On Tuesday, only hours after anti-LGBTQ troll group Gays Against Groomers revealed it had been banned by PayPal and Venmo for using the services to finance “activities that promote hate, violence, or discriminatory intolerance,” the group announced it had become the latest in a long line of bigoted groups to turn to a different platform — Donorbox.
Donorbox provides a donation platform for nonprofit organizations, earning at least 1.5% from all donations made to the organizations with which it partners. The platform also offers the option to process donations made using its software through PayPal, possibly providing a workaround for hate groups cut off by the fundraising giant.
Along with Gays Against Groomers and the other extremists involved in driving a wave of harassment and threats against schools and children’s hospitals, numerous mainstream nonprofits use Donorbox. These include Code for America, the federally funded 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline), Children’s Defense Fund, and the nonprofit news organization Truthout.
Ironically, the platform that is quickly becoming a haven for a number of notorious anti-LGBTQ figures also continues to be used by some of the largest LGBTQ organizations in Europe, including ILGA-Europe, which is co-funded by the European Union, and Stonewall, the largest LGBTQ rights organization in Europe.
Gays Against Groomers is now using Donorbox to finance its hate
Gays Against Groomers (GAG) claimed PayPal’s actions (PayPal also owns Venmo) were an example of “woke homophobia,” part of the group’s absurd insistence that it is fundamentally incapable of promoting hate against the broader LGBTQ community because of the identity of its members. GAG regularly smears LGBTQ people as “groomers” and targets schools over any support for LGBTQ students, including recently protesting California schools over Pride flag murals and harassing a Florida school board over whether it should observe of LGBT History Month. GAG has also participated in the ongoing harassment of children’s hospitals.
After these actions earned the group bans from PayPal and Venmo, the group quickly announced its move to Donorbox, tweeting out a link to a donation page hosted on Donorbox’s website. GAG then changed the PayPal link once emblazoned at the top of its website to a link bearing the Donorbox logo. It leads to a donation page with Donorbox’s integrated donation form, accompanied by a promise from GAG that donations will help the group to “battle the evil we are up against to end the sexualization, indoctrination and medicalization of children.” Below the form is a link to a page on Donorbox’s website promoting its services using GAG’s name.
Donorbox has become a funding haven for anti-LGBTQ extremists, including those banned by other platforms
In June of this year, anti-trans blogger and failed spider biologist Colin Wright was banned from PayPal. Wright’s blog, hosted on Substack, continues to focus nearly entirely on maligning and demeaning trans people, while he uses his social media presence to attack organizations like The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth. Wright now uses Donorbox to fund his efforts.
A month later, PayPal similarly froze Moms for Liberty’s account. Moms for Liberty is an anti-LGBTQ and CRT-alarmist organization that regularly harasses teachers, pushes for anti-LGBTQ policy in schools, and calls for books by Black and LGBTQ authors to be banned in classrooms. Although the group’s account was later reinstated (purportedly following pressure from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis), the group announced it was pulling all of its funds and leaving the platform. The donation link on its website now leads to a Donorbox donation page.
Donorbox also hosts some of the figures most responsible for instigating and driving harassment against children’s hospitals, harassment that now regularly escalates into threats of violence. Chris Rufo is a propagandist who uses misinformation to drive harassment against children’s hospitals, while also using misinformation to foment doubt when children’s hospitals are targeted with bomb threats. Rufo fundraises using Donorbox.
Chris Elston, a Canadian anti-trans extremist who goes by Billboard Chris on Twitter, has been traveling across Canada and the U.S. harassing hospitals and health care workers who serve and advocate for LGBTQ youth, often posting the results on social media for notoriety. It was his targeting of Boston Children’s Hospital that helped to kick off this current spate of harassment. After this harassment led to a bomb threat at the end of August, Elston spread conspiracy theories about the threat being a “false flag.” Only days after a suspect appearing to be a far-right Trump devotee was apprehended, Elston returned to Boston Children’s Hospital to drive further harassment. GAG joined Elston in harassing the hospital, using its now-defunct PayPal account to help fundraise. Elston relies on Donorbox to help finance his campaign of harassment.
Donorbox has spent the last few years watering down its rules on hate while refusing to enforce its existing policies
Donorbox has a history of courting controversy. In 2018, after the platform removed white nationalist Tommy Robinson for running a fundraiser in support of a British teenager accused of torturing a Syrian refugee, the company then reinstated Robinson’s account. Before doing so, it scrubbed language from its terms of service that banned “the promotion of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, terrorism, or intolerance of any kind, including by race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender or gender identity, or serious disabilities or diseases.”
By August 2019, the company had added back language restricting promotion of violence against the aforementioned groups but removed language barring its users from promoting hate, discrimination, or intolerance. Last year, it moved this policy to a page on “acceptable use” and added a policy against “using dehumanizing rhetoric to refer to another racial group, regardless of whether such characterizations are directly involved in the use of Donorbox services or not.”
Donorbox has a history of failing to enforce these terms of service by allowing white nationalists and organizers of the January 6 insurrection to fundraise using its services. In January, Media Matters flagged multiple figures promoting anti-vaccine and QAnon conspiracy theories who were fundraising using Donorbox in violation of the company’s ban on users engaged in promoting misinformation. Many of those fundraisers still remain active.