WePay withholds funds from ailing sex worker Eden Alexander
Eden Alexander (link NSFW) is an adult performer and cam girl in the Bay Area. Last month, she developed a rare skin infection as a result of taking a “commonly prescribed” antibiotic, which led to her being in excruciating pain for nearly a month. When she finally saw a doctor, they assumed she was on meth due to her being a sex worker and failed to provide her with the proper treatment. Alexander’s symptoms worsened; she developed a full-blown staph infection and organ damage.
A freelancer without a steady source of income, Alexander tried to crowdsource her medical treatment on the crowdfunding website GiveForward, raising about $1,000 of her $4,000 target in the process.
Last Saturday, however, Alexander received an email from GiveForward, saying her payment processor WePay had forced them to cancel her campaign, take down her page, and freeze her funds. The reason given? Alexander had “violated” WePay’s terms of service, which state that “you will not accept payments or use the Service in connection with pornographic items”:
(There was no reference to “pornographic items” on Eden’s (now-cached) GiveForward campaign page; instead, there’s a footnote saying that "Eden will be using these donations for living and medical expenses ONLY,” and that “no funds will be used to finance any sort of creative or business project.”)
After posting a series of increasingly distraught tweets, including veiled suicide threats, Alexander was taken to a hospital.
I'm sorry. nobody taught me the things I needed to learn to be a good person. I've tried so hard to teach myself. Nothing works. I give up.— Eden Alexander (@EdenAlexanderXX) May 17, 2014
I've nothing left, no where to go, Every time I plead for help I just get hurt more. I can't live like this. I'm so sorry. Let you a down.— Eden Alexander (@EdenAlexanderXX) May 17, 2014
She is currently said to be in “stable” condition.
Since Alexander was taken to the hospital, sex worker activists and their allies on Twitter have been frantically tweeting their support. The emergency crowdfunding campaign gained steam after comedian Patton Oswalt retweeted the link to her website:
.@wepay's founders got the idea when raising money for a bachelor party. Now, they shut down a cam girl's life-saving medical fundraiser— Molly Crabapple (@mollycrabapple) May 17, 2014
PLEASE read my last 4 RTs and spread the word. Yikes. Thank you, @mollycrabapple, for bringing this to light.— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 17, 2014
A startup with more than $34 million in venture funding, WePay got its start in 2008 in part by funding a bachelor party where alcohol was present (a clear violation of its terms of service). In a blog post on WePay’s website, the company essentially argues that Alexander violated its terms of service by retweeting a fan’s offer to donate to her campaign in exchange for X-rated pictures, despite the fact that the campaign itself explicitly states it is not connected to pornographic materials:
Upon reviewing payments starting May 15, 2014 WePay discovered tweets from others retweeted by Eden Alexander offering adult material in exchange for donations. 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.
Many have also taken to Twitter to express their ire at WePay CEO Bill Clerico, who has been doing damage control on social media since Alexander was taken to the hospital.
@aestetix we're trying as best we can to help— Bill Clerico (@billclerico) May 17, 2014
It’s doubtful that Alexander and her friends will be receptive to WePay’s goodwill gestures, however. They’ve already set up an alternative funding campaign for her hospital bills on the crowdfunding website Crowdtilt, which has raised more than $6,000 in less than two days.
This is not the first time that online payment processors have discriminated against sex workers. Last month, PayPal caught flak for refusing to process the funds from adult performer Kitty Stryker’s Patreon campaign, and in 2006, former adult performer Asia Carrera was rejected by PayPal when she tried to raise funds after her husband died in a car accident. This is also not the first time WePay has deemed sex workers unworthy of its services. The company also turned away Bay Area sex worker Andre Shakti after she tried to raise $500 for a trip to the Feminist Porn Awards in Toronto.
A request for comment to WePay was not returned at press time.
Photo via EdenAlexanderXX/Twitter