UPDATE: Soon after this post went live, Kickstarter removed the project. Details below.
At first glance, a successfully funded Kickstarter.com project launched by writer Ken Hoinsky called "Above The Game" looks innocent. On June 19, 2013 the project successfully reached its funding goal, and 732 backers pledged a total of $16,369 to help author Hoinsky self-publish his "guide to getting awesome with women."
In his promotional video, Hoinsky shares how he "moved to a new city" and had exhausted all the resources to help him meet people. He was "determined to solve this part of my life" and he discovered a community on reddit called seddit where a "a bunch of men going through similar issues in their life come and exchange tips, stories and their experiences to help each other out." Within the community, the nerdy, apparently drum-playing geek shared his tips and decided it was time to wrap his tips into giftable how-to guide.
This is where this story starts to take an ugly turn.
Three days ago a blogger named Casey Malone, who frequently surfs Kickstarter, dug behind-the-page and uncovered prose that doesn't really sounds like a "dating guide" to me or, it turns out, to a lot of other people. Soon after, he posted excerpts of the book that he had found on Reddit. "Don't ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances."
That's when a snowball started. Over 9,900 people commented or reposted his post. Soon, Dosomething.org was on the case and a virtual petition was created in effort to have the project pulled from Kickstarter.
In one day, Dosomething.org gathered 50,068 signatures. As noted on Dosomething.org Facebook page, "Over 20 of us went to the Kickstarter HQ to deliver your signatures ... our CMO Naomi and petition writer, Ben, asked to enter the building to deliver the signatures to Kickstarter CEO Perry Chen. Instead, the company's office manager came downstairs and told us we would not be allowed to enter. She assured us the signatures would be delivered to the CEO."
At the same time, posts from unhappy Kickstarter fans began to cascade in social media. Katie Drackert posted, "Let me ask you this corporate kickstarter. Do you have daughters? Sisters? Female cousins? Morgan Tall added, "Kickstarter. Kickstarter. Kickstarter. Where do I even begin? Another tweeted, "Deleting Fbook comments is never a good sign."
After a voicemail to the CEO, 50,000+ signatures and 24-hours later there has been no official response from Kickstarter to Dosomething.org. So should they do something? Should they ban the project and refund the pledges? Will media escalation tarnish the Kickstarter once-stellar image as the tiny startup that gave birth to a million DIY projects? Is this free speech or text that could ultimately escalate and serve as a guide for abuse?
If you were the CEO of Kickstarter, would radio silence be your crisis-communication plan? This is a classic media-storm that is about to blow up. If you were in the driver seat, what would you do?
Join the conversation below and let us know what you think. PR disaster? Or freedom of speech? What's your POV, should Kickstarter do something?
UPDATE: Kickstarter just did something. Just a few minutes ago (but days after this was brought to their attention) Kickstarter removed "Above the Game," banned future "seduction guides" because they encourage "misogynistic behavior," and donated $25,000 to an anti sexual violence organization.
Here's Kickstarter's full post, "We Were Wrong," and an excerpt:
Let us be 100% clear: Content promoting or glorifying violence against women or anyone else has always been prohibited from Kickstarter. If a project page contains hateful or abusive material we don't approve it in the first place. If we had seen this material when the project was submitted to Kickstarter (we didn't), it never would have been approved. Kickstarter is committed to a culture of respect.