ANOTHER day, another combination of the reach and relative anonymity of social media with the worst of human interaction.
The Leader revealed this week that one rural charity founder was resorting to legal action in an attempt to stop keyboard warriors “terrorising” him and his family, leading to some serious consequences for their health.
At least one other has spoken of the “smear and innuendo” from some social media users “really going out of their way to make life hard [with] online harassment and bullying”.
You may have seen and heard some of the claims being made. Many of them appear to be genuine concern that donations out of Aussies’ pockets are used efficiently and appropriately; we share that desire. Some would appear to be well and truly in the troublemaker or bully camp: name-calling, inappropriate language and personal attacks.
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission has now stepped in, visiting both above-mentioned groups – Aussie Helpers and Rural Aid – in recent days. The latter’s Brian Egan tells the NDL he requested the visit because of “all this malicious stuff”.
Should it find anything awry, the national regulator can penalise a group for infractions such as making false statements, using funds or assets for non-charitable purposes, or not lodging documents on time. It can also issue directions or warnings, enter into compliance agreements or revoke registrations.
Fairfax Media as an organisation, and its employees as individuals, have been part of efforts to raise funds and collect goods for people affected by drought; and have also reported on questions raised about the rural charities’ structures, assets and staff pay.
As much as anyone else, we want to know that funds meant for people in strife are not wasted or, worse, lining pockets. We have a right to – and should – question our charities, regulating bodies and even ourselves on whether our money is being used properly and effectively. But there is a world of difference between asking and attacking.