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Crowdfunding platforms as conduits for ideological struggle and extremism: On the need for greater regulation and digital constitutionalism

Wade, M., Baker, S.A. ORCID: 0000-0002-4921-2456 & Walsh, M. J. (2023). Crowdfunding platforms as conduits for ideological struggle and extremism: On the need for greater regulation and digital constitutionalism. Policy and Internet, 16(1), pp. 149-172. doi: 10.1002/poi3.369


Crowdfunding platforms remain understudied as conduits for ideological struggle. While other social media platforms may enable the expression of hateful and harmful ideas, crowdfunding can actively facilitate their enaction through financial support. In addressing such risks, crowdfunding platforms attempt to mitigate complicity but retain legitimacy. That is, ensuring their fundraising tools are not exploited for intolerant, violent or hate-based purposes, yet simultaneously avoiding restrictive policies that undermine their legitimacy as ‘open’ platforms. Although social media platforms are routinely scrutinized for enabling misinformation, hateful rhetoric and extremism, crowdfunding has largely escaped critical inquiry, despite being repeatedly implicated in amplifying such threats. Drawing on the ‘Freedom Convoy’ movement as a case study, this article employs critical discourse analysis to trace how crowdfunding platforms reveal their underlying values in privileging either collective safety or personal liberty when hosting divisive causes. The radically different policy decisions adopted by crowdfunding platforms GoFundMe and GiveSendGo expose a concerning divide between ‘Big Tech’ and ‘Alt-Tech’ platforms regarding what harms they are willing to risk, and the ideological rationales through which these determinations are made. There remain relatively few regulatory safeguards guiding such impactful strategic choices, leaving crowdfunding platforms susceptible to weaponization. With Alt-Tech platforms aspiring to build an ‘alternative internet’, this paper highlights the urgent need to explore digital constitutionalism in the crowdfunding space, establishing firmer boundaries to better mitigate fundraising platforms becoming complicit in catastrophic harms.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non‐commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made. © 2023 The Authors. Policy & Internet published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Policy Studies Organization.
Publisher Keywords: Alt‐Tech, crowdfunding, digital constitutionalism, extremism, platform governance
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
T Technology
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Policy   Internet - 2023 - Wade.pdf]
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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