As Trump supporters continue to plan rallies in Washington, DC, before and during Joe Biden's inauguration, GoFundMe, the largest fundraising platform in the world, has banned their ability to raise money for travel expenses.
GoFundMe, used by 96 million people, announced the decision to ban those fundraisers on Monday. Like other tech giants, the crowdfunding company, which has processed more than 120 million donations since it launched in 2010, has been scrambling to find, monitor, and remove incendiary pro-Trump content.
"Due to the violence, GoFundMe has removed numerous fundraisers intended to raise money for travel expenses,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “GoFundMe will remove fundraisers for travel expenses to a future political event where there's risk of violence by the attendees."
GoFundMe campaigns have helped to raise money for and spread the world about pro-Trump events. BuzzFeed News previously identified more than a dozen campaigns, which the site has since removed, that raised money for people to travel to DC for the rally on Jan. 6 that morphed into a violent, deadly attempted coup. In November, the site also took down a fundraising page for spreading election misinformation.
Since November, GoFundMe told BuzzFeed News, it has found and deleted about 1,400 election-related fundraising campaigns that violated their terms of service. Many of these campaigns were related to “Stop the Steal” rallies, spreading conspiracy theories about election fraud, promoting violence, or trying to raise money for legal fees for people who stormed the Capitol.
As a result of its new policy, the platform has removed 40 campaigns that were created solely to help fund people’s travel to DC for upcoming rallies.
Trump supporters, from couples in Arizona to popular right-wing personalities like Candace Owens, had been using GoFundMe to ratchet up financial support for years. The site suspended the commentator in June for her repeated “pattern of inflammatory statements that spread hate, discrimination, intolerance and falsehoods.”
Before the violence in DC last week, millions of people could create fundraising campaigns to help them travel to political events.
In one campaign, titled #PatriotPilgrimageDC, 285 donors raised $21,548 “to financially support Patriots on their voyage to the capital on 1/6/21 for the DC Protest!”
On Dec. 6, a person on GoFundMe asked for help financing “Patriots in AZ” “to help pay for a rental car, gas, lodging & other expenses to go to Washington DC for the MAGA Million March" on December 12.
The next day, a couple created a fundraiser called “SendTeam RedPillFairy to DC!” and asked for $1,000 to “cover our round trip flights from California to DC, as well as a hotel room stay near the event.” The creators described themselves as independent members of the media who run sites and channels that churn out conspiracy theories and feature extremists such as the Proud Boys. Before GoFundMe pulled the campaign, it had received $1,330.
GoFundMe’s decision comes as federal officials prepare for a cascade of pro-Trump events across the country. The Associated Press reported Monday that the FBI is warning of plans for armed protests at every state capital and in DC before Biden’s inauguration on Jan 20.
Last week, tech giants Facebook and Twitter finally took action, yanking Trump’s accounts, while other companies like PayPal and Shopify shut down accounts related to the Trump campaign, Trump Organization, and funding the president’s supporters.
But experts say the actions, while significant, are too late, given that these groups have been coordinating and growing in the open for years. Claire Wardle, an expert on misinformation and social media, said the reckoning is long overdue. But after the extraordinary events last week, there was no choice.
"For those of us who have been tracking platform responses, there have definitely been moments when we expected to see more action, and didn't," she said. "But ultimately platforms, internet infrastructure companies and other sites like GoFundMe or Shopify never wanted to be dragged into these kinds of decisions, because they're hard. But they now have little choice now because the pressure is so great."
The Stop the Steal movement, which came together online before it erupted, has become a pro-Trump machine with a presence on nearly every social media platform and in every state. Women for America First, which gave rise to the Stop the Steal rallies, requested the permit for the march that ultimately became the attempted coup at the Capitol. And the consequences have been grave. Five people died, including a police officer. On Saturday, a Capitol Police officer who was present during the siege died by suicide, and NBC News reported that other officers have detailed the horrifying toll it has taken on their mental health.
Although major tech corporations are bolstering up their efforts to thwart extremist and dangerous content before it leads to more violence, Trump supporters are still finding ways to organize and fundraise for their cause. After getting booted off GoFundMe, the Proud Boys have turned to GiveSendGo, a popular Christian crowdfunding site.
Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group, created a GiveSendGo campaign to help cover his legal fees after he was arrested for targeting a historic Black church and carrying high-capacity firearm magazines during last week’s pro-Trump rallies and banned from the district.
So far, he’s raised more than $113,000 of his $2,000 goal from nearly 2,360 donors. One anonymous donor who gave $10 wrote: “The boys are back in town!”