The fundraising website used to raise millions of dollars for a “Freedom Convoy” protest led by truckers against coronavirus restrictions in Canada has confirmed that hackers broke its networks and revealed the names of donors.
“We are in a battle,” the company tweeted. “We didn’t expect it to be easy. This has not caused us to be afraid. Instead, it’s made it even more evident that we can not back down.”
GiveSendGo went offline Monday after the breach. The website had briefly carried an image from the Disney film “Frozen,” along with a ticker showing the names, donation amounts and email addresses of people who helped support the cause. The words “GiveSendGo is now frozen” appeared on the screen along with a link describing raw donation data.
A video captured by Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News reporter Travis Dhanraj shows scrolling text addressed to “GiveSendGo Grifters and Hatriots.”
“GiveSendGo has a history of providing a platform for individuals and organized groups to fund hate groups, promote disinformation and insurrection disguised as ‘protests,’” the video text read, an apparent reference to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. “Most of their larger campaigns are, in some way, a continuing threat to democracy.”
Text in the video tweeted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reporter offered to provide journalists and researchers with the data in its entirety “so that the impact of foreign political interference can be better understood and sensible, informed policy decisions can be made to defend against this growing threat.”
We have been under heavy DDOS and bot attacks. In spite of all of this we still have managed to raise funds 5X faster than the gfm did. GFM raised 10mil in 3 weeks. GSG campaign has already raised over 1.1mil in just over 12 hours!— GiveSendGo (@GiveSendGo) February 5, 2022
A separate post on the news leak website Distributed Denial of Secrets said it will make Freedom Convoy donor information available solely to journalists and researchers, including self-reported names, addresses, Zip codes, and IP addresses from the GiveSendGo platform as of Feb. 13. It offered 30 megabytes of information.
The company’s security team disabled the site after the intrusion, the company said in its tweet, and remained out of commission all day Monday. The site was active Tuesday.
The GiveSendGo website has sparked concerns that foreign donors could be fueling demonstrations in Canada, where protests over coronavirus vaccine mandates for cross-border truckers have morphed into a broader movement against pandemic restrictions.
On Sunday, Ottawa declared a state of emergency as protesters blocked off streets and blared horns. Local police reported that 1,000 vehicles, 5,000 protesters and at least 300 counterprotesters had clogged city streets.
An Ontario court on Friday ordered demonstrators to end their blockade of a key bridge connecting Canada with the United States. Many protesters defied the order to suspend what local authorities have called a “siege” and “illegal occupation” by the Friday night deadline.
The protests have caused manufacturers on both sides of the crossing to curtail operations. U.S. automakers Ford and General Motors said they have cut production and canceled shifts at some sites, while a representative for Canadian carmakers told an Ontario court that the economic toll was nearly $40 million per day.
Earlier this month, the crowdfunding site GoFundMe said it had removed a fundraiser supporting the convoy because it violated its terms of service, but an initial $1 million had already been distributed. Donors then flocked to GiveSendGo, contributing close to $9 million, Wells said on Fox News Sunday.
“People are vowing to never use GoFundMe again because of the ideological stances they’re taking,” Wells said. “We take a neutral position. We allow people to fundraise, period.”
Wells said money has been transferred to protest organizers in Canada from fundraising accounts linked on the site. He said his company is looking at “a wide variety of options” to get funding to them despite the court order there.
A review by The Washington Post showed that the self-described Christian website has become a refuge of sorts for outcasts and extremists, including fringe groups such as the Proud Boys and conspiracy theorists who seek to undercut the results of the 2020 election by promoting debunked claims of fraud. Some of the users claim to have been booted from other crowdfunding websites for violating terms of service.
Amarnath Amarasingam, a professor who studies religious political movements at Queen’s University in Ontario, said GiveSendGo has become the “go-to platform” for people who think their fundraising campaigns are going to be taken down. “Similar to what Gab or Parler became for online content,” Amarasingam said in an interview.
It garnered widespread publicity after raising funds for Kyle Rittenhouse, Amarasingam said. The teen was acquitted in November of all charges related to the 2020 shootings in Kenosha, Wis., that left two men dead and another wounded. The case set off national debates about guns, race, vigilantism and self-defense.
Other fundraising campaigns raised money for travel expenses, body armor and other financial assistance connected to “Stop the Steal” events, including the Jan. 6 rally in Washington that turned into a bloody attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The hack could play into concerns that international funders are contributing to a Canadian domestic dispute. Amarasingam said he conducted an initial analysis of the purported donor data and found that 56 percent of the more than 92,840 donors report U.S. Zip codes and 29 percent reported Canadian Zip codes. He emphasized, though, that individual Zip codes could be incorrect as they are self-reported by donors.