Facebook removed a page used by American truckers to organize a convoy to Washington DC after GoFundMe began refunding the $8million in donations collected for a Freedom Convoy protesting Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Trucker Jeremy Johnson, who established the group, claims his personal Facebook account was also removed, prompting him to contact a civil rights attorney about his options moving forward.
‘It’s censorship at its finest,’ he said. ‘They like to silence people that speak the truth.’
Similarly, the crowdfunding account supporting the Canadian Freedom Convoy – which has raised $10million Canadian dollars ($8million USD) – was suspended for a second time Wednesday night after GoFundMe said the company needed to ensure the account ‘complies with its terms of service’.
The suspension has prompted fears about the company’s motives as more than 200 trucks and other vehicles have blockaded the downtown roads in Canada’s capital since last Friday.
Political analysts allege the trucking protests – which have split the official opposition Conservative Party – stand to benefit Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s liberals, posing some to question if GoFundMe has sided with the Canadian leader.
The crowdfunding site, however, maintains the suspension is ‘to ensure the funds are going to the intended recipients,’ although some donors reportedly received emails on Thursday that they were being refunded but were given no explanation as to why.
GoFundMe CEO Jeff Cadogan, who last year urged the US government to pass emergency COVID-19 aid, has not publicly commented on the Freedom Convoy fundraiser. Although he has previously argued the nonprofit has ‘a responsibility to society’ and so ‘we prohibit the promotion of misinformation, or the promotion of hate or discrimination, or using a campaign to bully someone or discriminate, or to promote violence or terrorism.’
Canadian truck drivers block the border between Canada and US
Supporters argue the suspension of the Freedom Convoy fundraiser is suspicious given that other related trucking convoy campaigns are still up and running.
Donors are also questioning why the company is issuing refunds if the fundraiser is currently under review.
Brad Maier, who supported the convoy fundraiser, claims he received an email from GoFundMe on Wednesday alerting him that his donation would be refunded.
‘The email looks legitimate, I just want to wait and see if it actually gets refunded to my credit card,’ he told the Montreal Gazette. ‘Then I will know if it’s legit.’
Others social media users have also reported unexplained refunds from GoFundMe.
Additionally, convoy supporters allege the timing of the fundraiser’s second suspension is a bit unsettling, especially since earlier this week Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson called on the platform to dissociate itself with the Freedom Convoy.
‘I think it’s disgraceful that that any company would want to be associated with what kind of action we’ve seen here in Ottawa,’ Watson told CBC News on Wednesday.
‘And you know, my hope is that GoFundMe understands that this is a completely inappropriate use of dollars, to be coming into a city to create this kind of havoc in neighborhoods, to shut down businesses, to harass our residents on the streets of Ottawa.’
The mayor also announced the city was considering legal action in an effort to recoup the more $800,000 a day in additional policing costs that the protests have cost Ottawa.
‘I’ve asked our city solicitor if we have any recourse to GoFundMe, because obviously this money is coming into the country and into our city to maintain this activity that is frustrating everyone who lives here and who works here,’ Watson said.
Some supporters allege the crowdfunding platform is worried how it may be perceived if it continues to allow the fundraiser to collect donations.
Organizer and participants – although many peaceful – have been accused of calling their political opponents Nazis, waving swastikas and Confederate flags, and threatening an insurrection against the Canadian government, the Conservation reported.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance and the Ontario Trucking Association, among others, have also openly criticized the convoy, alleging that 90 percent of their members are vaccinated.
Additionally, CEO Tim Cadogan has a known history of being pro-vaccine and has actively slammed the US government for its handling of the pandemic.
Last year, during an interview with the New York Times Cadogan said: ‘This is a war against a virus. If this were a war against another country at this scale, it would be no question what we would do, right? We would mobilize our society to defeat it.’
He also argued that he would rather the federal government offer aid to Americans than his company.
The CEO penned an open letter to Congress – which was published in USA Today – arguing lawmakers didn’t to take action because many citizens were unable to afford rent, groceries, utilities and medical bills. He also argued the pandemic was making it nearly impossible for small businesses owners to stay afloat.
Cadogan said that although GoFundMe aims to be ‘the most helpful place in the world,’ the platform cannot do the government’s job for it.
‘We are proud of the role that GoFundMe plays in connecting those in need with those who are ready to help,’ he wrote. ‘But our platform was never meant to be a source of support for basic needs, and it can never be a replacement for robust federal COVID-19 relief that is generous and targeted to help the millions of Americans who are struggling.’
Critics have also pointed out that GoFundMe has also repeatedly flip-flopped over whether to allow the Freedom Convoy fundraiser to continue. The account was first frozen last week, when it totaled $5million in donations, because GoFundMe wanted to determine exactly where the funds would go.
It was provided with an explanation by the organizers and two days later, seemingly satisfied, the crowdfunding site unlocked the account allowing donations to continue and released $1million in donated funds.
On Wednesday, it was frozen again, after days of political pressure from left-wing politicians who have blasted the truckers as ‘mercenaries.’ The company issued a statement saying: ‘This fundraiser is currently paused and under review to ensure it complies with our terms of service and applicable laws and regulations.
‘Our team is working 24/7 and doing all we can to protect both organizers and donors. Thank you for your patience.’
GoFundMe later clarified the account met its terms and services at the time of its creation last month.
‘We strictly prohibit user content that reflects or promotes behavior in support of violence – in this case, the organizer met our requirements and the fundraiser did not violate our Terms of Service at the time of creation.’
A GoFundMe campaign that was organized to support the Canadian truckers demonstration and which has raised more than $10million CAD was suspended again on Wednesday night
The company says that it has been monitoring the fundraiser to ensure the money – raised from more than 120,000 donations – goes to the intended recipients, and went on to detail the criteria on how it intends to discern the integrity and transparency of the organizers of the fundraiser.
‘As the activity surrounding the protest evolves, we have been monitoring the fundraiser to ensure the funds are going to the intended recipients and that the fundraiser remains within our Terms of Service.
‘Our monitoring includes maintaining close communication with the organizer as well as collaborating with local law enforcement,’ GoFundMe said.
‘This process takes time and may slow down the withdrawal process. If the fundraiser does violate our Terms of Service or does not directly benefit the intended beneficiary, we will remove it from the platform,’ the site added.
DailyMail.com reached out to GoFundMe Thursday morning to gain clarification as to what led to the company’s sudden stance reversal and who made the call to suspend the campaign. The company responded with links to the statement that had been posted the previous day.
Crowdfunding platforms, including GoFundMe, will ban campaigns that they allege violate their terms of service.
GoFundMe, for example, does not allow fundraisers for the legal defense of people accused of hate, intolerance or violent crimes. It was also previously remove campaigns that it believes spread misinformation about COVID vaccine safety. Campaigns associated to sexual content or pornography are also prohibited.
The platform’s terms of service also give it the right to prohibit ‘any other activity that GoFundMe may deem, in its sole discretion, to be unacceptable.’