Was a photo of underwear at the heart
of Citibank's objections to a gay website?
The banking giant apologized Thursday
evening to gay social-networking startup fabulis
for shutting down its business account. Fabulis CEO Jason Goldberg
wrote on his blog Wednesday that employees told him the account was
marked for closure due to “objectionable content” found on his
“A few minutes ago I spoke to an
account manager at Citibank,” Godlberg wrote on the group's
website. “This manager let us know that a compliance review
occurred, which Citi says is a standard procedure, and the review
officer determined the 'content was not in compliance with Citibank's
standard policies.' They requested the account be terminated.”
In making its apology, Citibank alluded
to the “objectionable content,” but did not disclose its
“I apologize for any confusion about
the status of your account and the fabulis website,” the bank said.
“Whatever statements that were made by any Citi representative
related to the content of your website were inappropriate and made in
error, I will review in detail what happened.”
The bank also said it was an ally of
the LGBT community.
According to the Wall
Street Journal, the snafu comes on the heels of a second
high-profile account closure by the bank. Citibank refused to open
an account for SillyUnderwear.com last week because of the bank's
concerns about content.
“While we don't comment on our
customers, we typically decline accounts associated with content that
the general public may potentially find inappropriate or offensive,”
Citibank said in a statement regarding the matter.
To attract attention, fabulis has been
giving away promotional products, including underwear, a photo of
which is included on its blog.
In a Friday post titled “Citi: Was
it the Underwear?” Goldberg accepts Citibank's apology, but
says the bank's policies raise First Amendment questions.
“We want to turn the page on Citibank
and fabulis. But we believe there is a bigger question about the way
Citi conducts its business and why it feels it can determine what is
inappropriate or offensive. And that question is not just for we
here at fabulis, but for a much broader audience,” he says.