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. Trudy on

      @Jeffrey I just have no idea what to say to you. Regardless of how people react to a woman putting your hand on her breast without consent, it doesn't change the fact that it is sexual assault.

      People like you are promoting rape culture, and rape culture allows people to go "wow it's not such a big deal" when someone sexually assaults another person. You are the reason why you would be laughed out the courtroom if you pressed sexual assault charges against a woman for forcing your hands on her breasts.

    2. Really Good TV on

      this was needed! ks is aplce i do lots of business with and for its own sake needed to stamp this out. in my opinion should have done so immediatly, what i would like to know is who hesitated taking it down? should have been like wth and dealt with on the spot.
      but thanks ks for seeing the light eventually and a great donation, altough again make it bigger to match the huge mistake!

    3. Missing avatar

      Yvonne Baab on

      I am amazed at the number of people who have responded so positively to your apology. You do not address how this project got approved to begin with. THAT is an important part of Kickstarter's credibility which you do not even mention.

      I don't know what is entailed in removing a project from funding, but it took me less than 5 minutes to see that this "seduction guide" was promoting sexual assault. In the meantime, I understand that you had someone at Kickstarter remove any comments about it from your Facebook page.

      I am glad you apologized and made a doantion to RAINN, but it seems like too little too late.

    4. janetl on

      Kickstarter -- excellent apology. No "sorry some were offended" weasling, and you put money where your mouth is. I can completely understand how you were caught flat-footed with a new situation to cope with in a few hours, and I'm glad to see you've made a process change to prevent this happening in future.

    5. Missing avatar

      Kelly Webb on

      I love Kickstarter and I was so disappointed to see this and had written you off! Thank you for your apology - back to loving Kickstarter!! Thank you!

    6. Bryanna Lindsey on

      Thank you, kickstarter.

    7. Elly Zupko on

      *applause* Very nice job on this.

    8. Kasha Frese on

      Very impressed, Kickstarter! For those of you questioning the seduction guide who can't see the cached link, check out the excerpt in the blog post. The guide is recommending sexual aggression towards women if they reject you.

    9. Missing avatar

      John Funk on

      @Jeffrey it's true, nobody would believe you or think it was a problem, because society says that men need to always be interested in sex, "dude you got to feel up a chick for free why are you complaining??? What you didnt like it are you gay or something??" - which is the exact reason male victims of sexual violence are so poorly represented.

      That doesn't, however, make it not sexual harassment. It absolutely would be, and any feminist worth her or his salt would say so. That society and the law would mistreat your (accurate) claim of sexual harassment doesn't indicate our hypocrisy, but is actually a great example of how men are taught toxic ideas about sex and intimacy.

    10. Missing avatar

      deleted on

      This user's account has been deleted.

    11. Jenny Ma on

      @ Kevin Patrick Nelson: It may not have been Kickstarter's fault. After a project is fully funded, Amazon payments starts charging the transactions. If there was anything wrong with the backer's account or the information they provided, they have a window of time to fix it before those transactions get pulled.

    12. Alexei Osman on

      If you're not sure if someone wants you, use your words. "Are you interested in me?". If someone actually WANTS to have sex with you, it should be obvious. Don't be repulsive. If you're exuding that alpha-male mentality and you're physically escalating, consider that you're making a woman afraid, afraid that, since you didn't ask for her permission in the first place, that if you're rejected, you will harm her. Consider that she might not feel like it's safe to say no. Use your brain.

    13. Missing avatar

      John Funk on

      @Trudy "You are the reason why you would be laughed out the courtroom if you pressed sexual assault charges against a woman for forcing your hands on her breasts."

      A+++

    14. Missing avatar

      Shawn Moy on

      Good job guys.

    15. Missing avatar

      J Larson on

      If you can read those excerpts and not think there's anything wrong with the material in the book, you are part of the problem. Thank you for responding to this, Kickstarter.

    16. Trudy on

      @John Funk

      Exactly!

    17. Linus on

      Well done, Kickstarter-folk. I appreciate and believe your apology. It makes me a little sad that I so rarely see any honor from Internet companies, and I'm pleased that you respect your people enough to stand up and take responsibility for what I believe was an honest error. Thank you. And the donation speaks loudly.

    18. Lisa Scarbrough on

      Great apology, thank you.

    19. Missing avatar

      Derek de Jong on

      Full points for a thoughtful and reasoned response to a difficult situation, and the contribution and rule changes show a corporate culture of respect and integrity. Well played, Trebek.

    20. Cynthia Moon on

      Way to stand up and be honest in a society of dishonesty and deceit!!

    21. Stephan Vandenborn on

      So basicly that guy had problems and he decided to create a bubble for everyone to be in control, dish out emotional stuff but always be decieve, play and being in general denial when a woman doesn't do whatever a guy wants ? That's just so counterproductive and antisocial at long run. How could you also derrive satisfaction from that as a guy ? I mean, It's extremely sexy if a girl WANTS to sit on my lap, hang out with me, or fondle at HER OWN ACCORD (because we spent some time and grew to eachother naturally). I just don't get this whole "be a psychopath around women and you get all what you want" schtick

    22. Eric Bryan Seuthe II on

      "ACHIEVED!! $15,000 - FANFIC TORTURE. If $15,000 is raised, I will film a dramatic reading of my WWF/Sailor Moon fanfic and upload it to Youtube for all to see. (Please don't make me do this EDIT: Goddamn it, guys. See you on Youtube.)"

