The details are few, and the situation bizarre, but it appears Citibank — recipient of billions of dollars in taxpayer dollars under TARP — terminated the account of Fabulis, a soon-to-launch social networking site for gay men. Why? Because its site featured “objectionable content.”
Last night, Queerty‘s founding editor Bradford Shellhammer, who is now Fabulis’ creative director, notified us to the situation. The company’s chief Jason Goldberg learned Citibank has closed the firm’s accounts; there was no phone call or email to alert them. During a “compliance review,” Citibank determined Fabulis’ “content was not in compliance with Citibank’s standard policies.” And now, an account manager reached out to the bank reached out to Fabulis to say the three account reps the social network’s staff spoke to were “wrong.”
Just what type of “objectionable content” does Fabulis feature? None that we could find, other than their stated desire to connect gay men via the web, without all the hooking up that’s usually associated with such a lofty goal.
But that’s not even the point. Even if the Fabulis blog had “objectionable content,” a bank does not get to shut down the account without notice. “Objectionable content” should be reserved for things like hate speech, incitements to violence, racist tirades. Or even, if it’s the bank’s choosing, X-rated content. Not videos from average folks talking about what makes them “fabulis.” And even if Citi doesn’t want the gay site’s business? Fine, just give them enough time to transfer their funds to a more accepting institution.
It’s strange to see a bank, so desperate for customer deposits, terminate a relationship with a company that’s backed by serious investment players (including the Washingotn Post) and Goldberg, an established tech entrepreneur. It’s not way to buy friends in the gay community. (Or the tech community; the must-read site Techcrunch also featured the story.)
Which is why — although most banks, frankly, are terrible institutions — we’d recommend Fabulis take a look at Chase Bank’s offerings. At least this financial giant is a friend to LGBTs.