Mailchimp, the email marketing firm, has dropped a pro-Second Amendment nonprofit from using its platform to reach members, in a move critics see as another attempt in the tech industry to stifle conservative speech.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League has been using the Mailchimp service to send updates to its members.
The nonprofit's president, Philip Van Cleave, told Fox Business on Friday that Mailchimp ended the service without warning.
"It just came out of the blue," he said. "They said we just think it's too big of a risk, and we're just canceling your account. The timing was suspicious too, just a few days before our lobby day."
VCDL's annual Lobby Day calls on Second Amendment supporters to rally against gun control legislation at the state’s capital. Van Cleave said it has gone on peacefully for the past 25 years. This year, because of COVID-19, the group plans to drive through the city in separate caravans from different parts of the state, rather than gather together at the Capitol Square. And Van Cleave said they were coordinating to spread the drives out to try not to cause any traffic jams.
Jony Baker, a VCDL member and deputy sheriff who is running for the Virginia State Senate on a pro-Second Amendment platform, defended the group on Thursday as “a great organization that advocates for people to use their First Amendment right to defend their Second Amendment right."
“What big tech, liberals, and RINOs are doing to censor conservatives is completely horrific and harms American’s free speech,” he told Fox Business referring to Republicans in name only. “We live in the land of the free and home of the brave, not communist China.”
Recent messages from the VCDL on Mailchimp, which remain visible on the group’s website, were about the Lobby Day event in Richmond on Jan. 18.
But the vendor decided to cut off the group Wednesday, citing “serious risks associated with the account,” according to a screenshot of an email Mailchimp sent to the VCDL, first published by the Washington Free Beacon.
Mailchimp did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.
The Mailchimp cancellation comes after Twitter and Facebook each banned President Trump in the aftermath of the Capitol Hill riot on Jan. 6 during the validation of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Big Tech’s most dominant players, Google, Apple and Amazon, subsequently clamped down on the Twitter alternative Parler, which refused demands to play by Twitter's rules regarding controversial speech.
Conservatives and some Democrats, including former Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, have criticized the moves as censorship and an assault on free speech.
In the past week, Van Cleave said a VCDL Facebook event and his personal account were taken down by the social media giant. Although the nonprofit's page remains open.
"My hope is that social media will eventually expand, and the guys that are doing this will go the way of Sears," he said, referring to the faltering department store retailer that was once a national behemoth. "I'm hoping that somebody replaces these with people more freedom-minded."