PayPal restored sexy social network Zivity’s account tonight after a weeklong battle over whether the website violates its policy. Zivity bills itself as “Hotness. In Person” where “76,102 people just like you rub elbows with models, photographers, and video artists.” But early Thanksgiving morning, PayPal decided it didn’t want to rub elbows with Zivity anymore after four years of doing business together.
According to Zivity CEO and Editor-in-Chief Cyan Banister, Zivity asked PayPal if the content of the website would be an issue before they signed up with the payment processor. After a review by PayPal, Banister says she was told there were “no issues”. PayPal became the engine behind a majority of Zivity’s subscription payments.
Then over the holiday, Zivity got an email from PayPal saying “after a recent review of your account activity, it has been determined that you are in violation of PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy” and the account has been “permanently limited.” That meant PayPal could hold the funds in the account up to 180 days. Zivity was ordered to remove all references to PayPal from their website.
According to PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy cited in the email, PayPal may not be used to send or receive payments for certain sexually oriented materials or services or for items that could be considered obscene. So, what was acceptable for four years suddenly became a violation. What those “certain” materials are or what could be considered obscene is unclear.
Banister says she called and emailed PayPal for a week to appeal the decision. She even had a potential inside connection. Zivity’s Co-founder and Chairman, and Cyan’s husband, is Scott Banister. He is named as a co-inventor on the original PayPal patent for its email payment system as well as being an early PayPal board member and investor. But Cyan and Scott’s connections had long left PayPal, and they got nowhere.
After getting the original email, she removed PayPal from her site.
Earlier today, a story about Zivity’s blocked account ran on the local NBC Bay Area TV station. PayPal told NBC:
Soon after the NBC segment appeared (coincidence or not?), Zivity got an email saying their account had been restored. PayPal did a further review and determined “the account is currently not in violation of our Acceptable Use Policy.” No explanation was given for what, if anything, had changed. PayPal apologized for any inconvenience and pointed to the same vague Acceptable Use Policy for any further questions.
So for now, Zivity can come back to PayPal. I asked Cyan if she was considering a switch to a new payment provider. She says she will look at alternatives, but “my members love, use, and want PayPal” and she doesn’t want to take the service away from them.
TechCrunch contacted PayPal for comment tonight, but has not received a reply.
Disclosure: Cyan Banister is a contributing writer to TechCrunch and hosts the show Speaking Of.. on TechCrunch TV.
Zivity, a San Francisco start-up which launched at TechCrunch40 in 2007, is a premium subscription and fan interaction platform. They celebrate artists through crowd sourced curation and editorial moderation of photography that highlights unique beauty. Fans freely interact with artists and vote for their favorite content. These dollar-backed votes are then used to reward artists with cash payments. In July 2009 Zivity spun off Top Fans into a separate company.
PayPal is an online payments and money transfer service that allows you to send money via email, phone, text message or Skype. They offer products to both individuals and businesses alike, including online vendors, auction sites and corporate users. PayPal connects effortlessly to bank accounts and credit cards. PayPal Mobile is one of PayPal’s newest products. It allows you to send payments by text message or by using PayPal’s mobile browser. PayPal created the Gausebeck-Levchin test, which is an implementation...
Cyan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Zivity, a prolific angel investor with her husband Scott Banister (Tagged, SpaceX, Uber and others (See [AngelList] (https://angel.co/cyantist) for full list), board member, advisor and also a contributing writer for TechCrunch. Cyan co-founded the controversial website Zivity.com, which is a subscription based social networking site for creators and fans of beautiful and tasteful glamour photography. She currently serves on the board of directors for Mimoco, best known for their MIMOBOT line...