Thursday, 20 June 2013

Oh, Kickstarter

This is a response to the recently successful Kickstarter campaign for Above the Game.

I have several problems with this book, the author's view on women, and with Kickstarter's dealing with the issue - and will address those below.

First, I want to be clear in my framing.

I object to the author, the work, and his view and his follower's views on women on a totally moral ground. The subject seems to promote assault at worst, aggressive, threatening, indecent and harassing behaviour towards both strangers and women known at "best".

It comes from that Neil Strauss-esque world of treating women like conquerable levels of a video game - that all we need do is find the cheat, and away we go.

It's grotesque. It shouldn't be promoted.

Women are under no obligation to be charmed by you, give you anything they don't want to, talk to you, listen to you, whatever. If you approach a woman and try to charm her, and she rebuffs you - let's be clear here - it's not her, it's you.

Now, let's address some legal issues, and why I am disappointed with Kickstarter in all this.

Some people have raised the point of freedom of speech - that these views are covered by this constitutional right.

The first amendment was originally, and still is in many ways, a protection of political rights. If you think it means that you are able to say what you like and believe what you say - in some ways, yes - but legally there are other issues such as the law, copyright, hate speech and so forth, which insure that some things aren't really allowed to be said by anyone.

Now, here's the kicker - yes, as it exists on Reddit, the writings of this author are protected by freedom of speech (as long as he isn't inciting or committing any crimes - including cyber-bullying - and as long as he isn't infringing any copyright laws).

However, this isn't a free forum - the Kickstarter campaign is a commercial venture, which is under a private agreement between the campaigner and Kickstarter, and then between the campaigner and the backers. It is less covered by the first amendment, and more covered by the guidelines between him and Kickstarter.

In response to several complaints (reports, and a petition) Kickstarter released a statement which allowed the campaign to stand, despite them not liking it.

I feel that they dropped the ball massively with this.

Kickstarter's guidelines have two points I would like to raise now -

Your content is prohibitive if it;

1. is unlawful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, libelous, deceptive, fraudulent, tortious, obscene, offensive, profane, or invasive of another's privacy;

First up - the language of the original document (of which this book, the author as said, is based) contains lots of language which can be taken as covering lots of those points above.

Kickstarter has stated that they cannot be responsible for content off their site, but that they do find the content morally objectionable. which brings us to the second guideline...

2. The Company reserves the right to change, suspend, or discontinue the Service (including, but not limited to, the availability of any feature, database, or Content) at any time for any reason. The Company may also impose limits on certain features and services or restrict your access to parts or all of the Service without notice or liability.

There it is. They didn't even need to come up with a reason, even though they did in the statement.

Here's my big problem with Kickstarter - they have a report function in place, a feature which allows the site to be policed by users (some have said that the biggest policing by users is in the freedom to choose which projects get backed and which don't - free market). This feature was used. They did nothing.

In the past, when copyright issues have arisen over content, the project has been suspended whilst they investigate.

The project remained live throughout.

Some have said that the campaign is not them, it's him - but they own the campaign - that is part of the agreement - which is why they have the right to stop it at any point, no reason needed. It reflects poorly on them.

I think this is a massive PR failing by Kickstarter, and was disappointed in their response.

I have used Kickstarter a lot, as both a backer and a campaigner - and really felt like a part of a community. This has left a very bad taste in my mouth.


Jesse Snavlin said...

Hey this is Jesse over from Tumblr. I just wanted to reiterate how much I respect your opinions and don't think you're any bad words for having them. I really respect both your guys' comic work (all your comics are so so good in avoiding the pratfalls of our industry) and your blog, and I'm just afraid I seem to be coming off as a big jerkface towards you which I want to make sure you know that's not my intent. I think you're awesome, for as much as I've seen of you, sir.

Jamie Gambell said...

Jesse - thank you for the kind words. I most certainly do not feel or think ill of you in anyway. I am a very serious believer in the 1st Amendment, and welcome, and, I hope, respect all discussion. Even if I totally disagree with another's opinion, it's important that the discourse is had, and vital that the freedom to have that discussion is upheld.

Thank you again.