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. Larry Fine
      Superbacker
      on

      I don't support the project, or "seduction guides" in general, but I am disappointed in your reversal and your language here and your failure to stand up for free speech. Calling what was endorsed by this book (given what we know from reddit) as "violence against women" is just factually incorrect, and you've made your new decision based on distortions. This sets a bad precedent for books on controversial topics in the future. Giving a hecklers' veto to any projects people don't like doesn't bode well for Kickstarter.

    2. Mischell Yost on

      WHAT exactly was misogynistic or harmful about this project?! In fact, the damn robotic cockroach is FAR FAR FAR more twisted and immoral than anything that could be contained in a how-to-find-women book. This is a damn shame. THIS project should have been removed at the start: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/backyardbrains/the-roboroach-control-a-living-insect-from-your-sm

    3. Forrest Taylor on

      The generous donation to RAINN and the REAL apology (not the usual "sorry if you were offended" crap) makes up for it. Thank you.

    4. Ann Aguirre on

      I'd feel better about this if Kickstarter said they were also instituting a more rigorous screening policy. Just banning seduction guides doesn't cover all bases.

      This is a good apology, but it's after the fact, and how much is 25K really to a corporation that earns as much as Kickstarter? I'm 85% sure this is to put out the internet fire and not lose revenue.

    5. Missing avatar

      John Funk on

      @Jeffrey you may have missed the part where I said that so-called sex tips in womens magazines are problematic in their own ways, but I have never read anything in them that violates mens' bodily autonomy and boundaries of consent as the excerpts from this book encouraged men to do to women. Furthermore, while it is certainly possible for women to sexually assault or rape men, and that should not be minimized, it is far, far, FAR more common for it to be the other way around. These things aren't being written in a vacuum but in the context of society.

      In other words, even IF the womens magazines and this PUA manual contained the exact same advice (which I find hard to believe), while they would both be equally repellent, the PUA manual would be infinitely more likely to cause harm. The two are not equivocal.

    6. Missing avatar

      Nez on

      Apology accepted...at least you acknowledged it...and even went the extra mile to balance the problem with an equally effective solution.

    7. Devadasi on

      Thank you for this.

    8. Missing avatar

      Ritchie Tiongson on

      Thank you for doing this. The whole issue had me questioning whether or not I would feel correct in supporting Kickstarter projects in the future, which made me genuinely sad, since Kickstarter has been responsible for helping fund so many works of beauty and fun and usefulness that made the world BETTER, not worse. So thank you again for renewing my faith in you.

    9. Kevin J. Maroney
      Superbacker
      on

      Mike Maring,

      The material on the "Above the Game" Kickstarter project page is completely about "meeting and talking to" women. However, the author was previewing some of the material (under his own name) on Reddit, and it included advice like "grab her and put her on your lap" and "just take your dick out and put it in her hand. This proves you are a LEADER [sic]", and an extended anecdote about walking up to a woman, pushing her against the wall, and forcibly kissing her. That's assault and sexual assault, not "meeting and talking to". Advocacy of assault definitely fails Kickstarter's guidelines.

    10. Alison Hindenlang on

      Thank You. I think you've taken a very reasonable approach to this situation and that you are sincere in your appology.

      However, I echo those who have proposed instituting a "Pause" system for cases like this in the future to allow for investigation and/or arbitration of questionable/reported projects.

    11. amberella on

      Thank you for a legitimate sounding apology with real policy change and a RAINN donation to back it up. Rock on, Kickstarter, I will continue to impulse-fund awesome projects until I must eat ramen. ;-)

    12. Greek Winter Media on

      Agreed Larry. Calling this violence against women is just out right laughably ludicrous, espeacilly when everyone's favorite quote continues "If she says no, stop immediately and tell her you don't want to do anything that would make her uncomfortable. "

      Just another case of the feminist internet trolls screeching their hypocrisy and doing everything they can to hurt actual rape victims by purporting that a written guide no worse than a women's magazine is somehow rape too. Go ahead and tell a rape victim that a book that says "If she says no, stop immediately and tell her you don't want to do anything that would make her uncomfortable. " is rape. Im sure she'll be happy to hear that.

