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Montana attorney general launching investigation into GoFundMe for shutting down Freedom Convoy

GoFundMe is facing numerous investigations from attorneys general in the United States for suspending the Freedom Convoy's crowdfunding campaign.

Montana attorney general launching investigation into GoFundMe for shutting down Freedom Convoy fundraiser
The Canadian Press / Justin Tang
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Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is launching an investigation into GoFundMe for shutting down the nearly $10 million fundraiser for the Canadian “Freedom Convoy” protesters in Ottawa.

The fundraiser was initially launched by protest organizers to help pay for food, fuel, and other necessities used by truck drivers in the now three-week-long protest in the Canadian capital city’s downtown core.

On Thursday, Knudsen wrote to GoFundMe, announcing his probe as to whether the crowdfunding platform violated Montana’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act, the Daily Wire reported. The statute safeguards Montana residents from grievances.

“This is something that very likely had Montana donors participating, given Alberta literally shares a border with us,” the attorney general said in a comment to the publication. “We have a lot of citizens in Montana who are either dual-citizens or do business on both sides of the border. For GoFundMe to just step in and say ‘Oh, well we don’t like this, we’re going to seize this money and put it towards something else,’ that certainly raises suspicions.”

GoFundMe froze the campaign for the Canadian protest in early February following demands by the Ottawa city council, which threatened to bring down the full weight of the law against the company.

The platform then state it would redistribute the funds, but did not provide automatic refunds to donors until widespread outrage on social media forced the company to revise its position.

Knudsen told the publication that he wants to know why GoFundMe wanted to appropriate funds from donors without their permission and wants to investigate whether the company has done so in the past.

GoFundMe was going to donate the money to a group verified by the site prior to reversing its position.

Following GoFundMe’s decision to freeze the crowdfund and refund donors, the Christian crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo became the de facto platform for protest organizers, who also used Bitcoin and Ethereum, and a host of other cryptocurrencies as alternative ways to support protests.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has since issued sanctions to over 30 cryptocurrency wallets tied to the protests, and has ordered Canadian financial institutions and crypto exchanges to “cease facilitating any transactions” with the wallets as part of an investigation “in relation to illegal acts falling under the scope of the emergency measures act.”

Knudsen intends to investigate why GoFundMe determined that the crowdfund violated its terms of service, specifically rule number eight, which bans “hate, violence, harassment, bullying, discrimination, terrorism, or intolerance of any kind relating to race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, serious disabilities or diseases.”

“Nothing that I have seen personally suggests that this was in any way a violent or hateful group,” Knudsen said. “I’m looking out for Montana consumers.”

The attorney general intends to find out how GoFundMe “identified participants” in Ottawa who were protesting, and if and how they have received their funds back.

Knudson said he is investigating how GoFundMe would have identified “credible and established charities” after it initially decided to redistribute the funds instead of refunding donors.

In addition to Knudsen, several Republican lawmakers and legal officials have signalled their intent to investigate GoFundMe, including attorneys general Ashley Moody of Florida, Jeff Landry of Louisiana, Patrick Morrissey of Louisiana, and Ken Paxton of Texas.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has also called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate GoFundMe.

In his letter to GoFundMe, Knudsen mentions how the crowdfunding platform permitted fundraisers in relation to Antifa and Black Lives Matter riots in 2020, asking “whether GoFundMe had discussions with law enforcement regarding whether those protests included violations of law or support of violence or harassment, and how GoFundMe reached the decision to allow these fundraisers to remain on its website.”

“It certainly smells fishy,” Knudsen told the Daily Wire. “It certainly looks like they’re picking winners and losers. From a trade practices standpoint, I think that’s unfair. It would be a violation of those statutes. We sent this letter asking for clarification and some more data. Hopefully, they can give us some.”

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