crowdfunding platforms GoFundMe and GiveSendGo defended its handling of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” blockade fundraising campaigns during a meeting where the due diligence carried out by these platforms and their payment partners was scrutinized by Canadian lawmakers.
The platform leaders’ appearances, along with the heads of their payment processors PayPal and Stripe, came nearly five weeks after the convoy’s first arrival in the country’s capital on Jan. 28.
The convoy’s subsequent camp lasted until a police operation cleared them on February 19, after weeks of blaring truck horns, at times in violation of court orders, and hundreds of complaints from local residents about alleged hatred, harassment, intimidation and violence at the hands of the Attendees.
“This group of fundraisers, and this fundraiser as a whole, has been, we all agree, an unprecedented event,” said Juan Benitez, President of GoFundMe.
“We’re proud of how we’ve handled this campaign,” added Kim Wilford, the company’s general counsel.
The convoy fundraiser originally caught the company’s attention because of the pace at which it was raising funds, Wilford said, adding that GoFundMe ran “know your customer” screenings at Tamara Lich — one of the organizers — who didn’t raise red flags woke .
Lich launched the GoFundMe campaign on January 14th.
Wilford also said that GoFundMe was unaware of the letter of intent, which was posted on a website owned by Canada Unity, one of the groups involved in organizing the convoy.
That memorandum of understanding falsely claimed the elected government could be replaced by a committee with the Senate and Governor General that would override all levels of Canadian government to stop the use of vaccination cards on COVID-related fines -19 and to rehire employees who have been fired for violating COVID-19 rules.
Officers from across Canada are assisting Ottawa Police in dismantling Freedom Convoy blockades
Canada Unity later withdrew the memorandum, claiming it was never the intention of the convoy to overthrow the democratically elected Canadian government.
“GoFundMe was unaware of this MOU,” Wilford said.
“With our initial due diligence, the promoter did not disclose that there were any problems.”
An archived version of Canada Unity’s website shows the memorandum was online as of January 11, but Canada Unity’s involvement in the convoy did not become publicly clear until media reports in the week of January 20 before arriving in Ottawa.
The handling of the convoy by all levels of government, and the police in particular, was heavily criticized by local residents.
Police repeatedly chose not to act, first allowing the convoy and large trucks to camp along downtown streets, and then opting for weeks not to enforce local noise regulations or traffic rules as participants traveled day and night Truck horns honked while parked in the streets.
As the Freedom Convoy departs Ottawa, residents continue to look over their shoulders
Reuters reported Thursday that police underestimated the convoy’s intentions and assumed they would leave the city within days, according to police sources cited in the report.
Wilford said GoFundMe contacted the Ottawa Police Department on Jan. 31 amid mounting reports of what Benitez described as a departure from the demonstration’s original “peaceful” nature.
“There was this shift, a very poignant shift,” Benitez said, adding that it was the discussions between GoFundMe employees with the Ottawa Police Department and the Office of Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson that prompted the company to on February 4 to find that the convoy violated the Terms of Service.
GiveSendGo pressed via Proud Boys, KKK
After GoFundMe dropped the convoy campaign, it switched to another crowdfunding platform, GiveSendGo, which bills itself as a “Christian fundraising site.”
The platform’s sibling owners appeared before the Public Safety Committee after GoFundMe and made statements that often got heated when one of the founders repeatedly raised her voice and spoke about MPs, at one point accusing the committee of “defending GoFundMe.”
Both panels with the platforms each lasted about an hour.
Convoy organizers may face lengthy prison terms
Jacob Wells, one of the co-founders, said the platform was unaware of Canada Unity’s memorandum, which expressed a desire to bypass the democratically elected government.
“We were not aware of this when we were researching the campaigns. Obviously there are always fringe elements in any organization, and I think the media generally just tries to polarize the fringe elements, I think, because that’s great for the media,” Wells said.
He was later asked if he was aware of local noise codes being broken by participants honking their horns or traffic rules being broken by convoy vehicles blocking city streets.
“I don’t necessarily know these things happened,” Wells said, before being interrupted by a committee member who asked if he had the TV on during the convoy.
“What happened in Ottawa from what I received locally was that truckers were moving into the city and the lanes were open and available for emergency vehicles and other vehicles,” he said.
Wells characterized the convoy as “a largely peaceful protest with an attempt to marginalize it by a fringe percentage of the group.”
Where is ‘freedom’ from here? Canada’s convoy protests are over, but the anger remains
But during an exchange with Liberal MP Pam Damoff, sparks flew when Damoff pressed Wells on why her platform has made it possible to raise funds for the Proud Boys, listed in Canada as a terrorist organization since 2019, as well as for groups that testified of hate.
“If we started mandating litmus tests of how good people should be at using public services, we would get into a very, very difficult situation very quickly,” Wells said.
“Would you allow a fundraiser for the Ku Klux Klan?” Damoff asked, referring to the white supremacist group.
“If the fundraising activity was legal and legal, we would allow people to fundraise for legal things,” Wells said in response.
Damoff again asked if the platform would allow a fundraiser for the Ku Klux Klan.
“When individuals or organizations that are legally entitled to receive payments go through the KYC checks and the AML checks that everyone must and has done through our platform and pass all of these measures and what they are fundraising for legally then yes, we will allow them to fundraise,” Wells said.
KYC is a reference for the “know your customer” screening required by financial institutions to verify the identity of customers, while AML refers to anti-money laundering screening.
“I’m sorry, but all this legal mumbo jumbo – don’t you have an anti-hate clause in your Terms of Service?” Damoff told Wells.
“You can read our Terms of Service. They are very clear, they are right there on our site. We have a lot of terms there that define how we operate as a company and as an organization,” Wells said.
“We believe from the bottom of our hearts that the threat of language suppression is far more dangerous than language itself, and history has proven this.”
The Ku Klux Klan is a white racist hate group with roots in the American Deep South.
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https://globalnews.ca/news/8656947/gofundme-givesendgo-convoy-blockade-campaigns/ GoFundMe and GiveSendGo defend handling of convoy blockade fundraisers