Unethical Website Of The Month: GoFundMe

GoFundMe thinks the 6th Amendment is heinous, apparently...

GoFundMe thinks the 6th Amendment is heinous, apparently…

A about a week ago, I designated the crowd-funding website GoFundMe an Ethics Dunce. Now it’s clear that it is worse than that. It’s an unethical website, period.

After the six Baltimore police officers were prematurely charged with serious crimes before the investigation into the death of Freddie Gray was complete, the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police created a GoFundMe page for their defense. Less than an hour later, it was taken down, with GoFundMe citing the same dubious policy it used to cut off support for a bakery driven out of business by vengeful same-sex marriage supporters:

“‘Campaigns in defense of formal charges of heinous crimes’ are prohibited by our terms . . . GoFundMe cannot be used to benefit those who are charged with serious violations of the law.”

So, in essence, the website doesn’t support the Sixth Amendment rights of the accused to have a competent and zealous defense, or the principle that a citizen is deemed innocent under the law until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s pretty heinous on its own.

Writes Jonathan Turley:

Why shouldn’t this site be used to help guarantee a fair trial for anyone facing prosecution?…This is a site that is designed to help people organize in making donations to support different causes. Giving such charity is a positive act, including giving money to guarantee a fully funded defense. Our criminal justice system is a foundational part of our society. It reflects our commitment to the rule of law. Central to that institution is the presumption of innocence. I find this policy of GoFundMe to be inexplicable and distasteful. Many people want to support the criminal justice system as much as environmental or other causes. The policy makes, in my view, an arbitrary and biased decision in barring those who are accused of serious offenses by the government. It should equally presumably bar those who are viewed as victims of government abuse like journalists or whistleblowers.

Bingo, Professor.

But then, GoFundMe is run by people who know little of nothing about any of this. They are politically correct, ignorant and cowardly, pandering to the mob, controlled by popular passions and misconceptions. If they cared about, or understood the principles and values of this nation, they would understand that defending the rights of those accused of “heinous” crimes are among the most worthy causes for funding. The Baltimore officers are a perfect example of this. The legal system will be prosecuting six men in an environment of mob extortion, with community activists, the media and large portions of the community having already condemned them. The threat: convict them or else we’ll tear the city to shreds. It will take more than the average criminal defense lawyer to ensure a fair trial and a jury verdict based on the evidence rather a political agenda. That takes money, and an ethical crowd-funding site would  see this as an opportunity to advance the interests of justice.

GoFundMe is not, however, an ethical crowd-funding site.

UPDATE: Mercilessly alert correct commenters below point out that I also declared a website unethical last month for posting a crowdfunding appeal for Officer Slager, who can be seen murdering Walter Scott on video. The fact that Slager is almost certainly guilty still doesn’t change the fact that he deserves the best defense available. I was wrong in my analysis then. I’m right now. I’ve added an update to this effect here, and here.


12 thoughts on “Unethical Website Of The Month: GoFundMe

  1. And yet, I’ll bet they would help someone from the Innocence Project, and just tap-dance around the whole inconsistency.

    • Campaigns in support of issues not trendy, hip, or politically-correct, or are conservative in nature, are subject to our “no soup for you” clause.

  2. Jack — How do you marry this with your position on the effort to fund the defense of the cop in South Carolina. Your distinction seems to be that we can all tell with our naked eyes that the South Carolina cop is guilty, so why waste money on the defense? I don’t necessarily disagree, but is there any other distinction? The South Carolina guy has also already been convicted in the court of public opinion (even more so, albeit justifiably) and one could argue that a proper legal defense is worth funding for the sake of justice, even tough the guy is guilty and does not deserve a penny of help.

    • Nope, you are 100% right..Other Bill too. I was wrong. Let my ick-factor take over. Thanks, I needed that. I’ll add something to that post. I do think the ones trying to raise money for the defense in South Carolina are motivated by racism rather than the right to a defense, given the idiotic statement by the poster. But still…you are correct. I was right about this one, that one cannot be distinguished sufficiently to claim it can be right too.

      Keep me honest, everybody!

      • Thanks, Jack. You’re very kind.

        And not to pile on… In Sanford, Ferguson, North Charleston and now Baltimore, the aspects I find most frustrating are the rush to judgment and the court of public opinion. More so than concerns about rights to a trial by jury and the presumption of innocence. The last two are in the constitution so barring layers and layers of incompetence piled on top of each other, they will get their due. But the court of public opinion has gotten way ahead of itself these days. Maybe it’s the 24/7 news cycle and the participatory journalism ushered in by the internet or the outrage machine, so called. In terms of criminal justice, the court of public opinion just does not have jurisdiction, never mind sentencing authority. Why don’t people see that? No justice no peace is just wrong because it’s premature. The appropriate response might be “At this point it doesn’t matter what you think. Wait.” Secondly, the rush to judgment simply ignores the fact it takes time for the facts of these things to be determined and find their way out. Again, I think “let’s wait and see how this plays out” is just a good approach for all concerned.

        There, I’ll get off my soapbox now. Before the bullets start to fly.

        Anyway, as always, thanks.

        • Because, Bill, this isn’t about justice; it isn’t about law and it sure as hell isn’t about rational thought. Somewhat like the gay marriage fiasco, this is about special treatment and special rules for a minority. Apparently, this country has given over rule by the majority, and has done so long ago.

  3. Nice to see the categorical imperative come into play. I agree there are other issues that went on in the slaeger issue, but the whole idea that a person deserves the chance to defend themselves in court matters.

  4. http://patterico.com/2015/05/03/go-fund-me-suspends-fundraising-account-for-baltimore-six/

    At the time, I wrote:
    Jeremy Meeks’ mother set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for his legal defense. And, not surprisingly, given the reaction to his mug shot, has raised $3,879 raised by 199 people in 2 days.
    Within a few days, that number was well on its way to doubling.


    When asked specifically about the Meeks’ campaign and apparent inconsistencies in adhering to company policy, GoFundMe had no response.

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