Kickstarter has apologized for canceling a woman's account due to comment spam and cyberstalking. But in doing so, the popular crowdfunding company failed to clear up confusion surrounding its community guidelines.
On Saturday, digital culture blogger Rachel Marone revealed that in 2011 Kickstarter closed funding for her art project Extreme Futurists due to an "incredible amount of comment spam that several members of Kickstarter staff removed on [her] behalf." The company reported that over 300 spam comments were left on her campaign’s comments page, the large majority coming from an anonymous source who has spent much of the past 10 years cyberstalking Marone.
In addition to removing Extreme Futurists from the site, Kickstarter suspended Marone's ability to create other projects, citing in its letter "This activity is not allowed on Kickstarter; it violates our community guidelines."
When Marone discovered that her ban had been lifted, she had her manager write in to the New York-based office to see what Marone could do to avoid another suspension.
Kickstarter's Daniella Jaeger responded:
Thanks for writing in. If there is any chance that Rachel will receive spam from a stalker on her project, she should not create one. We simply cannot allow a project to become a forum for rampant spam, as her past project became. If this happens again, we will need to discard the project and permanently suspend Rachel’s account.
“It is not Kickstarter policy to turn away projects that may attract spam or be subject to abuse. We were wrong to suggest that this was the case and we’re sorry for that. We welcome any project as long as it does not violate the Kickstarter project and community guidelines.
“Abuse is never tolerated on Kickstarter. Kickstarter’s moderators review any comment flagged by project creators and take whatever action is necessary, including banning or suspending an abusive user’s account. In the past year we’ve also made adjustments to the site’s functionality to limit trolls, restricting the ability to comment on a project to only its backers.
“We work very hard to look out for our project creators and our community, and part of that means taking abusive behavior very seriously. Our response in this particular situation implied the opposite. We take full responsibility for that and apologize.”
The company, however, has not yet made any amendments to its community guidelines page (nor has it responded to Marone directly), which remains barebones thin. Its closest mention of anything relating to spam refers to project creators sending Twitter spam ("sending unsolicited @ messages to people") and at no point does it address recommended actions for victims of cyberstalking or spam. (The same holds true for Kickstarter's Terms of Service.) Kickstarter declined to comment on this story.
"Be cool, okay?" the site asks of its users. "Okay."
Unfortunately for victims like Rachel Marone, "being cool" is not an option.
Correction: Kickstarter cancelled the alleged spam victim's account, not the funding for its campaign, as this story originally indicated.