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PayPal and GoFundMe cut off donations to militia detaining migrants

They say the fundraising breaks rules surrounding hate and violence.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
April 20, 2019
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Paul Ratje/AFP/Getty Images

Crowdfunding and payment companies are no strangers to cutting off access to organizations that violate their policies, but their latest move could be more contentious than usual. PayPal and GoFundMe have confirmed to BuzzFeed News that they've shut down fundraising campaigns for the United Constitutional Patriots, a right-wing militia group in New Mexico that has been detaining migrants at the border with Mexico despite doubts about its legal authority. The sites claim that UCP has violated their policies barring support for hate or violence, in one case allegedly using funds to buy guns.

The group has been accused of not only detaining migrants at gunpoint, violating citizen's arrest limits, but of impersonating law enforcement.

Mark Cheney, who describes himself as a commander for UCP, denied that the group had used online donations for weapons. However, he acknowledged that the cutoff "killed" the group's resources -- it's scrambling to find alternatives to keep its operations going.

The decision highlights both the ubiquity of online crowdfunding. Many groups will quickly turn to crowdfunding to support their causes, even if there's a good chance they'll violate site policies in the process. This incident also illustrates the mounting challenges for the sites themselves. They're increasingly having to make decisions that, while necessary, risk inserting them into political debates they weren't prepared to join.

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