A friend of mine suggested today that I compare platforms through which you could anonymously make donations to your favorite darknet sites (if not legal ones, at least ones that aren’t hurting children).
So, the question becomes: which platform could you use for this? There are sites like Patreon (which you may have heard of), as well as Flattr and Liberapay, each of which function a bit differently. Which is best, then?
Patreon – as soon as I’d heard the name “Patreon,” “anonymity” was not one of the words that came to mind in association with it. Still, is it possible to use it anonymously or at least pseudonymously?
Patreon, for those unfamiliar with it, is a way of supporting creators of content that you love. Several of the horror YouTube channels that I love use it, including Nightmare Expo, Be. Busta, and ReignBot (shameless plugs!). You are by no means required to support them, but I like the idea.
Let’s use ReignBot as an example; here’s her Patreon page: Patreon: ReignBot. If you support her with donations via Patreon, you get access to some “premium” content before other viewers. Plus you can access her blog and weekly podcast.
Is it anonymous, though? Sort of. On Patreon’s FAQ, as a matter of fact, they have this very question: Patreon ZenDesk: Can I be anonymous?
Part of the answer reads:
Of course, you can! We want you to be whoever you want to be, as long as you provide your real payment info. Do we have a deal?
When pledging on Patreon, a creator can see your:
If you wish to remain anonymous, you’ll want to use a non-descriptive email address and name. We don’t prevent you from using alias’ – we only ask that if you become a creator you use your legal name on tax documents.
That is, you’re as “anonymous” as Patreon allows you to be. I suppose that since they require you to give an email address, you could give a throwaway one. That’s what email clients like Temp Mail and Guerrilla Mail are great for! As for a username, I’ve mentioned on several previous posts that I generate usernames with nonsense word generators like Soybomb or Random Word Generator, which can be fun too.
Besides, who wouldn’t want an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org? I would!
Liberapay, in a similar manner to Patreon, helps you support creators that you enjoy. One of the main differences, however, is that its payment system is anonymous (or pseudonymous) by design. If you read its about page, they make this statement:
Liberapay is a way to donate money recurrently to people whose work you appreciate.
Payments come with no strings attached. You don’t know exactly who is giving to you, and donations are capped at €100.00 per week per donor to dampen undue influence.
By default, the total amount you give and the total amount you receive are public (you can opt out of sharing this info).
Liberapay does not take a cut of payments, the service is funded by the donations to its own account. However, there are payment processing fees.
Liberapay separates itself from other similar platforms (like Patreon, for instance), by saying that it’s only for donations and that there is no contract for compensation. Also, it’s an open source project connected to a nonprofit organization. That is, it’s different from Patreon, which is a for-profit company, or Tipeee, which is similar in that regard.
It’s interesting to note that one of the top 18 organizations on Liberapay is “nos-oignons,” which is a nonprofit designed to collect donations for supporting Tor exit nodes. Dark web, anyone?!
You can see some of the other organizations that people support through Liberapay here: Organizations – Explore. These include Exodus Privacy, Disroot, and Sabayon Linux. I don’t know about you, but I find it very encouraging that so many security and anonymity-minded organizations use Liberapay. Good, right?
I also found their security page encouraging. As they state:
We will investigate legitimate reports and make every effort to quickly resolve any vulnerability. To encourage responsible reporting, we will not take legal action against you nor ask law enforcement to investigate you provided you make a good faith effort to avoid causing harm to us, our users, and anyone else.
While I won’t restate everything here, I encourage you to visit their site and find out more for yourself. If supporting darknet projects is your thing, Liberapay sounds like a safe bet.
In a similar manner to Patreon, Flattr helps you support “creators” (as they call them) that you enjoy. They support various platforms for this, including WordPress (hmm…perhaps I should use it!)
I know, I know – what about their anonymity and/or privacy? It’s interesting you should ask because the founder of Flattr is none other than Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde. At present, it’s a subsidiary of eyeo GmbH, the people behind Adblock Plus (which I reviewed in a much earlier post: Privacy Tools: Ghostery vs. Adblock Plus).
Ironically, I don’t use it at the moment! In any case, according to their FAQ, uses “…a privacy-friendly smart algorithm…measures attention and distributes the subscription accordingly.”
I’m not entirely sure what this algorithm they speak of is, but Flattr just so happens to have a GitHub repository, if you want to inspect their source code: Flattr – GitHub. In terms of anonymity, I guess you would have to trust that. Of course, now that Microsoft owns GitHub, you can’t trust them either! (I kid.)
You could still go with the temporary email address/disguised IP address as well if that concerns you. It would be great if you could do all of this with Monero, which in theory is less traceable than bitcoin, but the artist that you’re donating to would have to accept Monero for that purpose!
So what’s my point, then? It’s difficult to make donations with 100% anonymity but of these three services, Liberapay seems to be the best in this regard.
I need some feedback on this, readers. Have any of you used these services? Which did you think had the best qualities?
I’m accepting donations for the answer.