Most of the time when crowdfunding makes the news, it's because of some innovative or unique new product looking to find a niche in the market. But that's not always the case.
This time, crowdfunding pioneer Indiegogo has come under fire after refusing to pull a funding campaign by right-wing, climate change-denying think tank The Heartland Institute. Heartland is currently seeking to raise funds on Indiegogo for its Pandemonium in Paris venture. The money will help the organisation send a delegation of "scientists and policy experts" to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which commences this month in Paris.
"The Heartland Institute is working with other leading think tanks and advocacy groups to make sure our voice – the voice of sound science and economics, of energy consumers and taxpayers in America – is heard," writes James M. Taylor, the group's vice president of external relations, on the crowdfunding page. "We need your help [to] stop the UN and the Obama administration from raising your taxes, increasing your energy costs, and destroying jobs – perhaps your job or those of your children."
Amid calls for Indiegogo to pull the campaign page down, the crowdfunding company has demurred, citing that Heartland's effort to raise funds isn't breaching any of Indiegogo's terms of service.
"Indiegogo is an open platform, and as such, we accept all campaigns other than those that aim to raise money for illegal activities or those that would harm or promote offences against others," a spokeswoman told Karl Mathiesen at The Guardian.
But others say hiding behind this kind of 'terms of service' rhetoric amounts to a policy that not only endangers the environment – but that of the reputation of Indiegogo itself.
"Indiegogo are showing a truly courageous commitment to freedom of speech," Charlie Kronick, senior climate advisor to Greenpeace UK, told Mathiesen. "They may not agree with what you say, but they will risk trashing their own brand to defend your right to say it."
For what it's worth, Indiegogo does have a history of pulling campaigns which it construes as breaking the rules. Just this week, the company attracted significant attention in the media for banning funding for a so-called 'safe gun', a non-lethal firearm that shoots a mixture of salt and chemicals instead of bullets to ostensibly neutralise any potential threats without causing permanent injury.
If the reasoning behind Indiegogo not allowing weapons and ammunition on its site is because these things are dangerous, doesn't it make sense, by extrapolation, to ban funding for campaigns which are actively trying to limit humankind's ability to control and mitigate climate change?
After all, as Mathiesen writes:
"Indiegogo's terms also bar fundraisers from creating a campaign "to cause harm to people or property". Heartland's stated aim is to stop a globally binding deal being signed in Paris. The aim of the deal being prepared is to keep global warming within 2C. If it does not, the world's most respected climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has said every region of the world will be affected by destructive weather, aggravated resource conflicts and displaced populations."
Sounds pretty harmful to us!