Crowdfunding platforms as conduits for ideological struggle and extremism: On the need for greater regulation and digital constitutionalism

Matthew Wade, Stephanie Baker, Michael Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Crowdfunding platforms remain understudied as conduits for ideological struggle. While other social media platforms may enable the expression of hateful and harmful ideas, crowdfunding can actively facilitate their enaction through financial support. In addressing such risks, crowdfunding platforms attempt to mitigate complicity but retain legitimacy. That is, ensuring their fundraising tools are not exploited for intolerant, violent or hate-based purposes, yet simultaneously avoiding restrictive policies that undermine their legitimacy as ‘open’ platforms. Although social media platforms are routinely scrutinized for enabling misinformation, hateful rhetoric and extremism, crowdfunding has largely escaped critical inquiry, despite being repeatedly implicated in amplifying such threats. Drawing on the ‘Freedom Convoy’ movement as a case study, this article employs critical discourse analysis to trace how crowdfunding platforms reveal their underlying values in privileging either collective safety or personal liberty when hosting divisive causes. The radically different policy decisions adopted by crowdfunding platforms GoFundMe and GiveSendGo expose a concerning divide between ‘Big Tech’ and ‘Alt-Tech’ platforms regarding what harms they are willing to risk, and the ideological rationales through which these determinations are made. There remain relatively few regulatory safeguards guiding such impactful strategic choices, leaving crowdfunding platforms susceptible to weaponization. With Alt-Tech platforms aspiring to build an ‘alternative internet’, this paper highlights the urgent need to explore digital constitutionalism in the crowdfunding space, establishing firmer boundaries to better mitigate fundraising platforms becoming complicit in catastrophic harms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalPolicy and Internet
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2023

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