Promoting Internet Security: A Charitable Activity?

The Internal Revenue Service of the United States has recently denied charitable status to an organization that promotes a knowledge of internet security to bloggers and civil society groups, notably those in foreign countries whose freedom of expression may be threatened by state bodies.

As one US commentator wrote:

The IRS denial, in short, hinges on the applicant’s activities looking too much like a for-profit trade or business and also the following not qualifying as “charitable” – (1) preserving the fundamental human rights set forth in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (b/c it is a declaration, not a treaty or law) and (2) safeguarding free speech in foreign countries (as the US Constitution’s guarantee of free speech does not apply to residents or citizens of foreign countries). Also, the real kicker is that the applicant fails to show that its human rights and free speech promoting activities would be legal under foreign countries’ laws (I’m sure they simply forgot to ask Iran, Egypt, Turkey and North Korea).

Would Canadian law treat such an organization any differently? Should it?

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