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Not Free to Code Nor Crowdfund: GoFundMe Cancels Tornado Cash Campaign

Without offering any clear explanation, GoFundMe has canceled the campaign to fund the legal defence of Tornado Cash founders Roman Storm and Alexey Pertsev. However, users can still donate through the Web3 Juice Box platform.

No Freedom To Code Nor Freedom To Crowdfund: Tornado Cash's Funding Campaign Cancelled By GoFundMe

GoFundMe has canceled the fundraising campaign supporting the founders of the Tornado Cash crypto mixer in their U.S. legal battle against money laundering charges connected to their role in developing the software. 

This week, the British fundraising platform notified the campaign organisers on that it would shut down the crowdfunding initiative, citing clause 22 of its terms of service. Clause 22 states that the platform does not allow:

"any other activity that GoFundMe may deem, in its sole discretion, to: (a) be unacceptable or objectionable; (b) restrict or inhibit any other person from using or enjoying the Services; or (c) expose GoFundMe, its employees or Users to any harm or liability of any type."

As those behind the Free Pertsev & Storm campaign highlight, the reasons offered as an explanation by GoFundMe could "be interpreted to mean they simply didn't like the fundraiser." 

They pointed out that GoFundMe has allowed several controversial defence cases to find a funding solution through their service over the years, and requested a more detailed explanation for the crowdfunding platform's decision. 

The initiative to help cover the legal costs of Roman Storm and Alexey Pertsev kicked off on Jan. 22 with an introductory video of Storm asking for support.

"This legal battle will affect you. So please help contribute to my legal defense, because this case will set a major precedent for years to come."

In the three weeks since launch, the campaign has received about half of the necessary funds to cover the expected $1.5 million legal expenses. Some of these contributions have come from major figures in the crypto community, such as Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, and the campaign has also received support from NSA whistleblower and privacy advocate Edward Snowden.

Fortunately, the funds collected through GoFundMe, only amounted to $30,000 of the total, which will now be returned to donors in full. The bulk of the total has been made through on-chain platform, Juice Box, which has received 316.85 ETH (around $884,000) in donations.

The case of the Tornado Cash founders is considered one of the most important legal battles crypto has ever faced and a pivotal moment for the freedom of writing software in the U.S.

Tornado Cash was a popular decentralised mixer until the U.S. authorities sanctioned it in August 2022, considering it to be a money laundering service facilitating cybercrime.

However, rather than the criminals using the service, authorities went after the people who created the tool, prosecuting the coders for enabling the illicit use of their code by third parties. According to developer Ameen Soleimani:

"If they lose, they face imprisonment, and government overreach—holding protocol developers responsible for the crimes of users—will reach only further."

On the launch of the campaign, co-founder of Bankless Ryan Sean Adams called the legal contest a "battle for our fundamental freedom to write software and keep our data private." Since GoFundMe canceled the campaign, Adams has reiterated his support of the project and resent Bankless's original $10,000 donation through JuiceBox.

Users expressed their discontent with GoFundMe on X, with some pledging never to use the platform again.

Yet, where there is a will, there is a way. Like the illicit users migrating to Sinbad when TornadoCash was sanctioned and now moving on again to YoMix for a similar reason, the crypto community can still support the legal defence by migrating to a Web3 crowdfunding app.