Citibank Considers Gay Social Networking Objectionable

Entrepreneur Jason Goldberg, who previously founded the websites Jobster and Social Median, has made millions of dollars from both companies. With such a great business track record, you’d think a bank would be happy to have the account of Goldberg’s latest startup, fabulis.

If the bank in question is Citibank, you’d be wrong {TechCrunch}. Fabulis is described as a “social network that helps gay men connect with amazing experiences nearby and around the world.” The site is currently in beta, but the company does maintain a blog which mostly covers things like business cards, t-shirt and clothing giveaways with the company logo and general posts about building the site.

Somehow, three separate people at Citibank found the content inflammatory enough that they closed the fabulis bank account for the “objectionable content” that was “not in compliance with Citibank’s standard policies.” The business account was then flagged for termination. {GigaOm}

Let’s take a look at some of the wildly inflammatory content on the fabuls blog that could be considered objectionable: there’s the announcement of raising $625,000 from the Washington Post among others, then we have the iPhone giveaway,  and the posting about setting up a development center in India, a post from a Facebook fan, and more giveaways. Whew!

That will definitely offend people who find money, iPhones, tech development, Facebook and branded clothing objectionable!

While someone at Citibank has had the common sense to realize that this was an enormous mistake, it’s seriously troubling that not one, but three separate employees in the compliance department found those offensive giveaways so objectionable that they would actually try to have the account closed. Even more disturbing is that a company blog is now sufficient grounds for a bank to leave you in the lurch if they desire.

Goldberg and fabulis, got what appears to be a sincere apology stating that the Citibank rep places “great value” on fabulis’ business and “is committed to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.” Which may be true at a corporate level, but still doesn’t correct the fact that it took media attention, repeated phone calls and somewhat public embarrassment before three separate individuals were overridden on the decision to close a customer’s account for seemingly no reason other than targeting the gay community via the web.

While fabulis may or may not decide to remain with Citibank, hopefully this will be an experience that leads Citi to more transparency over what content is deemed objectionable, and what an appropriate response is.

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