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South Carolina shooting spurs controversial funding page

Washington D.C., USA – 09/04/2015 – as published by BBC Trending.

Supporters of the white police officer who faces a murder charge for shooting an unarmed black man in South Carolina, have started a campaignon a popular crowd funding site – but another site halted fundraising efforts.

Reaction came quickly after murder charges were announced against Michael Slager, the white police officer who shot to death a black man, Walter Scott, in South Carolina. And unlike in other recent police shooting cases, most of the chatter was one-sided against the officer. More than 60,000 tweets have used the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter in the past two days. But Slager did get a small measure of support – with a few social media users trying to raise money for his legal costs. “Ofc Michael Slager deserves a competent defense no matter what the court of popular opinion says about his actions,” the officer’s backers wrote on Twitter.

But crowdfunding site GoFundMe rejected a campaign to help Slager, according to the organisers of the @MichaelSalgerDefense’s Twitter account – which on Wednesday night had fewer than 50 followers.

Indiegogo campaign for Michael Slager screen grab

Image captionSites like GoFundMe say they don’t allow for campaigns that promote hate, violence, racial intolerance, or the financial exploitation of a crime.

The site said the campaign violated its terms and conditions. GoFundMe has been targeted before by activists looking to influence its policies. After fundraising campaigns for Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a social advocacy group, Color of Change, started the hashtag #DontFundHate. They paid for a billboard with the slogan near the company’s offices in San Diego. The group behind the Wilson campaign halted fundraising efforts briefly, but GoFundMe decided not to take the page down.

The company did, however, make changes to their policies in September 2014, which had already stated that they prohibit “items that promote hate, violence, racial intolerance, or the financial exploitation of a crime.” We asked GoFundMe which policy in particular the campaign for Michael Slager violated, but they told us they were not able to disclose that information due to privacy concerns.

However, backers of Officer Slager were able to establish a campaign on another popular crowd funding site, Indiegogo. “We don’t judge the content of campaigns as long as they are in compliance with our terms of use,” the company told the BBC. So far that campaign has been far from successful, raising about $300.

That contrasts with the campaign set up on behalf of Darren Wilson. Several pages on GoFundMe set up in his name reportedly brought in between $500,000-$1m (£330,000 – £670,000).

And the owners of Memories Pizza, who told news crews in Indiana that they would not cater a gay wedding, received $840,000 in support with the fundraiser still ongoing.

The large sums raised in those cases can seem counterintuitive to the conventional wisdom and views being expressed on Twitter and other social media – and that is often the point.

“There is fairly good evidence that crowd funding is about these communities who feel like they are being ignored coming together to make something happen they want to see,” Ethan Mollick, a professor at the Wharton School, told BBC Trending.