2,950 crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites
Edward Snowden is a 29 year-old former CIA employee and Booz Allen contractor who was living the good life in Hawaii. Now, he’s one of the most controversial people on the planet.
Yesterday, Snowden identified himself as the source of information on the National Security Agency's PRISM surveillance program in a video interview posted on The Guardian’s website. While most of the public views his actions as warranted, even heroic, he is likely to be demonized by the U.S. government.
Anticipating Snowden’s impending legal fees, Facebook employee Dwight Crow set up a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdtilt, looking to raise at least $10,000 for the whistleblower. At the time of the writing, the campaign stands at over $7,000.
From the campaign page:
We should set a precedent by rewarding this type of extremely courageous behavior. It's definitely apparent that legal fees may soon be a big part of his future, but I don't care how he uses the funds raised, whether it's for a business-class trip to Iceland or just to pay his hotel bills, it's a reward that I believe we [should] band together and provide him with... Whether it's $5 or $500, his courage should be rewarded.
Snowden, who is currently in Hong Kong, mentioned that he was considering seeking refuge in Iceland. He said he chose to go to Hong Kong because of the country’s “spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.” Legal experts, however, are far from convinced that Snowden is safe from extradition to the U.S.
Crow’s campaign is off to a relatively slow start considering the outpouring of support Snowden has received (though he’s been subject to quite a bit of vitriol, too). That could be because Crow hasn’t yet figured out a way to get money to the whistleblower, who is holed up in his hotel. The campaign owner has suggested on his personal Facebook page that he’ll transfer the cash to Snowden’s family members, but it’s not certain that they could reach the leaker, either.
If the government chooses to prosecute Snowden, there’s also the chance that contributors could be considered to be aiding an enemy of the state. As Techcrunch pointed out, however, those who supported similar campaigns for Bradley Manning (who released documents to WikiLeaks) weren’t targeted.
Around the same time Crow created the Snowden crowdfunding campaign, a semi-anonymous individual (one 'P.M.' from Rochester, New York) launched a preemptive WhiteHouse.gov petition to fully pardon Snowden. It currently has 24,000 signatures. The Obama administration has pledged to issue a response to petitions that hit 100,000 signatures on the website. This initiative joins a number of related signature drives calling for an end to government surveillance, which Crowdsourcing.org's Eric Blattberg laid out here.
The government’s reaction, which will play a major role in determining Snowden’s future, will become clear in the days and weeks ahead. However the administration reacts, it’s not certain that we’ll be able to hear the whistleblower freely discuss his decision with the press again, so make sure to check out Snowden's video interview here.