Last week, the non-profit website for news leaks, Distributed Denial of Secrets, announced it was given hacked donor files from the Christian fundraising platform GiveSendGo related to the Freedom Convoy 2022, the Canadian trucker protests that lasted for several weeks in its capitol Ottawa.
Moonlight Foundation obtained and reviewed these records, finding deeply concerning issues about the lack of transparency and accountability through crowdsourcing fundraising websites.
Of the more than 92,800 donations, 46,930 donations contributed anonymously, totaling more than $2.5 million in donations. Had it not been for the data leak, these contributions would never be associated with any names or actual individuals.
Of the top 20 donors to the protests, only two donors used their names for the public donation, instead donors used names like “freedom” for public facing donations.
More importantly, the single largest donor, who gave $215,000, is labeled “null” as the system “processed but not recorded” the data, meaning there is no way to identify the individual. The company has said the donation was an attempt “to make the public-facing total amount raised accurate, lumping together many donations that came in offline,” continuing to raise the issue of transparency.
Crowdsourcing itself is an incredible means to fundraise for important personal and professional causes. Moonlight Foundation has used crowdsourcing resources to raise about $2,000 from nearly a dozen individual donors. When the transfer of millions of dollars to controversial causes, however, is being obfuscated behind anonymous donations, genuine questions emerge about the source of that money. Questions of crowdsourcing are nothing new. In 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) turned to crowdsourcing to raise money to build a border wall between Texas and Mexico. Although Governor Abbott promised transparency in the process, the Texas Tribune reported the donors were not required to use their real name.
Transferring such significant amounts of money raises questions about where the money is coming from and if there are ulterior motives for the donations. While many donors may desire to stay anonymous to refrain from online harassment, appropriate collection of names by the Crowdsourcing sites is important to make sure that nation states or other nefarious actors are not hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.
When charities register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the nonprofit has to report its donors annually. While many groups choose not to make their donors public, if the need arises under the correct processes, enforcement agencies can obtain records from the IRS. This ensures that no one is above the law. Funding obtained through crowdsourcing websites needs to create greater accountability.