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19 Aug, 2021 15:24

This is the (woke) way? Kickstarter hires comics creator liaison...who is accused of mass-blocking comic creators on Twitter

This is the (woke) way? Kickstarter hires comics creator liaison...who is accused of mass-blocking comic creators on Twitter

Indie comics creators have accused Kickstarter’s newly hired outreach employee of blocking them en-masse on Twitter – and they wonder if convincing people to use the platform to crowdfund their projects is her primary concern.

The world of independent comics in the US is as affected by culture wars as the rest of the entertainment industry today. With the big boys seemingly more interested in inserting diversity, inclusivity, intersectionality and other woke issues in their products than in boosting sales, dissenting creators go indie and look for ways to connect with like-minded customers.

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Enter crowdfunding platforms, some of which have started hiring staff to help comics writers successfully run campaigns. But the latest hire by Kickstarter, one of the largests services of its kind, has raised some eyebrows with her unconventional approach to the job. The new employee of the site’s Publishing & Comics Outreach department, Jamila Rowser, apparently chose to make herself unreachable on Twitter by people outside of her own social network.

Rowser, who is an indie author of comics with several successfully-funded Kickstarter campaigns under her belt, is supposed to join the team next month, the department chief Oriana Leckert announced this week.

It wasn’t long before people started complaining, saying that Rowser had blocked them despite never interacting with them in the past and wondering how they as comics creators should interpret it. Some alleged the number of blocked accounts may be in the thousands.

The industry news website Critical Blast, whose account was among those blocked, speculated that Rowser must have used some form of mass-blocking. That could involve blocking a large list of supposedly undesirable ‘troll’ accounts – and in extreme cases also targeting those who follow blocked handles or like their posts.

Such tools have become a popular way to silence those engaged in online bullying, or at least what is seen as bullying by people doing the blocking. At the time of writing, access to Rowser’s account was restricted to only approved followers.

The news website described the situation as “new boss, same as old boss,” seemingly referring to the controversial former head of Kickstarter’s comics team, Camilla Zhang. Her critics say her work for the platform between 2018 and 2020 was overshadowed by her radical left-wing political activism.

During Zhang’s tenure, Kickstarter was infamously accused by the right-wing publication Breitbart of violating its own terms of service by accepting a fundraising campaign for a satirical comic book instructing how to ‘punch Nazis’. The management decided to shut it down, sparking outrage among employees, which led to a successful unionization drive.

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An opposite example of project screening was the platform’s decision to reject a comic book by veteran author Mike S. Miller, who is also a conservative YouTube commentator.

He posted a message that he said Kickstarter sent him to inform about the ban, that explained it was a company “committed to fighting inequality and creating a more equitable world” that “does not allow discrimination, subjugation, or intolerance towards marginalized groups.” He said the ‘marginalized group’ that his book portrayed as a violent street gang was the criminal organization MS-13.

Unsurprisingly, some people see the situation with block-happy Rowser as the latest proof that people in charge of comics at Kickstarter simply want to serve as gatekeepers against people whose politics they don’t like – and simply advise creators to move their crowdfunding elsewhere.

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