      Might have been a red flag....

    23. Greek Winter Media on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    24. Missing avatar

      Veso on

      Let me hit you with another point of view here.

      Staying aside from the project in question. I also think it went over the top compared to most people's expectations.

      However - the other point to consider:

      Kickstarter is a business - they need to be profitable to stay in business. If a considerable amount of their users find certain project offensive, especially when that project gets noticeable media attention, Kickstarter may consider evaluating the situation.

      If they don't - they risk losing part of their reputation with such users which will undoubtedly result in reduction in their profits, compared to if they didn't lose their reputation with the aforementioned users.

      So, perhaps advices by PR, common sense, or just accident - it's absolutely normal for such an organisation to comply with the expectations of their clients.

      To be honest, in their position, this will be probably what I will do as well. I will have people to feed, investors to court and board to explain if I do otherwise.

    25. Missing avatar

      Kyle Nielsen on

      Thanks for nailing this apology. You didn't make any of the usual apology mistakes (such as merely apologizing that people were offended, or etc.) and your charity donation makes it clear that you are serious about making this right rather than simply pocketing the profit from this Kickstarter. Great job.

    26. Missing avatar

      Antoine Abbasi on

      When does something become a "seduction guide"? If I want to fund a book about sex now I can't because one author was petitioned against? As another commenter pointed out, wouldn't Cosmo or Maxim be banned on your platform? I think it's overly broad and shortsighted to ban everything and take an implicitly sex negative stance. Trying to help people with the opposite sex isn't inherently wrong.

    27. Brittany Breithaupt on

      I don't believe the sincerity of this project. You've cancelled others like this one: http://money.cnn.com/2013/06/17/technology/kickstarter-scam-kobe-jerky

      I will never fund another Kickstarter project again. Way to play into rape culture.

    28. Morgan Baden on

      Awesome. Thanks.

    29. Mandy Knapp on

      Thank you Kickstarter! I can see how this choice would be a dilemma for you, but you've made a good choice.

    30. Daniel Bremmer on

      Donating money to an organization to prevent sexual violence is great. Kudos.

      But why is everyone applauding your apologizing for not censoring a project based on a third party reckoning of what the project, which has yet to be written as a book, might entail? If I dig through every creator's social media past and find an offhand comment, will you delete their project too?

    31. Eric Ding on

      Shouldn't you guys thank or acknowledge the folks at Do Something?!?! Über lame Kickstarter.

    32. Carolyn VanEseltine on

      Thank you for this apology, for your donation to RAINN, and for revising your policies to prevent this kind of misogynistic nightmare in the future. Your actions have ensured that I continue to use Kickstarter.

    33. Missing avatar

      John Funk on

      @Jeffrey - Seriously, can you read? Trudy wasn't advocating against male victims. She said straight up that your imagined scenario would be sexual assault. I know you like to argue against strawmen arguments, but you are here actually arguing against the OPPOSITE of what she said. I don't know if that's hypocrisy, but it sure is stupid.

      But her point stands: Your perpetuation of rape culture is the *exact reason* a male victim would get shamed into silence.

    34. Trudy on

      @Jeffrey

      Did you not understand what I was saying? I do believe that male rape victims deserve sympathy and support, and I'm mad that they don't get that support. What I'm saying is that people like you, who promote rape culture (which is a totally different thing from supporting rape, by the way -- please google), make it difficult for people to come forward and get the support they need (e.g., by insinuating that sexual assault is not sexual assault, and that it's "not a big deal" if a man forces a woman's hand on his penis).

      I am a little concerned that, despite the fact that all the women posting in this thread -- and some men -- consider the excerpts posted repeatedly to be sexual assault, that you are unable and unwilling to consider that maybe they are right. Especially when women are dealing with this more often than you think.

    35. Missing avatar

      Linda M on

      The hypocrisy on display here is stunning. First of all, the quotes are clearly being taken out of context. Second of all, the guy is being given no chance to tell his side of the story. Third of all, celebrated, published feminists have said far, far worse things:

      “I feel that ‘man-hating’ is an honourable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them.” – Robin Morgan, Ms. Magazine Editor
      “To call a man an animal is to flatter him; he’s a machine, a walking dildo.” -– Valerie Solanas
      “I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig.” — Andrea Dworkin
      “Rape is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear” — Susan Brownmiller
      “The more famous and powerful I get the more power I have to hurt men.” — Sharon Stone
      “In a patriarchal society, all heterosexual intercourse is rape because women, as a group, are not strong enough to give meaningful consent.” — Catherine MacKinnon
      “The proportion of men must be reduced to and maintained at approximately 10% of the human race.” — Sally Miller Gearhart
      “Men who are unjustly accused of rape can sometimes gain from the experience.” – Catherine Comins
      “All men are rapists and that’s all they are” — Marilyn French
      “Probably the only place where a man can feel really secure is in a maximum security prison, except for the imminent threat of release.” — Germaine Greer.

