A battle between a Buzzfeed reporter and DeAndre Cortez Way, the rapper better known as Soulja Boy, is brewing over privacy, fraud, and, of course, hoverboards.
It all began when Joe Bernstein, a Buzzfeed News reporter reported out a story last week about a line of hoverboards the rapper is selling, aptly called “Souljaboards.” According to the piece, Soulja Boy was involved in a three-month battle with Stripe, an online payment processing company, over “chargebacks,” or processed credit card orders that are disputed by customers, and usually cost the sellers—in this case, Soulja Boy (as well as other hoverboard sellers). Often, the chargebacks happen because the buyer was using stolen credit card information. Online hoverboard purchases as whole, wrote Bernstein, “are plagued by fraud.”
Bernstein’s story was based on emails he’d obtained between Soulja Boy and Stripe, in which the rapper pleaded for help from the company over the charges to his own account, saying “I don’t want to have to pay all this money because of frauds is there any way to reverse these payments and get my account to Good standing.”
Both Berstein and Soulja Boy confirmed that Bernstein had originally texted Soulja Boy for a comment on the story.
“His phone number was in the documents I based the story on,” he said. “I texted him asking him to comment. He texted after the story came out [saying], ‘How did you get my number’ and I did not respond, mostly because his rep had already called me and threatened legal action.”
The response, provided to Gawker by Soulja Boy:
Soulja Boy never ended up commenting for Bernstein’s piece, and was surprised when it ran the next day. He reacted angrily, tweeting out Bernstein’s personal cell phone number on Sunday with a note saying “call me.”
“I was just mad because he got my number and info out my email and I didn’t know how,” Soulja Boy told Gawker. “Now this story is public it’s just embarrassing and unnecessary when you’re trying to handle [sic] Bizness.”
Naturally, Soulja Boy’s 4.8 million fans reacted by incessantly calling and texting the number, thinking it was the rapper’s.
“I woke up from a nap to dozens of texts: ‘hey soulja,’ ‘is this really your number?’” said Bernstein. “I suspect he’s mad because of a story I wrote about him getting defrauded on his hoverboard business...A rep of his had previously called me and said I’d be hearing from his lawyers.”
.@souljaboy tweeted my phone number because he's upset w a story i wrote. i am being harassed by 100s of his fans. please tell him to stop.— Joe Bernstein (@Bernstein) December 13, 2015
Bernstein says that he can’t turn his phone on now because so many fans are trying to FaceTime him.
Soulja Boy, for his part, doesn’t know where Bernstein got his emails from, and accused the reporter of hacking his email in a now-deleted tweet. He is still upset about the story, and feels that publishing his emails is an invasion of his privacy (Bernstein would not talk about his sourcing, but noted that if was going to break the law, “it would probably be for a better reason than to write about hoverboard fraud”).
“People are thinking we lost that money in a scam,” said Soulja Boy. “We are working the fraud orders out with Stripe. But why is it ok for him to post this info if it’s between me and Stripe? There’s nothing wrong with that? People can do that?”
Despite the setback, he says that the fraud charges are being handled and reversed, and he wants to put the story behind him. He would like the story taken down, which Bernstein says is not going happen, just because the subject of the story is unhappy. “That just means i’m doing my job,” he said.