Why is Ars Pitching for EFF Donations?

Ars Technica is pitching the EFF as part of its holiday charitable donation donation drive:

[W]e’ve added the Electronic Frontier Foundation to our annual charity push, aiding in their efforts to defend Internet freedom.

In case you ever wondered why it is that Ars is reliably in the anti-copyright, pro-Google corner, let me offer a few ideas in the aid of explanation.

It should also come as no surprise that the EFF routinely submits amicus briefs in cases where Google benefits (such as Google’s litigation to block a state attorney general’s investigation of the company for violations of the Controlled Substances Act)–or it did until recently when a federal judge told them in no uncertain terms that their amicus wasn’t needed and refused to permit the EFF’s filing.

As Roger Parloff wrote in Fortune:

If the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the nation’s preeminent digital rights nonprofit, had disclosed last year that it received a cool $1 million gift from Google — about 17% of its total revenue — some eyebrows might have been raised. The group typically describes itself as “member-supported” and, like most nonprofits, it treasures its above-the-commercial-fray, public-interest-group aura and reputation for independence.

In fact, Google did transfer $1 million to the EFF last year, but the money did not have to be, and wasn’t, reported as a corporate donation. And if, as currently planned, the EFF receives another $1 million this year from Facebook, it won’t have to report that as a donation either. That’s because both transfers are formally court-ordered outlays being paid by those companies to settle class-action suits.

So let’s change the roles and see how it feels.  What if Smith & Wesson settled a class action with zero payment to the class members but paid millions to the class lawyers and even more millions to the National Rifle Association, the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Association for Gun Rights?  And then say one of the Breitbart sites not only wrote post after post supporting polices that benefit Smith & Wesson but started offing up the NRA as a holiday charity?

This isn’t the first time that the EFF has showed up in the Google column. In the Oracle v. Google lawsuit (for IP infringement), the judge was so fed up with Google’s attempts to indirectly manipulate the court that he required Google was to file what came to be known as the “Google Shill List”.  And guess who appeared prominently in that filing:

Google Shill EFF

And then of course there’s the report from the venerable Public Citizen watchdog group entitled “Mission-Creepy: Google Is Quietly Becoming One of the Nation’s Most Powerful Political Forces While Expanding Its Information-Collection Empire” which lists the Electronic Frontier Foundation as an example of a “third party” group financed by Google at least in part.

So if you are in the habit of making donations to front groups shilling for multinational corporations instead of true charities, then by all means write the EFF a check to help them cover over their major corporate contributions and claim they operate on small donations.

Or–if you think it’s bullshit to refer to the EFF as a “charity” (regardless of its questionable tax-exempt status), you could write a check to the other charity recommended by Ars, the Penny Arcade’s Child’s Play charity.  Or you could just contribute to your local food bank or volunteer for your food bank, Toys for Tots or a group like that in this season of hope.

But don’t deceive yourself into thinking that the EFF is anything but a front for you know who.


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