Kickstarter To Ban Seduction Guides, Donate To RAINN, In Response to Pick-Up Artist Uproar

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"Kickstarter To Ban Seduction Guides, Donate To RAINN, In Response to Pick-Up Artist Uproar"

AslanMedia, via Flickr

On Wednesday, Kickstarter found itself in a difficult situation when game designer Casey Malone uncovered some revealing posts on Reddit. An advice writer named Ken Hoinsky, who was raising money to publish his writing on dating and seduction in book form, turned out to have given advice in the Seddit forum that looked more like advocacy of sexual harassment and assault than actual dating advice. Kickstarter reviews projects before they go live, but it’s made a practice of only reviewing materials that will appear on the site itself, not supplemental material that appears outside of Kickstarter that may be incorporated into final products, or that’s germane to proposals. And Malone’s posting outlining his discovery of Hoinsky’s writing, which was published just hours before the month-long fundraising period closed, presented Kickstarter with a dilemma.

Ultimately the site decided to leave Hoinsky’s proposal up and to allow payment processing of the pledges to him to go forward, rather than changing practices in mid-stream. But today, Kickstarter announced four responses to the incident:

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.

Whether this will satisfy people who wanted Hoinsky not to get the money he was pledged remains to be seen. But in deciding that it won’t be in the seduction guide or pick-up artist business, Kickstarter is following in the footsteps of Facebook, which has pledged to improve its guidelines around hate speech to include celebrations or encouragement of violence against women. The trend is clear: to maintain the respect of the larger communities who they want to be their customers, tech companies are learning that they can’t just be platforms, taking no responsibility for what people do with the capabilities they offer. Ultimately, tech companies are going to have to decide which customers are most valuable to them, and sometimes, that means giving up some business to preserve their reputations.

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