Fundraising platform Donorbox is allowing multiple anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists and QAnon figures to raise money -- including the group behind the viral coronavirus misinformation video Plandemic -- even though the platform’s rules seem to prohibit these users’ campaigns.
According to Donorbox’s Acceptable Usage Policy, the platform prohibits activity related to “campaigns that are fraudulent, misleading, inaccurate, dishonest, impossible or imitating any other person or fundraising campaign without permission (whether on the Platform or not).” It also prohibits users from “engaging in, encouraging, promoting, or celebrating unlawful violence or physical harm to persons or property.”
Despite those rules, a Media Matters review has found at least eight groups or figures that have spread false coronavirus conspiracy theories or the QAnon conspiracy theory using Donorbox to solicit donations. Donorbox charges a platform fee of 1.5% per month’s donations, meaning the platform possibly makes money from these accounts.
COVID-19 conspiracy theory groups
The creators of Plandemic are using Donorbox to raise money. Plandemic is a viral coronavirus misinformation video that pushed a litany of false claims, including the claim that masks are harmful. (The group later released a Plandemic sequel that was also full of misinformation.) The Plandemic website states that the creators are “currently raising funds for the production and marketing cost of Plandemic 3” and asks people to “contribut[e] to this urgent cause.” Below that request is a “donate” button that forwards visitors to a donation page that uses Donorbox.
One group, called “Class Action Covid UK,” is using Donorbox to raise money for a case it plans to file against the U.K. government, writing, “We want to use this case to effect positive changes in our laws and in society, specifically … to prove that vaccines must not be mandatory because they are ‘unavoidably unsafe.’” The group also claims that it “challenge[s] the pretext of a pandemic.”
Another group, called “The Art of Liberty Foundation,” announced on its donation page that it has published content titled “Plandemic – Covid 19 is a Scam, A Multi-Trillion Dollar Bank Robbery and Economic Warfare Against the Population by Organized Crime Interests in ‘Government’ on Wall Street, and in the Media.” The group also says that it plans to use the money to make available to the public “the Plandemic expose” and the anti-vaccine movie Vaxxed.
An Australian group, called “Truth Truck,” has raised thousands of dollars on the platform for a truck that displays messages falsely claiming vaccines are killing scores of people. The group’s Donorbox page praised the platform, saying it is “better aligned with our goal and our vision” after it was banned from fellow donation platform GoFundMe.
Besides coronavirus and anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists, Donorbox is also allowing purveyors of the QAnon conspiracy theory to receive donations. The QAnon conspiracy theory has been linked to multiple acts of violence, including the Capitol insurrection, and multiple domestic and international government agencies have issued internal warnings about the conspiracy theory.
One QAnon influencer, Dustin Nemos, runs Donorbox pages for both his Nemos News Network and his nutritional supplement site RedPill Living. His Nemos News Network page gives people the option to donate $17 -- likely a reference to Q being the 17th letter of the alphabet -- and says the funds go to “support the Nemos News Network public awareness and media work.” On his RedPill Living Donorbox page, which claims to have raised more than $1,600, Nemos complains that ecommerce platform Shopify has removed him for selling colloidal silver as a supposed coronavirus treatment and cure (which it is not).
Another QAnon influencer, Sean Morgan, calls himself a “digital soldier” on his Donorbox page, a term used by QAnon supporters to describe themselves. Another Donorbox page soliciting donations currently active on the platform is called “Tip Cup | QAnon Great Awakening.”
Additionally, Donorbox has allowed a group called “Stop Hate” to solicit donations on its platform. The group has ties to the far-right; it has promoted QAnon and false claims of voter fraud and has a direct affiliation with alleged participants in the Capitol insurrection. The group has pushed false conspiracy theories about the insurrection as well.
This is not the first time that Donorbox has seemingly struggled to enforce its rules against misinformation and extremism. The platform has previously been used by British far-right activist Tommy Robinson, by multiple white nationalist groups, and by a Canadian organization that pushed conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus and the pandemic not being real.