Vigilance over online funding needed to increase trust
The death of three-year-old Wang Fengya, a girl born in an impoverished rural family and diagnosed with malignant eye tumor, touched a raw nerve among millions of netizens. But what has triggered a public outcry is a followup report on the girl’s family.
Immediately after the tragedy, some we-media outlets accused Wang’s mother of spending the 150,000 yuan ($23,900) raised on online funding platform Shuidichou.com for Wang’s treatment, on the girl’s brother, suggesting that the rural family favors boys over girls. The only evidence they have is the picture Wang’s mother posted on her WeChat moment when she had her son undergo cleft palate surgery at a high-end private clinic in Beijing. The irked Chinese netizens described the mother as unworthy of being a parent and even blamed her for Wang’s death. Feeling wronged, the woman decided to sue the reporter.
Police investigation found that the total donation Wang’s family received was about 38,000 yuan, far less than the rumored 150,000 yuan. Moreover, the surgery on Wang’s brother was carried out months before the girl’s cancer diagnosis, which according to the investigation, was funded by another charity. “There is no way we could have misused the donations,” Wang’s grandfather was quoted as saying. He later handed over the unspent 1,301 yuan to a local charity. Netizens, who harshly criticized Wang’s family, eventually apologized.
In the drama, both donors and recipients lost. Buried in grief, the poor mother only found herself caught in a vortex of rumors and scorching criticism. The confidence of donors was dented, although it turned out that they were not taken for a ride.
Online fund-raising is a new concept in the internet era. Online platforms like Shuidichou.com have provided people in need with diverse channels to seek help and proven to be an effective tool for raising funds. But undeniably, there are always people trying to take advantage of such platforms. The story of Luo Yixiao is still fresh in public memory. The child, diagnosed with leukemia, became a buzzword on WeChat after her father published a heart-wrenching missive calling for help online. The company, willing to help Luo’s family, pledged that its donations would depend on the number of times the message was reposted. As a result, millions of netizens shared the story, contributing millions for Luo. However, it turned out that the fund-raising was merely an attempt to help the company gain popularity. Luo’s family is reported to have owned three apartments in Shenzhen and is financially capable of getting the girl treated. Similar incidents are unavoidable in the initial stages of online fund-raising platforms. Instead of pointing a finger at the reporter behind Wang’s story and Luo’s father, more efforts are needed to strengthen supervision and improve mechanisms so as to prevent such incidents from happening. For instance, the amount of money raised via online funding platforms should be made more transparent, or at least the donors should know about it. How the money is spent should also be reported to avoid misuse or misunderstandings. After all, online funding platforms have offered needy people more access to help and need to be protected.