    13. Catherine Lacey Dodd on

      Apologies always accepted. What I would like to see now is how Kickstarter's new policies are to be put into place to ensure that this can never happen again. What basic research will go into the vetting projects at the outset? What measures of governance? What background checks will be undertaken on businesses seeking funding? We trust Kickstarter to have that compliance in place on our behalf and we will often go by the information that is provided in the description as to whether we choose to back a project. We do not feel the need to go Google and background check ourselves. Thanks in advance for your consideration.

    14. Julie Corrigan on

      I've done a little personal research and, so far, the only thing terrible about this kickstarter is that a bunch of idiots gave their money to some nerd who only thinks he can pick up women. Kickstarter is a functioning that allows people to supply a demand, if there is one, and there is a large demand for confidence training. He just made a bunch of money off some sad, lonely nerds who's issues are bigger than confidence. He gave no reason why they should give him money. No accreditation or credentials. Not even a "me before, me after". 600+ people just got scammed.

    15. Missing avatar

      Lacey Gilmore on

      @Jeffrey dean whose cherry picking now? The line right after it says "try again " what part of no means no do you not understand? Let me break it down this way, when a telemarketer call Ur house and you aren't interested and say no, and they keep calling back a little while later... you're pissed right? I'm sure you'd say something like " I wasn't interested 10 minutes ago (or yesterday or last week, etc) and I'm not interested now" why is it not OK for women to say the same thing. Why do we have to wait foe you to violate us before we can say anything. Consider this one big giant "no!" From the female population and change your ways

    16. Katherine Wooten on

      Outstanding apology.

    17. Sarah Benkin on

      I can't tell you how glad I am to read this. The genuine wording of their apology, the banning of "seduction guides" and the donation to RAINN tells me about the sincerity here. Kickstarter has been a source of a lot of good things for me, and these past few days have really distressed me. I'm very glad to see this.

    18. Ethan Bremner on

      Thank you for a great apology.

      For those of you complaining about the project author being taken out of context. You seem to be unaware or ignore one fact. He edited out the offending part from the original reddit post when it started being scrutinized. IMHO that kind of negates any claim he was taken out of context. He removed the context. Presumably because he knew it was wrong. I am happy with KS and their response on this.

    19. Tara Denise on

      Lol at people who call it "man hating" to disapprove of a book instructing guys to physically escalate when a woman rejects your advances.

      Thanks for the sincere apology, Kickstarter.

    20. Missing avatar

      Bella Lee on

      Thank you a million times!

    21. Alex Wendler on

      Jacob D. Adamo 5 minutes ago
      110% pure unadulterated bullshit. Your company wanted its cut of the money, so you didn't cancel the project.

      Yeh, that sweet $800. They totally were after that huge chunk of cash. That's why they just donated $25k as part of their apology.

      Moron

    22. Sergio Darío Reyes Galvis on

      How does that project represent violence against women or abussive behaviors?

    23. Missing avatar

      J Craig on

      I was certain this apology would lead to a flood of butthurt, fedora-clad MRAs in the comments, but I am heartened to discover only one or two.

    24. Sara Henderson on

      Thank you! Glad to be able to continue to support projects posted on your site.

    25. Geri Bartz on

      Thank you for doing what was right, despite the negative backlash you might have received or business you might have lost. In earnest, whatever you might lose is likely from an element you don't want anyway. Thank you for your sincere apology and the donation to RAINN. Every dollar helps, and when you only received 800$ from that project but chose to donate thirty times that amount - that sends a message. Thank you.

    26. Missing avatar

      Kevin Patrick Nelson on

      KICKSTARTER IS WRONG!!! After our campaign for Shelby & the Bread Factory was successfully funded and we received congratulations emails...two days later Kickstarter refunded 277 of our backers money, not only crushing our dream but also making us redouble our efforts and jump to a better crowd sourcing platform, Indiegogo. They did this without providing us with any information other than..."sorry for the inconvenience." Yes, Kickstarter, you are wrong! On multiple levels. I will never support this site again...and will do everything in my power to persuade others away from your bullshit. Shame on you kickstarter.

