Patreon banned a nonprofit for raising money to support the Ukrainian military, and the organization has said it will fight the decision.
On Thursday, the Patreon page for the Return Alive Foundation—one of the biggest non-governmental organizations in Ukraine that supports the country’s military and veterans—gained popularity on social media. Many people pointed out that its membership levels were named for and accompanied by illustrations for ”bullets,” “projectiles,” and “bombs.”
“Patreon does not allow any campaigns involved in violence or purchasing of military equipment, regardless of their cause,” a spokesperson for Patreon told Motherboard on Thursday, pointing to the platform’s “harmful activities” policy, which states that “you cannot promote illegal activities such as property crime, distribution of illegal weapons, or drug manufacturing.” The spokesperson said the platform was investigated specifically because of the representations of how the fund will be used.
“Patreon deleted the fund page. Without a warning. In a very difficult time for Ukraine,” Return Alive wrote on its Facebook page following the ban, adding that it would appeal the decision, urging supporters to spread the word about its removal from Patreon.
The organization was founded in 2014. The Patreon account, which started in 2020, gained popularity on social media on Thursday, the first day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s been using names of weapons for its membership levels since at least 2020. The account hasn’t posted any new updates since 2021, but the foundation itself is still active.
Thursday afternoon, Patreon had suspended the page pending an investigation. “If a page is ultimately removed our policy is to send the creator the remaining funds or refund all pledges,” they said. A few hours later, it had banned the account and was returning funds to contributors.
In a company blog post, Patreon cited its reasoning for the ban:
The website of the organization says they use contributions to finance and train military personnel. Specifically, they claim to use funds they received for the following: “funds were used for… more than 1,500 tablets with software for Gunnya-Armor artillerymen, 230 quadcopters, 45 mobile surveillance systems…, and more than 60 military vehicles.” “The organization also initiates the creation and implementation of new technical solutions,” including “models of artillery weapons.” “trained 350 snipers, more than 2,000 sappers and more than 3,000 gunners, and training is being conducted to train UAV operators.”
According to a Ukrainian Military Portal publication, Return Alive recently donated equipment to the Territorial Defense System and the Territorial Defense Forces Command.
Patreon wrote that there are still several other charities on Patreon benefiting Ukrainians, including Ukrainian Red Cross Society, Voices of Children, and Revived Soldiers Ukraine, as well as more than 3,000 creators using Patreon themselves. “We are shocked and heartbroken at the invasion of Ukraine. Like so many around the world, we are watching this tragedy closely and wishing for the safety of the Ukrainian people in harm’s way,” Patreon said.