Suspicious cases mar trust in crowdfunding web sites

By Li Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2019/5/9 20:48:40

Illustrations: Luo Xuan/GT

"Life cannot wait! Please save my child!" "Please kindly help this poor family. They cannot make it without your support!" I have often been moved by such online pleadings. Click them and you will find these are articles by crowdfunding platforms. People can donate money for those who desperately need help. For those who can never afford expensive medical care, such platforms can be life-saving straws.

But recently, a Chinese celebrity came under controversy because of his questionable crowdfunding campaign. The campaign for Chinese crosstalk performer Wu Shuai, with the stage name Wu Hechen, was launched on a famous crowdfunding platform named Shuidichou. The campaign sought 1 million yuan ($146,605) for treating Wu who had brain hemorrhage. 

However, Chinese netizens soon found out that Wu has a car and owns two apartments in Beijing. More importantly, Wu is well-covered by medical insurance. Netizens soon felt cheated. They started to doubt the motive of Wu's family, and many also questioned whether Shuidichou and other crowdfunding platforms should allow people like Wu to seek financial help. A Weibo user questioned: "Shouldn't the platform and funds aim at helping those who are poorer, in worse health or not covered by medical insurance?"

In recent years, there have been several examples of fake or suspicious crowdfunding. For example, a father named Luo Er wrote an article in 2016 to raise money for his poor daughter suffering from leukemia. Luo won people's sympathy but soon was labeled a cheat because netizens found out he owned three apartments and a car. 

There have been worse cases, such as buying fake documents, photos, personal ID cards and making up a story to fool donors. For me, these cases can be upsetting because cheaters are preying on people's emotions which goes against morality. It makes me feel bad as some who helped are poorer than the swindlers.

This leads to an awkward situation: A few black sheep are damaging people's trust in crowdfunding platforms as well as some people's life-saving straws. So here comes the question: How should we regulate crowdfunding for serious illnesses to protect the rights of those really in need?

First, there is a lack of clear and definite laws and regulations on crowdfunding. This means that cheaters' acts, although immoral, may not be punishable by law. As long as there are legal loopholes, there will always be people who take advantage of the system. 

The Ministry of Civil Affairs has designated 20 platforms for internet fundraising. However, these platforms still lack proper regulatory mechanism. A careful scrutiny is needed to prevent fleecing of gullible donors. 

Crowdfunding through the internet is something new in the internet era and needs to be standardized. But there are still problems that need to be answered by official voices: Is fund raising only limited to those who meet serious financial difficulties? If so, what is the criterion for judging someone in financial difficulty? How can government and platforms cooperate to eliminate fake cases? 

As for me, I would sometimes donate money for people who need help. Not much, though - 20 yuan, 50 yuan or 100 yuan every time - but I believe it is always better than nothing. After all, crowdfunding can be the last hope for many people who are really in a difficult situation. But still, the more standardized the platforms, the more helpful it will be for people seeking hope. They've already suffered much, and they deserve a fairer internet fundraising environment. 

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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