Skip to main content

Neo-Nazis disguised GoFundMe campaign as a ‘family reunion’ in Charlottesville

Neo-Nazis disguised GoFundMe campaign as a ‘family reunion’ in Charlottesville

Share this story

Neo-Nazis Using YouTube for Propaganda
Photo Illustration by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Well before the deadly attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, GoFundMe banned hate groups and causes from its platforms. In its terms of service, the company says its services cannot be used to promote “hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, terrorism, or intolerance of any kind.”

A media group began leaking Discord chats this month

But alt-right groups appear to be skirting moderators, and campaigns set up before the Charlottesville protests may show just how easy it is to evade those rules. This month, a left-leaning alternative media group called Unicorn Riot began publishing leaked screenshots from Discord, a chat service popular with the alt-right. The chats, which also revealed discussions about violence, were from a server convened to plan out the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” protests.

The leaked Discord chats included screenshots of channels created to “sponsor” trips to Charlottesville. Several people came through the channel to ask for travel money, and in at least two cases, provided links to GoFundMe pages. Likely realizing that those pages would be targets for banning, however, they were disguised in innocuous and misleading descriptions. “One of our dear friends has fallen on some hard times financially and lives in a very remote area,” one of the pages said. “He would like to attend a family reunion and see all of his Brothers.”

The page was organized by an “Ignis Faatus,” a name used by a host of a racist alt-right podcast. The fund was also promoted last month on a page hosting the podcast. Sometime after the screenshots were leaked, the campaign was pulled — but not before it reached its $1,250 goal. It’s unclear whether the fundraiser money was used for travel, but the organizer of the page, a “Paul Hooberson Walsh,” appeared on a purported list of attendees.

Another campaign organized under Walsh’s name was set up for the “Detroit Right, a self-organized group of young Republicans and Conservatives,” which claimed to be planning an August road trip to Dixie. The image on the page showed Rodin’s The Thinker and included the text, “With beautiful convictions come beautiful strengths.” On Discord, the group was referred to as “people from the Greater Michigan Reich.”

That campaign raised only a few hundred dollars, but even after the screenshots were leaked — and well after the rally — the page was still accessible, and was marked as completed. (GoFundMe takes about an 8 percent cut on campaigns, plus a 30-cent fee per donation.) When The Verge approached GoFundMe and asked why the page hadn’t been banned, the company quickly removed it.

In a statement, a GoFundMe spokesperson said “white nationalists and neo-Nazis cannot use GoFundMe to promote hatred, racism, or intolerance, and if a campaign violates GoFundMe’s terms of service, we’ll remove it from the platform.” The company said it had banned the campaigns and users from its platform, and also pointed to its work removing campaigns for the alleged Charlottesville killer.

In the wake of Charlottesville, a number of companies, including GoFundMe and Kickstarter, as well as titans like Facebook, have made an emphatic push to rid their platforms of alt-right and neo-Nazi users and causes. It’s unclear why these campaigners decided to crowdfund their efforts using GoFundMe, and not the numerous other platforms that have emerged with less strict moderation policies, including RootBocks.

Still, the pages raise questions about how to effectively police platforms like GoFundMe, and whether it’s possible to rid platforms of these causes entirely.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 23 10 minutes in the clouds

Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.

Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.

External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.

External Link
Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.

James VincentSep 23
Nvidia’s latest AI model generates endless 3D models.

Need to fill your video game, VR world, or project render with 3D chaff? Nvidia’s latest AI model could help. Trained on 2D images, it can churn out customizable 3D objects ready to import and tweak.

The model seems rudimentary (the renders aren’t amazing quality and seem limited in their variety), but generative AI models like this are only going to improve, speeding up work for all sorts of creative types.

Richard LawlerSep 23
Green light.

This week Friday brings the debut of Apple’s other new hardware. We’ve reviewed both the new AirPods Pro and this chonky Apple Watch Ultra, and now you’ll decide if you’re picking them up, or not.

Otherwise, we’re preparing for Netflix’s Tudum event this weekend and slapping Dynamic Island onto Android phones.

The Apple Watch Ultra on a woman’s wrist
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
External Link
Jess WeatherbedSep 23
Japan will fully reopen to tourists in October following two and a half years of travel restrictions.

Good news for folks who have been waiting to book their dream Tokyo vacation: Japan will finally relax Covid border control measures for visa-free travel and individual travelers on October 11th.

Tourists will still need to be vaccinated three times or submit a negative COVID-19 test result ahead of their trip, but can take advantage of the weak yen and a ‘national travel discount’ launching on the same date. Sugoi!

External Link
Thomas RickerSep 23
Sony starts selling the Xperia 1 IV with continuous zoom lens.

What does it cost to buy a smartphone that does something no smartphone from Apple, Google, Samsung can? $1,599.99 is Sony’s answer: for a camera lens that can shift its focal length anywhere between 85mm and 125mm.

Here’s Allison’s take on Sony’s continuous-zoom lens when she tested a prototype Xperia 1 IV back in May: 

Sony put a good point-and-shoot zoom in a smartphone. That’s an impressive feat. In practical use, it’s a bit less impressive. It’s essentially two lenses that serve the same function: portrait photography. The fact that there’s optical zoom connecting them doesn’t make them much more versatile.

Still, it is a Sony, and

External Link
Corin FaifeSep 23
If God sees everything, so do these apps.

Some Churches are asking congregants to install so-called “accountability apps” to prevent sinful behavior. A Wired investigation found that they monitor almost everything a user does on their phone, including taking regular screenshots and flagging LGBT search terms.