Kickstarter's Apology

Last week, hours before its funding window closed, comedian Casey Malone discovered that a fully funded Kickstarter project, “Above the Game,” purporting to be a manual on meeting women actually contained offensive, abusive material; a blank check to go out an sexually assault any woman you meet. In a follow-up, Kickstarter told him that, under their current guidelines, the project would have to be funded. I discussed this at length on The CrowdCrowd podcast Thursday evening, but by the time our episode posted Kickstarter had already issued an apology for their handling of the matter.

Under the headline “We were wrong,” the team lays bare why they didn’t pull the funding and how they intend to prevent similar projects getting funding in the future. I am content with this response.

Ben Brooks, someone I would say was a onetime influential booster of Kickstarter, is not so happy. He calls out the company for being “chicken shits” and draws his line in the sand (again: 1,2):

…I won’t ever fund a project, or promote one, on KickStarter again.

I respect Ben’s opinion, and I agree with him to a point. As I said on The CrowdCrowd, I really don’t care about the headache this caused for any employee at Kickstarter. If I worry about anything at all, it’s the community of striving artists and creators, not the maintainers of the service who take a cut on the work of others (including “Above the Game”). But Ben’s not telling the whole story:

They were chicken shits and allowed the funding to go through, while knowing it was wrong. Then the story got too big and they coughed up $25k to a great charity, but still allowed a manual on sexual assault to be funded.

It sounds like the sort of papering over of scandals we’ve grown accustomed to from politicians and conglomorates. That would be a chicken shit move if that’s all Kickstarter did. But it’s not.

…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.

This is not the stuff of a non-apology. This is actual change; a real preventative measure.

We live on the Web now. New ideas, new communities will continue to endure terrible growing pains. Craigslist has facilitated murder. Reddit propogates a culture of misogyny, racism and violence on a scale never before conceived. And yet both sites have much to offer the world. There is ugliness everywhere; it’s how we handle it that matters.

Kickstarter fucked up, but they did so in the name of their benefit-of-the-doubt ethos that creatives know best how to make great work that enriches the world. We’re all learning how to do this together. I’m pleased they’re making an effort to do better in the future.