Truck drivers and their supporters gather to block the streets of downtown Ottawa as part of a convoy of truck protesters against Covid mandates in Canada on February 11, 2022 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Unraveling viral disinformation and explaining where it came from, the harm it’s causing, and what we should do about it.
The Christian crowdfunding site that helped raise $8.7 million for the anti-vax “freedom convoy” in Canada was hacked on Sunday night, and the names and personal details of over 92,000 donors were leaked online.
The database of 92,845 donors is no longer available on the site, but VICE News was able to review a copy of the data.
While some of the donors did not provide their names—such as the person behind the current top donation of $215,000—the vast majority did provide them, including American software billionaire Thomas Siebel, who donated $90,000 to the “freedom convoy.”
While GiveSendGo does allow donors to make their donations public, many chose to use their company’s name or omit their names entirely, so the leaked database contains a lot of information that was never meant to be shared, data like donors’ full names, email addresses, and location.
Analysis of the leaked data by extremism researcher Amarnath Amarasingam shows that while the majority of donors come from the U.S. (56%) and Canada (29%), there are also thousands of donations from overseas, including the U.K., Australia, and Ireland.
Despite over 15,000 more donations flooding in from the U.S., Canadian donors out-raised Americans by almost $1 million, bringing in $4.3 million compared to $3.6 million, Amarasingam reported.
Also included in the leaked data were the messages that some donors posted alongside their donations. The messages contained over 13,000 references to “God” or “Jesus” as well as thousands of references to “tyranny.”
While most of the users’ messages were relatively benign, there are a number of more troubling posts, like this from one user: “I look forward to the day you tyrants are swinging from a noose.”
Other messages flagged by Monmouth University extremism researcher Sara Aniano—and verified by VICE News—included: “We have 2A here in America send your mounties and see what happens,” “CABAL PIGLETS ARE CORRUPT CRIMINALS WHO NEED SEVERE PUNISHMENT UNDER LAW,” and “Death to all liberal traitors.”
One donor who submitted from a Department of Justice email address appears to have donated $25 on two separate occasions. VICE News was unable to verify that the named person sent the donations, but the name provided matches a current employee of the DOJ, based on their LinkedIn profile.
After submitting a second donation, the person claiming to be a DOJ employee wrote:
“Thank you, Truckers! It is working. Others have taken your lead like Australia, New Zealand, UK. I think the reason all these blue states in the USA have stopped the mask mandates is there were rumors that truckers here in the USA were going to start a protest starting in CA to DC, and the local and federal governments did not want that. And it is an election year.”
There are also email addresses from people claiming to work for NASA, the U.S. military, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the Transportation Security Administration. There’s also a donation from someone whose name and email address match those of a senior employee at the Delaware Transit Corporation (DTC).
“God Bless you all, need your spirit here in the US!” the person using that email address wrote.
No one has claimed credit for the hack of the GiveSendGo website, but users who visited the site on Sunday evening were redirected instead to GiveSendGone.wtf, where they were greeted by a video from the Disney film Frozen and a message that read:
“Attention GiveSendGo grifters and hatriots. You helped fund the January 6th insurrection in the U.S. You helped fund an insurrection in Ottawa. In fact you are committed to fund anything that keeps the raging fire of misinformation going until it burns the world’s collective democracies down. On behalf of sane people worldwide who wish to continue living in a democracy, I am now telling you that GiveSendGo itself is now frozen.”
A portion of the video was uploaded by Mikael Thalen to Twitter before it was taken down.
In their message, the hacker or hackers also pointed out that the Canadian trucker protest has inspired copycat protests around the world. “Has anyone thought about how dangerous this is, especially during these times?” they wrote.
“The Canadian government has informed you that the money you assholes raised to fund an insurrection is frozen,” the hackers added.
This was a reference to the fact that on Friday, the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario granted a restraining order requested by the Government of Ontario against the crowdfunding platform, demanding that protesters’ funds be frozen.
In response, GiveSendGo dismissed the court order, tweeting: “Canada has absolutely ZERO jurisdiction over how we manage our funds here at GiveSendGo. All funds for EVERY campaign on GiveSendGo flow directly to the recipients of those campaigns.”
Countering media reports over the weekend, GiveSendGo said on Saturday that the funds were not frozen and that it was “working with many different campaign organizers to find the most effective legal ways to continue funds flowing.”
GiveSendGo took over as the main crowdfunding platform for the truckers after GoFundMe announced earlier this month that it would no longer support the protest, citing police reports of violence by the protesters.
GiveSendGo has become the go-to platform for extremists of all stripes in recent years, hosting fundraisers for groups including the Proud Boys, QAnon influencers, anti-vaxxers, and the families of Jan. 6 prisoners.
GiveSendGo’s website was offline early Monday morning with a message reading: “Application is under maintenance, we will be back very soon.”
Early last week TechCrunch revealed that security researchers had discovered 50GB of unsecured GiveSendGo data including scans of passports and driver’s licenses. The crowdfunding platform said it fixed the issue, but the Daily Dot reported Thursday that the data was still accessible.
GiveSendGo has not publicly commented on Sunday night’s breach or responded to VICE News’ request for comment.
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