Slava Rubin attempts to explain the HealBe controversy in new blog post

indie-newIndiegogo co-founder Slava Rubin published a blog post Friday to explain Indiegogo’s approach to screening campaigns of dubious merit, a step made necessary following dedicated reporting by Pando Daily’s James Robinson, which uncovered more than one health-related instrument claiming to have, to the naked eye anyway, unrealistic capabilities.

Mr. Robinson’s efforts raised the question once again of what a site’s responsibility is when screening for campaigns which are highly suspect.

Of course suspect quality is in the eye of the beholder, but the fact that this issue keeps coming up suggests the industry has not sufficiently addressed screening to the satisfaction of a significant portion of their stakeholders.  Perhaps the “If it feels good, do it”, 1960’s hippie approach to site policing should take a back seat to the “I know it when I see it” philosophy espoused by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when writing the majority decision in Jacobellis v. Ohio in 1964 that dealt with hard core pornography.

rubin“In 2008…Our core belief was that the platform we created had to be open – a platform without judgment or gatekeepers — that celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit and empowered innovation,” Mr. Rubin says early in his statement, before acknowledging the HealBe controversy.

“…we see this as two separate topics: the issue of a campaigner who intends to deceive and the issue of the feasibility or deliverability of a campaign,” Mr. Rubin added.  He also stated HealBe follows Indiegogo trust guidelines, which Mr. Rubin declined to post in lieu of inviting those interested to e-mail customer support.

Perhaps he could not find them on his own site for Indiegogo’s thin policing policy is hard to find and for good reason.  They essentially rely on “the crowd” to let them know when projects are making questionable claims.

In “Our Commitment to Trust” which is found, if you know where to look, after a few clicks, Indiegogo states: “Our team of anti-fraud experts…(are) responsible for developing new features to create a more secure and trustworthy environment for you.  Our anti-fraud systems constantly monitor the performance of our product.”

A tried and true tactic utilized by those who would love nothing better than to see those wanting a more detailed answer give up, Mr. Rubin’s failure to provide those guidelines in his post is a tacit acknowledgement that those policies are lacking – this is the heart of this issue.

Notice it is also posted on a Friday, a day politicians and many corporations know is the textbook time to share less than good news, hoping people will forget about it over a weekend or that something more newsworthy punts the issue to the sidelines.  Notice their recent re-branding was not announced on a Friday.

How about having people monitor the product, Mr. Rubin?  It is certainly good enough for the crowd, for in the section below entitled “Let’s keep the community safe” that is what you invite the masses to do.

Crowdsourcing itself owes its existence to the power of the group, and is at its best manifested in such concepts as open-source software, Wikipedia and heart warming campaigns Mr. Rubin cites in his blog, such as the ultra-successful which that raised money in support of a bullied bus monitor.

Public policing often works well, but when a multi-million-dollar corporation that recently raised significant capital asks the public to tell it when it is errant it is an abdication of responsibility.

The “we are all in this together” shtick loses some of its effectiveness when one side is a large corporation with the capability to do many things in-house.

Indiegogo makes significant amounts of money, more than $90,000 off the HealBe campaign alone. They owe the public more. Algorithms are part of the solution, and I take Indiegogo at its word that they constantly revise them in an effort to improve their performance.

The second of the three prongs is a customer service team “that reviews the data.”  Are actual campaigns reviewed before an algorithm suggests something may be afoot?  You would think that campaigns that fall under certain categories would get an automatic look-see.

The third prong is, of course, crowd feedback.  Mr. Rubin assures us they are constantly working to improve this process while looking for scalable solutions.

Most businesses know that if a customer service issues keeps coming up that efforts to address it to date have been wanting.  The public can live with a decision on a campaign that they disagree with, as long as the decision comes with a rationale.  In the case of Indiegogo, many are reacting because the decision making process, and therefore the logic behind it, are insufficient.

Maybe proper site policing is not worth Indiegogo’s time.  Let the crowd do it instead.

Mr. Rubin’s complete post can be read by clicking here.

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