    27. Becca Gray on

      Thank you, Kickstarter! As one of the individuals who requested you take this project down, I greatly appreciate your apology. Not only does it renew my faith in Kickstarter as a place for fostering positive creativity, it also shows me that you are willing to admit mistakes and make up for them. That's about as mature as a company can be. Thank you so much.

    28. Austin Nail on

      @Jacob How is that true if they donated $25,000 to a non-profit and the project was funded less than $20,000?

    29. Arbor Avenue Films on

      Thank you for posting this and for the contribution to RAINN. Sometimes when we make a mistake, it is best to just fall on your sword and apologize. Thanks for having the good taste to do so here.

    30. Glenn Fleishman on

      I would love to know more about the credit-card collection part. I've run an (unsuccessful) Kickstarter campaign and know that a creator links to an Amazon account. The creator agrees to give 5% of collected funds to Kickstarter, and Amazon handles that transactions. Backers connect directly to Amazon, and the transaction is backer-to-creator, and 5% to Kickstarter.

      When KS says it can't stop the payout, I believe that's because the contract is technically between backers and Amazon now. Backers would have to report the project or what have you as against Amazon's rules. I'm not sure that outside parties can. Would love more detail about this.

    31. Stephanie Warthe on

      Thank you Kickstarter! This is such a serious issue, and I'm happy to know that you're taking an equally serious stance against it.

    32. Missing avatar

      kat brewster on

      Thank you, Kickstarter. This is a good apology, and your donation is a welcome action.

    33. Sergio Darío Reyes Galvis on

      In my opinion, you're wrong right now. As Willian Baldwin said, "Otherwise, Cosmo would be banned, right?".

      Finally, I respect and appreciate my fiancée. I'm a methodic and cold man, nonetheless, seduction books taught me what a woman expects from a man. I became a strong and caring boyfriend by reading them with an open mind.

    34. Missing avatar

      Kristen Rupert on

      @mike maring ... Read more closely. There are portions of the book that talk directly about how to force a woman to grab you dick and how to dominate her. Sounds like a guide to sexual assault to me.

    35. Harriet Orchard on

      The cached link is unavailable, so I can't read it.

      But I would assume the problem is a disparity in what the project creators said they were raising money for when submitted to Kickstarter (and approved), and what they subsequently posted online (they can amend their own Kickstarter pages once they have a page).

      So, it "slipping through the net" when approved would not be Kickstarter's fault if something subsequently violent had been posted online.

    36. Missing avatar

      John Funk on

      @Larry Fine - "free speech" is a matter for the government. As a private entity, Kickstarter is not obligated to approve anything that it finds harmful, and make no mistake, this was harmful.

      @Mischell Yost - many people have already covered this. Here is a good summary: http://caseymalone.com/post/53339539674/this-is-not-fucking-harmless

      @Jeffery Dean - you keep ignoring how after that he says "take a break and try again later." Not "give up, she doesn't want to," he says TRY AGAIN.

    37. Missing avatar

      Victoria McNally on

      @Jeffrey Dean: The answer is not to create MORE material that encourages people to ignore one another's consent and force themselves on each other. Yes, I agree, women's magazines are not good places to get saying advice and a lot of what they say is wrong. That doesn't mean we should advise men to engage in exactly the same behavior, ESPECIALLY in a context where women are much more likely to be victims of sexual harrassment abuse, and even violence in these situations.

      It's not hypocritical of us to not want this book in existence. I'll concede that it might be hypocritical of us to allow the already existing material to continue the way it has without discussion, but given that many feminist organizations ARE working to change these magazines (which is harder than it sounds given that the magazine industry is set up to appease their advertisers more than their readers), it's really not the same thing.

    38. Eva on

      Thank you for the apology and for the assurances that this will not happen again.

