Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey voiced his disapproval of the refusal of the CEO of major U.S. crypto exchange Coinbase to take a position concerning the Black Lives Matter movement.
Dorsey suggested in a tweet sent on Sept. 30 that Bitcoin cannot be separated from political activism, which makes Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong’s decision to not take a position on the Black Lives Matter movement pointless. Dorsey said:
“Bitcoin […] is direct activism against an unverifiable and exclusionary financial system which negatively affects so much of our society. Important to at *least* acknowledge and connect the related societal issues your customers face daily. This leaves people behind.”
The Bitcoin genesis block included the phrase “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”—referring to the Times of London’s article about bailout of banks many considered responsible for the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Considering that Bitcoin is an alternative to the banking-based financial system, there’s a great deal of political activism in that phrase.
Dorsey himself jumped headlong into political action this spring, when he announced he was creating a $1 billion philanthropic fund. While that will start by focusing on COVID-19, it will morph into two very political causes: universal basic income and girls education.
Waste of resources
In his Sept. 27 Medium article, Armstrong explains that Coinbase does not engage with topics such as the Black Lives Matter movement because he wants the company “to be laser focused on achieving its mission.” In the post, he implicitly suggests that he is afraid engaging in societal issues could be a waste of company resources:
“There are many places that a company can choose to allocate its limited time and resources. There is never enough time to do everything, so companies need to choose what change they want to see in the world and focus there. It can take decades to move the needle on large global challenges.”
Armstrong explained that Coinbase is focused on building, which means that it is “going to focus on being the best company” that it can be. He admits that the company plans to engage with societal issues, but not Black Lives Matter as he believes it to be unrelated to the firm’s mission—which is what Dorsey argues to be incorrect.
“There are real issues that real people who use these services every day experience,” Dorsey argued. “Why would we not acknowledge and connect with our mission? Not asking for solutions, but as we connect the issues the solutions become clearer.”
However, Armstrong also said that the company does not advocate for any political cause because it is a “distraction.” He also explained that he believes engaging in such debates creates fractures within the the company. He admitted that this choice may be controversial, but he said that he believes it to be the right choice:
“I recognize that our approach is not for everyone, and may be controversial. I know that many people may not agree, and some employees may resign. I also know that some of what I’ve written above will be misinterpreted, whether accidentally or on purpose.”
That said, Armstrong added that he believes “it’s the right approach for Coinbase that will set us up for success long term, and I would rather be honest and transparent about that than equivocate and work in a company that is not aligned.”