickstarter donated $25K shows a certain level of sincerity, in my opinion. The original project was funded at a little over $16K, and if Kickstarter takes 5% of that they only make $800 from the project. Donating significantly more than they made, and significantly more than the project itself achieved says something. Thank you.

    26. Charles Ranier on

      I'm betting you could have frozen the kickstarter until you investigated it rather than "oops the clock ran out" but whatever.

    27. Missing avatar

      deleted on

      This user's account has been deleted.

    28. Melissa Kitchen on

      @Terence Bowlby If you haven't seen the content, then you haven't clicked on either link provided. Don't ASSUME it's an over censorship. They were RIGHT to close the Kickstarter. Those who refuse to see the evidence, are as ignorant as those who think it's okay to be disgusting!

    29. Hannming Chen on

      知過必改,善莫大焉!

      You'll be fine!
      Keep going!

    30. Kristi D. on

      Thanks for the comments, transparency and the donation.

    31. Greek Winter Media on

      @John, I have literally read women's magazines while waiting in long lines at the grocery store that have reccomended women be just as pushy if they want a man. These are popular magazines that sell hundreds of thousands of copies and are placed at a level a child can reach.

      But somehow it's perfectly ok to give women such advice but if you tell a man the same thing you are a rapist advocating assault? I almost feel bad for you. The hypocrisy you people live with daily must burn like an STD.

    32. Elizabeth Beurling on

      Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I remember the GameStick project being temporarily suspended while there was a copyright claim applied to their project. Couldn't you have suspended this for a full investigation, then granted time back to the project if it was cleared? Clearly it wouldn't be cleared in this case and this situation could have been avoided.

    33. Joshua Looby on

      @ Robyn Straley I am sure that there is no inconsistency with comparing the Kobe Jerky project. I believe that kickstarter has a debate system of review for projects that need to be considered to be removed, and am sure in the case of Kobe Jerky they knew about many days in advance and went through the debate committee and then made a decision and it just happened that there were minutes left on the project. Things are not always as they appear and you need to get all facts first this includes the people at CNN that reported the story.

    34. Alexandra Erin on

      I think removing the page sends the wrong message. You've washed your hands of something you're directly responsible for doing. That isn't accountability, it's the opposite. I'm not saying you should put it back now, but spinning that into part of your solution makes the whole thing seem disingenuous.

      It makes it seem like the point of this is "Hey, guys, we don't want to be known as the place that did this." rather than "We don't want to be a place that does this."

    35. Missing avatar

      Melinda VanLone on

      It's a fine line to walk...our society is all about freedom and expression, and censoring a project must be the hardest decision you face day in and day out. Thank you for your efforts and sincerity and for providing this amazing platform for creatives in the first place. And to the guy who is still writing this book....I hope you truly think about what you're writing and teaching to others (and how they may interpret it) before you hit that "publish" button.

    36. Samantha Deakin on

      Apology is appreciated. Well done for being so honest, guys.

    37. Mike Vial on

      I appreciated the apology. The idea that the money can't be refunded doesn't make sense, since Amazon withholds payments for a week or two; but the thoughtfulness of this apology is important. People who think "this is just a book, what's the big deal," need to read this teacher's blog post about fighting this acceptance in the classroom: http://accidentaldevotional.com/2013/03/19/the-day-i-taught-how-not-to-rape/

    38. Ric Groenendal on

      Sounds like an acceptable and appropriate response to me.

    39. Rachel Brandt Fisher on

      I'm happy to see this but am still on the fence about using Kickstarter in the future. I reported this days before it was due to end and I know many other people did too.

    40. David Taggart on

      Wow, epic apology. Speaking as a straight white male with no dog in this race, I applaud this post, your actions, and the stance your company has taken. Your commitment to gender rights is laudable, and I will make sure to remember this to friends and family.

      GOOD ON YA!

    41. Miluette on

      Great post! I'm so happy you've made this clear.

      That's how you do an apology. I personally appreciate it.

    42. Missing avatar

      brunothepig on

      I just want to add my voice to those thanking you for taking this stance against this. It's never really possible to know how truthful organisations are in these cases, but this does feel sincere. The donation is a great gesture.

      A couple of points I see people arguing about. Money is withdrawn from backers immediately. It may not all go to the project straight away, but it's not hard to imagine that to reverse this afterwards is difficult to impossible.
      Secondly, the reason Kickstarter missed the hateful content at the outset is because it wasn't in the KS page. It was from excerpts posted on Reddit, which was unfortunately not seen (except by the filth in that sub) until quite soon before the project would end.

    43. Jesse Strachman on

      To those of you defending the author, and trying to use his "pastebin" reply as a defense:

      http://pastebin.com/zwHYzCZe

      ...let me just offer this:

      "If at any point a girl wants you to stop, she will let you know."

      False. That is a great way to justify rape. Some girls are uncomfortable with saying "no" because the culture shames them for doing so. Also, not saying "no" does not equate to "yes" nor does it equate to consent. Even in his attempt to defend himself, he is authorizing attempted rape. This is not okay. Also:

      "If a woman isn't comfortable, take a break and try again later."

      No. Bad, bad idea. That's essentially saying, "Keep trying things that make her uncomfortable until she finally gives in." Horrible, horrible idea. That's encouraging harassment.

      So even in the author's attempt to defend himself, he's advocating attempted rape, and harassment. Kickstarter, you should have pulled the plug sooner. And I'm not cherry-picking here. I'm using the author's exact attempt to defend himself, pulled directly from his own words, and I'm including the link to his words as well. The author has failed in every way to defend his actions and the book should not have been funded. No.

    44. Missing avatar

      Rosemary Smith on

      Thank you so much for this. You don't know what it means.

      To the guys saying 'WTH! The stuff on the page looks OK! FEMINAZIS!' A quick Google for news on this would tell you that no one was objecting to the blurb, but drafts of sections of this book have been all over Reddit and advise men to constantly escalate physically and not take 'no' for an answer. And that's a polite summary. But then, if you really cared you'd have done that already, so methinks you already knew the content and are just annoyed that women have spoken up to say that, no, your fantasy is actually rape, and that is not how women want you to act and Kickstarter agrees.

    45. Austin Nail on

      Very respectable handling of the situation.

    46. Jacob D. Adamo on

      110% pure unadulterated bullshit. Your company wanted its cut of the money, so you didn't cancel the project.