    39. Amy Graff on

      @Kevin J. Maroney: Believe it or not, I think the whole push-a-woman-up-against-a-wall-and-forcibly-kiss-her bit was actually from a field report-- a retelling of an actual night out and tactics that TofuTofu/Ken used.

      Kudos to Kickstarter on a sincere apology and using this mess-up to bring attention (and send funds) to a great organization.

      Can anything be done toward Amazon Payments to get them to suspend funds to this guy?

    40. Lauri Boren on

      Maybe you should blank out the contact info that remains on the page- that might be a little more justice- since it still has the mass contact.
      You can also publish the real address so folks can go collect their cash.

    41. Missing avatar

      John Smith on

      Women are sensitive, fragile, inferior creatures who require constant, vigilant protection from honorable men.
      If it becomes necessary to take a few quotes out of context in our noble quest to protect the fairer sex, so be it.

      Kudos to Kickstarter for adhering to feminist principles.

      > The thing that the commenters on social media are leaving out is that the advice was taken from a section in the guide offering advice on what to do AFTER a man has met a cute girl, gotten her phone number, gone on dates, spent time getting to know her, and now are alone behind closed doors fooling around. If "Don't wait for signs, make the first move" promotes sexual assault, then "Kiss the Girl" from The Little Mermaid was a song about rape.

    42. Ken Parmalee on

      Understanding that people desire to be treated a certain way, does KS recognize a need for art that expresses gender conflict?

    43. alendrel ~~Awaits the King~~ on

      I think some of the comments here perfectly illustrate why KS didn't see the submission as a problem. Devoid of any other context beyond just itself, it comes across as maybe a little douchey but harmless. However, in the context of the PUA/seduction community culture that spawned it, it's the sharp edge of a world view founded in gross misogyny and predation.

      If you aren't aware of PUA/SC then you lack the context to evaluate what the book actually represents. And, as we are seeing right here, plenty of people are lacking that. While I do wish they had made the decision to pull the plug before it funded, I also understand how, lacking that understanding of context, they wouldn't want to make a snap decision.

      It isn't perfect, but let's not let that be the enemy of good.

    44. Alexander Khanukov on

      @John, yes, but I didn't say that, so it's a straw man. I just reject this notion that this is somehow part of some larger "war against women". Like Jeff has stated, there are plenty of magazines and books written by women, for women, that promote the same "gamification" if you will, of men in the dating world and worse, marriage game. There's guilt all around, and plenty of examples of women seducing men and worse, using them for all sorts of unethical endeavors. Kickstarter can do what it wants as far as I care. They built and own the platform. My gripe is with the kind of over-sensitized culture we're creating where even the notion of seduction has become evil and that turns harmless behavior or worse, words and thoughts, into criminal behavior and brands people blindly with negative stigma. That is all.

    45. Chelsea Hostetter on

      Thank you, Kickstarter. This is definitely a step in the right direction, and I personally appreciate your honesty and candor.

    46. Missing avatar

      Allison on

      THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! Good work Kickstarter. I appreciate your integrity of maintaining promises, conducting research, AND making up for mistakes. The donation shows where you stand.

    47. Dave Choat on

      Well said, thank you for the explanation and I forgive you.

    48. Julian G Hicks
      Superbacker
      on

      Good apology - the product may be fine but you are right it is not for KS - well dealt with :)

    49. Jennifer Johnson Avril on

      Two days -- typical approval time once marketing and lawyers are involved. The donation to RAINN is a decent gesture, but you still fumbled this ball in an atrocious way, and the fact that you only got the point after public outrage escalated and threatened the safety of your very profitable company tells me all I need to know. From here on, I'm out.

    50. Garm on

      Thanks Kickstarter. Glad to see you guys take responsibility and make some changes so things are better in the future.

      @Robyn: They're saying they were notified 2 hours before. The Kobe Beef project may have been canceled minutes before it received funding but they were notified well before that happened. They're saying that they were guided by institutional inertia that errs on the side of the project creators. It's pretty understandable.