Some report having their accounts suspended for legitimate — even charitable — work
By Alissa Fleck
Last year, email marketing platform Mailchimp updated its corporate fine print to establish a moratorium on what appeared to be any mention of crypto in its users’ transmissions. High-profile critics accused Mailchimp of arbitrarily promoting censorship on the basis of dubious semantics. Now the platform is getting a facelift and rolling out all-new capabilities, but it doesn’t appear to have budged from what some see as a baseless anti-crypto stance.
What prompted Mailchimp to enact its policy in the first place? Cautions from the SEC? Pre-emptive backside-covering? Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the crypto industry knows it’s ripe with spam, hoaxes and other questionable endeavors. Spend five minutes in a crypto Telegram group, and you too will curse whatever undisclosed ground Satoshi Nakamoto may be walking on. The anarchic aura of the cryptosphere has seduced a significant hellion constituency.
When ICOs were a brand-new phenomenon, they attracted an early wave of bad actors looking to make a quick buck on little-understood technology and all of the hopes and dreams people had pinned to it. These bad actors helped shape public perceptions around ICOs and crypto generally, and Mailchimp’s policy feels like an attempt to protect its users from the most predatory aspects of crypto culture.
This is how Mailchimp’s policy on the subject currently reads:
“Also, we cannot allow businesses involved in any aspect of the sale, transaction, exchange, storage, marketing or production of cryptocurrencies, virtual currencies, and any digital assets related to an Initial Coin Offering, to use Mailchimp to facilitate or support any of those activities.”
The ban on all things crypto lives with several other verboten subjects under the header of “prohibited content.” That section elaborates that — while it’s “nothing personal” — Mailchimp aims for the highest delivery standards possible, and says these crypto mailings are associated with “higher-than-average abuse complaints.” (PC Mag listed Mailchimp as one of the best email marketing software products of 2019, in part thanks to its spam-detecting capabilities.)
The list of prohibited content also includes “lead generation opportunities,” “multi-level marketing,” “affiliate marketing,” “broker or rental service lists” and more. Some, like sexually explicit content, are no-brainers. But others, like crypto, represent more of a grey area. Other marketing companies, including Campaign Monitor, have at times espoused similar stances. Mailchimp’s prohibitory language, however, feels especially vague and unnecessarily all-encompassing.
Some fear the slippery slope. What else may soon be listed under suspendable offenses? And who decides?
That Mailchimp has no desire to touch crypto with a ten-foot line of code makes sense when you consider the hoops other platforms have jumped through in order to regulate crypto-related content. After all, it’s much easier to shut down the idea altogether than to try and parse what is and isn’t kosher.
According to the company’s website, abuse complaints are member-reported and Mailchimp investigates each one thoroughly using a hybrid human-and-automated-review process. After reading Mailchimp’s legal and privacy policies, they might find themselves wondering: Okay, but what am I allowed to send?
How strictly Mailchimp has adhered to its crypto policy is hard to say. Mailchimp did not respond to ICO Ranker’s request for comment on this story. But if crypto enthusiasts can be counted on for anything, it’s taking their grievances to Twitter.
Following Mailchimp’s ban last year, a handful of Twitter users discussed the ways they had used the platform to spread legitimate and useful information about crypto and blockchain. Among them: Advertising for hackathons, alerting people to Bitcoin faucets, discussing an upcoming fork, basic crypto education, and much more. All of these accounts were suspended, according to the respective Twitter users. Not only is the policy’s broadness impeding the flow of important information, they argued, it suggests a fundamental lack of understanding about an industry that emphasizes decentralization, deregulation and greater freedom for all.
Mailchimp is moving into new territory with its updated “full service” platform. It will allow marketers to build websites and send targeted ads, collect insights about their customers, automate marketing and more. The platform will also deploy AI to help users collect insights. It is not yet clear if the crypto ban will extend to other applications in the works.
Mailchimp is not the only platform of its kind out there, of course. Others, such as Substack and Sendy, place fewer restrictions on users. Future crypto-friendly platforms will probably find themselves with a large and loyal base in the community, making one company’s policy less important. Still, Mailchimp would be wise to narrow its crypto restrictions.
As one Twitter commenter asked, “Why not leave it up to people to decide for themselves if they want to make a stupid investment? Why should that burden fall on the service provider?” Another opined, “Mailchimp won’t exist in five years.”
Mailchimp, we promise, it’s nothing personal.