Help! An algorithm killed our Etsy shop

UPDATE:

Through the incredible outpouring of support from all of you, we have been able to put enough pressure on Etsy to have our account reviewed and reinstated. We are so endlessly grateful for everyone's time, suggestions, efforts and suggestions, and we are humbled by all of the kind messages we received. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


On Tuesday, July 17th, Etsy deactivated our store without warning and we need your help to fix it! After hours of phone calls and emails, Etsy told us that we had been closed because of claims of IP infringement – but here's the kicker – these claims were against another Etsy store, not against us.

Last summer we hired a freelance consultant to help us with SEO on the Etsy platform. During the time he was working for us, he also had other clients for whom he performed similar services. One of the other stores he was working for was flagged for IP theft. In IP infringement cases Etsy uses an algorithm to find people running multiple accounts. Once Etsy closes a store for IP infringement, the algorithm sends back possible matches, and they shut down everything, no questions asked. There's no channel for review by an actual human, and stores are not given any ability to contest the decision. Since we and at least 10 other stores used this freelancer, the algorithm considered all of our stores to be linked and closed us all without warning last week. We’ve tried pleading our case to Etsy — but their legal team refuses to hear our explanation. According to their system, we are connected to this fraudulent shop and it is their policy to not respond.

The sudden loss of our Etsy sales channel is going to have a dire effect on our business. It accounts for 20% of our sales. If we are not able to get our store back we will likely have to reduce staff. We’ve tried everything we can do on our own, but maybe with your help, we can do this.

If you’re ready to help, here’s how:

  1. Do you know anyone who works at Etsy? We are currently being stonewalled by their legal team and need to talk to an actual person who can examine our evidence. If you know such a person, please get in touch with us: kristen@cognitive-surplus.com
  2. Do you know any / are you a / or can you make any recommendations to, bloggers and journalists who would be interested in picking up this story? 11 upstanding shops in total were taken down. There is no appeals process. We are all banned for life and none of us can ever open another Etsy store. This has destroyed businesses and livelihoods instantly. Many of these shops do not have alternative sales channels. Etsy was their whole business and source of income. The Etsy team has 100% confidence in their protocol, but if mistakes like this can happen how else could it go wrong? If there is no appeals process, how are they sure that good shops aren’t being thrown out with the bathwater.
  3. Shop our online store and share our shop with your friends and family. We love everyone we have working for us and it kills us to think that we might have to let some people go on account of this nonsense. We just launched a major site update today, we’ve got loads of new beautiful notebooks and bag designs in the store. If you were thinking about shopping with us this summer, we need your help now more than ever.

The worst of it all is that despite the terrible situation in which we currently find ourselves, we have fared better than many of the other affected stores. For us, Etsy wasn't our exclusive sales channel. Some of the stores that got hit have had their whole business evaporate without warning. I’m really hoping we can get some press on this issue so that Etsy will reform their practices, to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else.