Elsewhere online
July 27, 2016

Drive for Homeless Teen Becomes Crowdfunding Cautionary Tale

An online fundraising campaign for a homeless teenager hoping to attend college in Georgia shows how the internet can quickly transform a heart-tugging story into a magnet for donations, and how quickly the tale can turn, The New York Times writes.

Fred Barley, 19, came to local attention in Barnesville, Ga., a few weeks ago while living in a tent near Gordon State College. He told authorities he had ridden a bicycle some 50 miles to attend classes and was looking for a job. Barnesville resident Casey Blaney launched a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $184,000 in 12 days as word of Mr. Barley's situation spread through news reports and social media.

Ms. Blaney abruptly halted fundraising last week as the pendulum of online attention swung to suspicion about where the money was going, according to the Times. Mr. Barley, who left Barnesville two weeks after he arrived, has been accused of running off with the money, although none has yet been disbursed.

Ms. Blaney has stopped talking to the media but said on the campaign's Facebook page that the money has gone into an educational trust. GoFundMe said Tuesday that it is "working with both Fred and Casey on the transfer of funds" and that all donations "will go directly to Fred’s education.” The Times calls the matter "a cautionary tale about the nature of online fundraising and the perils of being a good Samaritan in the digital age."