GoFundMe will automatically refund all donations made to a multimillion-dollar campaign for a group of Canadian truckers protesting vaccine mandates, the fundraising platform announced Saturday after it started to face fierce backlash from right-wing figures and Republican politicians over its decision to remove the online campaign.
The decision to remove the campaign page from its platform came Friday after the company said the demonstrations being funded by the campaign had become an occupation, sparking incidents of violence and other illegal activity.
On Friday, the company said donors could submit a request for a refund until Feb. 19. It had already released $1 million of the funds to organizers but said that any remaining funds would be distributed to verified charities selected by the Freedom Convoy 2022 organizers.
However, hours later, the company said that due to "donor feedback," it would automatically refund all contributions directly to donors.
GoFundMe's decision to end the campaign and direct funds to charities sparked ire from right-wing and conservative figures who urged people not to use the fundraising platform. Former president Donald Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. urged Republican attorneys general to launch investigations into the site.
Some Republican officials heeded the call, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who tweeted that he planned to investigate the fundraising site's "potential fraud & deception."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also said he was working with the state's attorney general, Ashley Moody, to investigate GoFundMe.
DeSantis appeared to incorrectly tweet that GoFundMe was "commandeering" the money donated for the demonstrations and directing it to "causes of their own choosing." (GoFundMe had said it would distribute the funds to charities selected by the organizers.)
DeSantis's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment or clarification on the statement.
GoFundMe's decision to refund the money was the latest attempt by the company to address the growing anti-vaccine movement that has become one of the largest fundraising efforts on the platform.
The company had originally decided to let the fundraising effort stay on its platform, despite its vow to remove campaigns that contribute to vaccine misinformation. More than $7 million had been raised earlier this week.
The Canadian caravan had originally seen truckers protesting vaccine mandates and pandemic restrictions, but the effort has quickly grown thanks to the support of the alt-right, fringe groups, and pro-Trump supporters.
Supporters of the protest were also reported to have harassed people at a homeless shelter, vandalized war memorials, waved racist flags, and forced businesses to shut down because of maskless protesters.
GoFundMe told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday it was reviewing the campaign to ensure it was complying with its rules. On Friday, the company announced it was removing the page for violating its rules.
"We now have evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity," the company said in a statement.
The Ottawa Police Service thanked GoFundMe for its decision.