Eden Alexander is an adult film star and cam girl. After a "near fatal" reaction to a common prescription drug and a month of chronic pain, she tried to crowdfund $4,000 for her medical care. Hours before she was taken away in an ambulance, she got a notice that the online payments company WePay had cancelled her emergency fundraiser.
The crowdfunding campaign was hosted on a site called Giveforward that used WePay's software to handle payments. The email notifying Alexander says that her fundraiser violated WePay's terms of service because of its "connection with pornographic items."
Alexander's friends found a different site to host her fundraiser, but there was no mention of anything pornographic on the initial Giveforward page. Rather, if you go to the cached version, you'll find a heartbreaking story about how Alexander was incorrectly diagnosed because of her profession:
Unfortunately, most of the symptoms began while she was out of town working. She pushed through 10 long days on the road before finally seeing a doctor. While there, she was unfortunately the victim of snap judgements and "shaming" by the doctors (whom the insurance she pays for with her own money) provided, and because of this they insinuated her burning, excruciating, skinn [sic] peeling/ falling off face rash was the cause of methamphetamine use and dismissed her symptoms and ailments. she did not receive a proper exam or adequate lab testing.
WePay is a Palo Alto-based startup that went through Y Combinator and has raised more than $34 million in venture funding, including money from the former CEO of Morgan Stanley, SV Angel, Dave McClure, and Max Levchin, the cofounder of PayPal.
In a blog post, WePay acknowledged that the supposed violation of its terms did not occur within the campaign, but from the company monitoring Alexander's social media presence:
WePay discovered tweets from others retweeted by Eden Alexander offering adult material in exchange for donations
GiveForward told Alexander that the campaign was cancelled because of WePay. However, in the blog post, WePay blamed its back-end processor. The company doesn't name the processor or spell out what, exactly, the processor does not permit:
This is in direct violation of our terms of service as our back-end processor does not permit it. WePay has worked with other adult entertainers who use our service and abide by our terms of service without any issues.
WePay is extremely empathetic to what Eden Alexander is facing and her hardship is unfathomable. We are truly sorry that the rules around payment processing are limiting and force us to make tough decisions.
WePay notified GiveForward and the campaign has been shutdown as of May 17, 2014. Upon further review, WePay suspects Eden may not have been aware of the terms of service and we are offering her the ability to open a new campaign for further fundraising. We have reached out directly to Eden to help.
Perhaps the reason WePay "suspects" that Alexander was not aware that she had violated the terms of service is because of extremely distraught series of tweets after she posted after finding out that WePay blocked her ability to raise funds for her urgent medical care.
On Twitter, WePay cofounder and CEO Bill Clerico said that WePay should not be the in business of arbitrating appropriateness, framing his company's response in some cases as though it was out of their control to yank a campaign because of retweet:
As The Rumpus notes, WePay's origin story would not have adhered to its own list of "prohibited activities," which includes alcohol. The twenty-something cofounders proudly told CNN in 2010 that they built the site to better gather roughly the same amount of money as Alexander, but for bottle service and beer at a bachelor party:
The idea for WePay came to Aberman two years ago, when he was struggling to raise funds for his brother's bachelor party. He had to collect $4,200 from 14 guys to cover the rent at a Florida beach house, bottle service at a club, and enough burgers, beer and chips to feed a small army. Rounding up the money was a hassle. It took several weeks of nagging people scattered across the country, collecting checks and cash piecemeal as they rolled in. There must be a better way to do this, he thought.
If you want to donate to Alexander's medical care, the campaign has been moved to CrowdTilt.
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[Image via @EdenAlexanderXX]