Kickstarter apologises for allowing and funding super rapey project

Earlier this week, Alexandra blogged about the super rapey “seduction guide” that Redditor and Honest to God Nice Guy (TM) Who Just Wants Those Uppity Bitches to Have Sex With Me Ken Hoinsky was funding through Kickstarter. His project, a book that instructed other Honest to God Nice Guys (TM) Who Just Want Those Uppity Bitches to Have Sex With Them in how to sexually assault women was, unfortunately, fully funded and then some.

Lots of people approached Kickstarter and asked them to withdraw the funding, which apparently cannot be done once the project’s deadline has passed, and castigated the company for allowing Hoinsky’s project in the first place. Kickstarter agreed that the project was “abhorrent” but refused to cancel the project before the deadline passed. Which was a mistake.

Today they issued an apology. A real apology: they said they made a mistake and explained why they took the (in)action they did, pledged money to an organization that fights sexual violence, and promised to change their policy to prevent this sort of thing happen again. Bravo, and I genuinely mean that. THAT is how you apologise for a mistake. None of the usual “sorry if you were offended,” “we don’t want to impinge on people’s rights (to say that rape is sexy)” bullshit.

Here’s the full text of their apology:

Dear everybody,

On Wednesday morning Kickstarter was sent a blog post quoting disturbing material found on Reddit. The offensive material was part of a draft for a “seduction guide” that someone was using Kickstarter to publish. The posts offended a lot of people — us included — and many asked us to cancel the creator’s project. We didn’t.

We were wrong.

Why didn’t we cancel the project when this material was brought to our attention? Two things influenced our decision:

  • The decision had to be made immediately. We had only two hours from when we found out about the material to when the project was ending. We’ve never acted to remove a project that quickly. 
  • Our processes, and everyday thinking, bias heavily toward creators. This is deeply ingrained. We feel a duty to our community — and our creators especially — to approach these investigations methodically as there is no margin for error in canceling a project. This thinking made us miss the forest for the trees.

These factors don’t excuse our decision but we hope they add clarity to how we arrived at it.

Let us be 100% clear: Content promoting or glorifying violence against women or anyone else has always been prohibited from Kickstarter. If a project page contains hateful or abusive material we don’t approve it in the first place. If we had seen this material when the project was submitted to Kickstarter (we didn’t), it never would have been approved. Kickstarter is committed to a culture of respect.

Where does this leave us?

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.

We take our role as Kickstarter’s stewards very seriously. Kickstarter is one of the friendliest, most supportive places on the web and we’re committed to keeping it that way. We’re sorry for getting this so wrong.

Thank you,

Kickstarter

If you wish more companies behaved this way (I sure as hell do!) thank @Kickstarter on Twitter, or in the comments section on their apology. Let them know that you appreciate that they listened (even if they didn’t act in time) and that you want them to be accountable to the promises they’ve made in this apology. And also, way to go, feminist internet, for kicking up one hell of a fuss and making sure you were heard – and listened to.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/elo11/ ELot

    Maybe I am completely missing something, but I just don’t understand how Hoinsky’s material got approved. They say they never saw it. Well whoever approved it must have read the thing…?

    • http://feministing.com/members/franziakafka/ Franzia Kafka

      I was thinking the same thing. So what new processes are they putting in place to ensure they won’t “accidentally not see” some other abhorrent thing in the future?

      • http://feministing.com/members/elo11/ ELot

        Great point.

    • http://feministing.com/members/mcdaldno/ Joe Mcdaldno

      ELot,

      The person who approved the project would have read the entire project page. That means they approved a “seduction manual.” They wouldn’t have read the content of the book being funded, though, and it’s very unlikely they would have had access to it in the first place. So they didn’t know that there was content that explicitly promoted sexual violence inside the book (though maybe should have been able to infer that based on the project page?).

      I’m excited that they’re disallowing anything that falls under the purview of “seduction manual” in the future, because it means that it’s way less likely that something pro-violence-against-women slips through their radar again.

      • http://feministing.com/members/elo11/ ELot

        Thanks for the explanation. It’s surprising to me that they wouldn’t read the content of the book before they agreed to fund it. Or at least, as you say, wouldn’t be able to infer it from the project page. Just seems like such an obvious thing to “slip through the cracks”, esp. when their own money is involved. I agree it’s awesome they plan to disallow “seduction manuals” in the future, and hopefully they put other protocols in place, as well.