Tencent confirms suspicions of machine-generated fundraising on the “9/9 Philanthropy Day”

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Over a month has passed since this year’s 9/9 Philanthropy Day, which generated a total of over 1.3 billion Yuan in donations. Although the occasion was a success, there were also unfortunately some reports of fraudulent fundraising by members of the public. In response to these reports, on October 10 Tencent publicized the relevant statistics, confirming the existence of the problem.

According to the statistics, there were 25,244 accounts that each donated more than 5 times within one minute, and the resulting 234,775 donations raised a total of over 7 million Yuan and generated 3.71 million Yuan of matching donations by Tencent. However, based on Tencent’s estimates, it normally takes around 15 seconds for a donor to make a donation, so 4 donations is the maximum a donor could possibly make within a minute. It therefore can be assumed that if there is a user donating 5 or more times within a minute, these donations are quite likely being generated by a machine. Since every donation by the public generates a matching one by Tencent, it is easy to see how this system could be used for fraud.

According to Li Yulin’s analysis in the “Gongyizibenlun” paper (公益资本论), in practice the charities involved could only receive insignificant amounts through the use of these sorts of methods; however, this behaviour could result in a serious negative impact on their reputations. It therefore seems reasonable to assume that this machine-generated fundraising is actually being carried out by people intent on slurring these charities’ good name.

The Tencent Charity Foundation (腾讯公益慈善基金会) have claimed that they will ask a third party to audit and investigate the issue, and reveal the results as soon as possible. Through this investigation, it is hoped the individuals and organizations involved in the fraudulent behaviour and in violating the relevant laws and regulations will be prosecuted and publicly exposed.

Meanwhile, Tencent will hold a “9/9 Feedback Day” (99回归日) on October 26-27, in order to gather the experiences and comments of charity observers, researchers and organizations.