An online legal defence fundraising campaign for Matt DeHart, the former U.S. airman and Anonymous hacker seeking refugee protection in Canada, has been shut down without explanation.
Tor Ekeland, a New York-based lawyer specializing in technology and privacy issues, is part of Mr. DeHart’s defence team and started the campaign on GoFundMe.com to help defray his pro bono expenses.
Shortly after launching Friday, the funding page was deleted by the crowdfunding site, Mr. Ekeland said.
An email to Mr. Ekeland from GoFundMe’s “Customer Happiness” department says only that the campaign was removed “due to a violation of our terms and conditions,” but his inquiry on which term or condition was allegedly violated has gone unanswered, he said.
Several requests to GoFundMe for comment from the National Post over several days have also gone unanswered, although an automated response said replies to reporters typically come within two hours.
“We get it all set up and launch,” said Mr. Ekeland, “money was coming in, not a lot but it was picking up. We had two or three donations that morning.
“This is a legal defence fund. No one has been convicted; you are innocent until proven guilty.
“They seem to be very selective … politically censoring fundraising accounts they don’t like.”
Mr. DeHart and his parents, originally from Indiana, sought asylum last year after fleeing to Canada claiming he was tortured in the United States. The family arrived ahead of his U.S. trial for production and transportation of child pornography.
Mr. DeHart claims the charges are a ruse, used as leverage in a security probe into a possible Russian spy ring, his activities with the hacktivist group Anonymous and his link to a classified U.S. government document likely destined for WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing organization.
GoFundMe.com has previously been accused of applying a political filter to its campaigns.
Many people were angered by a recent campaign on the site that raised more than US$200,000 for Darren Wilson, the Missouri police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson.
Current fundraising campaigns include a former state Senate candidate seeking to pay off a court judgment over campaign finance violations and another political candidate seeking money for signs advocating the legalization of marijuana.
It has previously shut down campaigns relating to pro-choice or pro-abortion activities while allowing pro-life or anti-abortion campaigns to continue.
“They hurt themselves with that on the Internet. People have been complaining,” said Mr. Ekeland.
He said he has never had problems with online legal defence funds before. He has since launched a replacement campaign on competing crowdfunding site fundrazr.com.
He said the case is a particularly expensive one, largely because of travel. Mr. DeHart is incarcerated in Ontario on an immigration violation, and has hearings in Toronto. The child pornography case against him is in Tennessee. The case requires extensive computer expert analysis, he said.
“I’m interested in cases that are important and I think this is a really important case. It is a strange case. Matt’s case is another deep dive into the rabbit hole. It’s perhaps the weirdest one yet.”
The DeHart case was the focus of a five-part National Post investigation published in May that revealed significant concerns about the handling of his prosecution.
The series was named Monday as one of five finalists for a Canadian Online Publishing Award in the best article or series category.