Many people are familiar with the work of WikiLeaks, the well-known publisher of secret information. However, when they attempted to use one of their donation avenues, they were subsequently blocked by Coinbase, which is the largest bitcoin services company within the United States. It should come as no surprise that WikiLeaks is now encouraging others to take a stand and boycott Coinbase.
To counteract the knee-jerk reaction from WikiLeaks, Coinbase states that their decision to block the publisher’s transactions is a result of violating their terms of service. While Coinbase states that their decision came after a “careful review,” the WikiLeaks Shop has yet to reveal the actions they took to cause the breach in contract. In the Coinbase email that the Shop received, they said:
“Upon careful review, we believe your account has engaged in prohibited use in violation of our Terms of Service and we regret to inform you that we can no longer provide you with access to our service. We respectfully request that you follow the on-screen instructions presented when you log into your Coinbase account to send any remaining balance offsite to an external address.”
Along with their email, Coinbase also referenced FinCEN regulations, implying that they may have played a role in the decision.
Coinbase strives to be the leading U.S. cryptocurrency exchange with their billion-dollar business. When there is a business effort of that level, there are certain regulations that a cryptocurrency company must abide by at a federal level. Despite that responsibility, the actions taken by Coinbase have not elicited a positive reaction in the cryptocurrency community.
Even though the reaction from WikiLeaks will not hold the same weight as the infamous blockade of 2010, there are still many revenues to use. Due to the simple action of maintaining any bitcoin, WikiLeaks still has the funds that they need to keep up operation. Currently, they accept ZCash, which is a more privacy-oriented token.
In reaction to the call to boycott Coinbase by WikiLeaks, Coinbase has followed the reaction with the demand for an embargo of their own. Even though most investors and experts say that the blockade itself is only meant to be a symbolic gesture, there are also many that believe that the loss of centralized services like Coinbase could be a positive step. This is just one of the many disputes that Coinbase has been in the middle of over the years.
This is not the first time that WikiLeaks has been challenged in their goals to perform various transactions. Back in December 2010, multiple payment processors decided to deny services and processing of transactions as a result of the controversial nature of the company. Some of those companies included big names like Visa, Amazon, and Western Union. The efforts nearly worked, bringing down the company’s revenue by a staggering 95%. The company went as far to call it a “concerted US-based, political attack.” To make a change in their business, they decided to add bitcoin to their transactions about six months later, only to find themselves in this situation with Coinbase years later.
Still, with all of this controversy, the challenge from Coinbase can bring a major issue to the center stage in cryptocurrency, showing the importance of decentralization and untrustworthy third parties. If the crypto community evolves enough to end the need for a third party at all, the political effect will be substantial. By taking a stand against any company in cryptocurrency, Coinbase is just bringing attention to a necessary shift that may eliminate the need for their services at all.