The online crowdfunding company GoFundMe removed a viral campaign which could be read to imply the existence of widespread voter fraud Friday, placing itself firmly in the role of attempting to dispel election misinformation.
As the U.S. presidential election vote count continued to drag on Friday afternoon, and the Trump campaign worked to delegitimize ballots, a parallel campaign was going viral on the fundraising platform — pulling in well over $200,000 from thousands of contributors. The goal was not some charitable cause, or to cover an unjust medical bill, but rather to uncover possible “voter fraud” in the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. (There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.)
“This fundraiser violates GoFundMe’s terms of service,” a GoFundMe spokesperson explained over email. “This fundraiser attempts to spread misleading information about the election and has been removed from the platform. All donors will be fully refunded.”
As of late Friday, the now-deleted campaign, titled “Voter Fraud Detection: AZ, GA, MI, NC, NV, PA, WI,” had raised $219,305 from approximately 3,700 donors. It promised to use the money to investigate alleged voter fraud.
The campaign went live Thursday, and listed the creator as Matt Braynard. According to Braynard’s Twitter bio, he is the Executive Director of Look Ahead America, a nonprofit focused on rooting out alleged fraudulent votes. He is also a former Trump campaign aide. The bio lists a website for the organization, lookaheadamerica.org, which when clicked leads to an error page.
Braynard disagreed with GoFundMe’s characterization of his fundraiser over the phone.
When pressed as to whether he believes the wording of his now-removed campaign implied the existence of widespread voter fraud, he defended the campaign.
“I’m suggesting there may be [voter fraud],” he said.
We followed up with GoFundMe, asking its spokesperson what specific aspect of Braynard’s campaign violated its terms of service. The spokesperson responded that the campaign violated “term 3.”
“User Content or campaigns that are fraudulent, misleading, inaccurate, dishonest, or impossible,” reads that specific element of the TOS.
Before the campaign was pulled, Braynard tweeted that it was under review by GoFundMe.
“Your campaign is currently under review and all withdrawals are on hold,” reads a screenshot of an alert — presumably from GoFundMe — shared by Braynard on Twitter.
He later shared a screenshot of the email GoFundMe sent him, alerting him to the removal of his campaign.
Notably, Braynard’s now-deleted campaign is not the only GoFundMe to suggest voter fraud without evidence. Another campaign, which at the time of this writing was still live, had raised almost $70,000 from 191 people. It alleges that elected officials in Texas are committing widespread voter fraud. Texas’ secretary of state, who runs elections, is a Republican.
We asked the GoFundMe spokesperson if this campaign likewise violated the company’s terms of service, but received no immediate response. A search for “voter fraud” on the site, as of the time of this writing, revealed numerous similar crowdfunding campaigns.
With Friday’s action to pull down Braynard’s GoFundMe, the company has now found itself — like Twitter and Facebook before it — in the position of moderating potential election misinformation. Time will tell if it manages to do a better job.