Some rather disturbing information has come to my attention recently regarding the misuse of No Net Censorship donated funds by GetUp!
For quite some time now GetUp has been asking for donations from people to oppose Kevin Rudd’s net censorship regime. A worthy cause. Their appeal for cash states:
“What’s the internet worth to you? We’re taking our message online to defend our online freedoms, thanks to this dynamic web ad on the right.
Your $50 will show 4000 people this ad, $100 will buy 10,000 views. Thanks for chipping in to defend our digital economy and democratic freedoms.”
To date, it has raised just under $50,000. A large sum. A good cause.
The problem, however, is that, on the basis of all available evidence before me, not once cent of this money has been spent on the purpose for which it has been donated.
To the best of my knowledge, no advertisements have appeared. None. Not one. Instead, the money has gone into GetUp!’s general coffers, and as such has been used to fund their recent climate-change activism spending spree. Many people have written to GetUp! about this, with no response. The best response I have received from them to date personally is that they are lobbying ‘behind the scenes’.
Irrespective of your thoughts on GetUp!’s climate change activism, the morality of this issue is clear. People donated for a specific purpose. They were promised their money would go to a specific purpose. They were betrayed.
Furthermore, from my perspective (and I hasten to add that these are my personal thoughts, and not to be construed as legal advice), this is a clear breach of the legal framework governing such donations. Such transactions, I would posit, fall under the sub-division of equity law that is trust law. And the law is very clear, very specific in that money donated for a specific purpose MUST be used for that purpose. Exceptions obviously apply if the purpose becomes moot and the agreement is taken to have ‘failed’ (where all sorts of fun issues of resultant trusts apply), but this is clearly not applicable in this instance. They have a clear obligation to fulfill the wishes of their donors. No exceptions.
Similarly, GetUp!’s donation policy, which states that “If we are unable to use your contribution for the purpose you specify, either because of oversubscription or for another unforeseen reason, it is our policy to use your contribution for other campaign advertising, public relations, advocacy or organising activities” is clearly inapplicable, as neither over subscription nor a legally relevant unforeseen reason (changing their minds doesn’t count!) applies. Indeed if anything it strengthens the case against them, as it specifically states that, barring certain circumstances (which are obviously unfulfilled here), it will use the purpose for which the donor specifies.
That GetUp! has breached their legal obligation to donors is clear to me. What’s worse though is that they have behaved in an ethically despicable fashion, and effectively stolen the money from well-intentioned donors for their own end. Words like embezzlement, corruption and fraud spring to mind.
I have warned libertarians away from donating to GetUp!. They have a long history of ethical misconduct – need we mention their “impartial” 2007 Election Vote Generator where it was a literally impossible to get an outcome telling you to vote for the Coalition? When Coalition MP’s were told to vote against themselves? Yet somehow they were able to portray themselves as something more than Labor Party apparatchiks in this case. In the end though, the truth shall out.
So what do we have. While the Digital Liberty Coalition is working damn hard to stop this draconian legislation, and doing a damn good job, we have GetUp! taking the money people donated and running off with it. It makes me sick.
I have spoken on this matter in detail with a couple of solid Liberal MP’s who are very much with us on this issue, and they are very interested in pursuing this matter further, and in trying to force GetUp! to use the money the way they promised they would. If anyone is interested in putting pressure on GetUp! to keep their promises, please flick me an email at timintheus followed by the at symbol and then gmail.com.
Together we can defeat this evil legislation. But it will take us all working together for a common cause.
Update: I have been informed that some already pissed off donors have started a “GetUp!? GET ACCOUNTABLE – Dont’ steal money from Anti-Censorship Donors” Facebook group. The description reads:
GetUp! has taken at least $45,000 in donations to oppose Interent filtering. The figure was previously over $55,000, but mysteriously shrunk. To date, it seems almost nothing has been done with the money despite filtering trials going ahead. We fear they will attempt to syphon it off for use on other projects.
What happened to the higher figure? No one knows…
What’s happening to this money? Could be anything
If you value your money being spent properly, join!
Update 2: An alleged few small ads on websites like the SMH a few months ago (which ultimatly end up asking you for more money anyway) do not count.
Update 3: Full disclosure to people asking. Yes I am affiliated to the Liberal Party. But what better way to ensure this is blocked than that the Libs stand with us? I mean let’s be honest, without their opposition in the Senate, we have no chance! Even if you don’t agree with the Libs (heck I don’t agree with them on a LOT of issues – just read this blog! lol) you have to recognize that they are the only way we can defeat this legislation. And many of them want to work with us – we have a number of Liberal MP’s who are fighting this legislation tooth and nail. So, even if you’re not a Liberal voter, on this one issue let’s put aside our partisanship and ensure that we all work together to get the right result. 🙂
Update 4: After all this online pressure, GetUp! finally decided to post a response on Facebook. Apparently they “have been working hard behind the scenes in the last few months, lobbying politicians and continuing to campaign”. To date, I am unaware of ONE Coalition MP who has received ANY lobbying from GetUp! on this matter! I asked GetUp! provide the names/dates for any lobbying contact they have had. All $50,000 worth. I’m not holding my breath.
Update 5: I’ve been informed that GetUp! has in fact made some attempts to lobby both Minchin and Turnbull. Will follow up on those. Also, it would seem that GetUp! has decided to run some online ads in the next few days. The timing of this decision i’m suuure is completly coincidental to all the criticism they have received for doing, well, nothing for 6 or so months.