      But please, keep on pretending that this is about anything but female privilege.

    36. Jenny Ma on

      It's a very excellent apology and I commend Kickstarter for the actions they've taken; however there needs to be a process to prevent such projects from being funded again. I agree with the comments about the creator being careful about how he proposed the project to ensure project approval. However, I believe that Kickstarter should have some sort of check for updates to projects (the creator probably added the reddit link during an update which probably went unnoticed by the kickstarter staff). Or maybe Kickstarter should start having a rating system for future projects so the Kickstarter community (creators, backers, and staff) will know when there is great opposition to a project such as this one.

      Although there is the "report a project" button, I wonder how early this project was reported and whether or not Kickstarter took notice of the first report.

    37. Brian Schenck
      Superbacker
      on

      I agree with many of the sentiments that Kickstarter's review process, whether for a new project or project in the process of being funded, needs to be significantly addressed. Between the Kobe beef fraud and this project, there has to be something that allows for Kickstarter to adequately address user concerns; especially for significant violations of the site's TOS.

      At a minimum, a project should be "suspended" during the investigation process, then allowed to reach its natural conclusion once it has been cleared. Pausing the "time on the clock" and disallowing any pledges or modifications during that period would allow for this vital oversight to occur and not get into this kind of situation ever again.

    38. Amanda Wetzstein on

      Thank you, Kickstarter! Other companies, take note: THIS is how you properly apologize when you fuck up. To the backers of this project: congrats on perpetuating rape culture, I don't know how you sleep at night.

    39. Missing avatar

      Richard NL on

      I'll leave the project's content and the discussion thereof aside, and just wanted to say.. good job on the apology!

      Now for the critique:
      1. If a project can go from 'OK' to 'uhhh' between submission and end, perhaps they should be reviewed once again in its final stages.

      2. Even if only later it emerged that it could have been problematic, this was still well before the project closed (successfully, at 8 times its goal), and could have been put on hold. Note that I'm not saying it should have been suspended - merely put on hold. Somewhere on your server there's something that checks when a project is suppose to end, and when it ends calls all sorts of functions for drawing funds and whatnot. You only need 1 employee to be instructed to bypass that check or extend the deadline while limiting additional pledges (the latter has been done before). That doesn't take 2 hours.

      3. For transparency sake, maybe use a web cache site that doesn't seem to time out more than half the time, and doesn't have a prominent warning at the very top that the cache site itself may cease to exist soon.

      4. For that matter, why even remove the project at all? I understand that you might be protecting backers from any internet backlash ("so-and-so backed that awful project!"), but that too is easily done in code (already there is code in place to only show backers if at least N pledges are in, so outside people can't deduce who backed what amount), and shouldn't have to affect the rest of the project's existence. Now it's a case of anybody coming across a story on this project and wanting to check it out just landing on a page saying the project doesn't exist anymore. No explanation why - in line for not giving reasons for suspending projects, but at least you can still see those projects - and thus smoothly erased from history as far as the site is concerned.

      5. While appreciating the good cause donation as part of the apology, what about the various scam projects where you say there's nothing you can do (except hold your percentage of the pledged funds)? Can we look forward to a donation to a group that aims to reduce scamming on crowdfunding websites?

    40. Mathew on

      I read through that guide and it doesn't scream misogynist behavior. It just seemed like a guide to better help guys with women.
      I mean c'mon, did this advertise "Get this guide so you can go home lucky!"

    41. Igor Goldkind on

      Congratulations! It takes a big organisation to admit when they're wrong. You've gained even more of my respect.

    42. Missing avatar

      Julia S on

      Thank you for this.

    43. Mme Leiderhosen on

      Well done.That is an excellent apology.

    44. Stephanie Phillips on

      Thank you for addressing our concerns and for coming forward to admit the mistake and trying to amend. And thank you for making a contribution to help women affected by assault. As long as your company continues to show good faith like this, I will continue to participate as a member.

    45. Paul Roth on

      Very good apology. I am touched and my loyalty to kickstarter is renewed.

    46. Missing avatar

      Andrei Eftimie on

      What's with all the feminist rage around here?

      Please read the whole guide.
      The intended audience is nerds who are scared shitless on doing the first move.
      Be it talking to a girl, getting here phone number, calling her, kissing her.
      This is *SCARY* for them.

      Most women *expect* that men do the first move.
      Men are expected to be called. Men are expected to try the first kiss when things are ready for that.
      Hell, men are expected to ask a woman's hand. You won't see that the other way.

      This article/book only tries to promote a bit of self-confidence to guys who have no idea what to do when they are with a woman.

      This would make me laugh if you people were not so adamant and hateful.
      It is really, really sad.

      A guy who turns around and runs for the hills if a cute girl starts a conversation with him.
      And you are saying that reading this book makes him a rapist.

      Mwuahahahahahahahaha.