Politics & Policy

Gosnell Filmmakers Quit Kickstarter, Claiming Censorship

Filmmakers have raised over $195,000 in five days

Makers of a film on abortionist and convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell say the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter singled out their project for special objections. They have ankled the massively popular platform in favor of another crowdfunding site.

Ann and Phelim Media have  raised nearly $200,000 in five days on crowdfunding site Indiegogo for a planned movie about Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist who was convicted in 2013 on a host of charges including multiple illegal late-term abortions, hundreds of violations of Pennsylvania’s informed-consent law, and three counts of murder. The movie will chronicle the man described by ABC’s Terry Moran as “the most successful serial killer in the history of the world,” using stories lifted directly from trial documents. It will also describe the scant attention the establishment media gave to Gosnell’s killing spree until very late in the trial.

The filmmakers were going to use Kickstarter until they received an e-mail saying their project might upset “community guidelines.”

Kickstarter had previously helped producers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer raise over $200,000 for their documentary FrackNation. But the filmmakers say the crowdfunding company slow-walked their project once it learned about the topic. McAleer and McElhinney say Kickstarter did not respond to multiple e-mails for several days and finally responded with a request that the project video be amended before it could go live.

“We ask that the phrase ‘1000s of babies stabbed to death’ and similar language be modified or removed from the project,” a Kickstarter representative identified as George said in a March 27 e-mail to Ann and Phelim Media. “We understand your convictions and the horror of this person’s crimes, however we are a broad website used by millions of people. Our Community Guidelines outline that we encourage and enforce a culture of respect and consideration, and we ask that that language specifically be modified for those reasons.

“Unbelievably, Kickstarter tried to censor us,” McAleer tells National Review Online. “They said we could only put the project on the site if we agreed not to upset the sensitivities of their community.”

Kickstarter told McAleer phrases such as thousands of babies stabbed to death” and “thousands of babies murdered” needed to go “to comply with the spirit of our Community Guidelines.”

In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler said, “We viewed Kickstarter as a public trust. This is a place of opportunity for anyone to make their thing happen. And it’s our job to be the stewards of it and to honor it . . . a living breathing cultural institution that’s there to represent the interests of everybody.”

McAleer says the Gosnell project was singled out for these changes. He points to the Kickstarter campaign for a film project about the Swedish-American serial killer Belle Gunness, which he says had “a picture of a dead body on the project page.”

Other controversial Kickstarter projects that McAleer says received funding include:

  • 16 projects about stabbing
  • 5 projects about incest
  • One project with the “C” word in the project description
  • 44 projects about rape
  • 28 projects with the word F**k or F**king in the title

Some of these projects were based on true stories, some were works of fiction, but all were allowed onto Kickstarter,” says McAleer.

But Kickstarter has canceled projects it deemed offensive in the past. A project about “cheat codes” that shows men how to hook up with women at bars was canceled after bloggers revolted. Kickstarter wrote an apology for allowing the project. This led Kickstarter to amend their community guidelines by banning all “seduction guides.” 

The project submission was accepted on Friday exactly how it was submitted for our review and the filmmakers are still welcome to launch the project on Kickstarter at any time,” Kickstarter representative Justin Kazmark told National Review Online. “Kickstarter is a platform open to projects from across the creative spectrum that represent an incredibly diverse array of topics and viewpoints. All projects are subject to the same set of community guidelines.”

— Joshua Encinias is an Agostinelli Fellow at National Review.

Update: This story has been updated to include a response from Kickstarter.


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