Coinbase caused a bit of a stir last month after the firm announced a policy restricting employees from airing their political beliefs. Since the policy came out, there’s been a litany of backlash from the tech world.
Accountability for All Tech Firms
Brad Garlinghouse, the chief executive at blockchain company Ripple Labs, has now joined the ranks. In an interview with CNBC, Garlinghouse explained that he opposed the company’s resolution, saying that tech companies have a responsibility to air their views on political matters.
As the CEO explained, tech firms have contributed to the degradation of political matters that the United States sees today. By failing to adequately police content and providing platforms for hate speech to thrive, tech firms have done their part to bring the country to such a boiling point. While a lot of these issues have happened through no fault of tech firms, they still have a share of the blame and should be willing to proffer solutions.
Marking an example, Garlinghouse pointed out that Ripple Labs is currently suing YouTube over the promotion of a fake giveaway scam that involved him. He explained that while the legality of the case wasn’t consuming the firm, tech companies should take more responsibility for the content they push out and better police them.
Coinbase’s apolitical stance has been an interesting case. When company CEO Brian Armstrong announced it last month, he explained that the firm had chosen this stance to ensure that employees remain focused on their tasks – driving economic freedom by providing easier access to cryptocurrencies.
Reactions to Coinbase’s New Policy
As Armstrong explained, he believed that allowing workers to spend time on activism would hamper Coinbase’s goals. He added that most employees also prefer to work in companies that provide refuge from the division in the outside world. Thus, Coinbase would focus minimally on causes that aren’t aligned with its mission in the future. These include political and societal issues, nonprofit work, and policy decisions.
The policy announcement immediately drew reactions, both internally and externally. As Armstrong confirmed in the statement, about sixty employees had informed him that they would leave the firm. That amounted to about five percent of Coinbase’s total workforce, with some more departures expected soon.
Externally, many aired their views too. Twitter’s CEO and Square boss Jack Dorsey explained in a tweet that Bitcoin itself was a form of activism against a discriminatory financial system. Given Coinbase’s position in the crypto industry, the firm was risking leaving customers behind by merely turning a blind eye to the country’s political stance.
#Bitcoin (aka “crypto”) 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: https://t.co/0LMlF1qcmG
— jack (@jack) September 30, 2020
Things have gotten even worse as Armstrong himself recently tweeted a post that seemingly endorsed rapper Kanye West for president. The tweet, which has since been taken down, reportedly contained misinformation, including that Beau Biden – the son of Democrat presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden – killed himself. The late Biden actually died of bran cancer in 2015.
Even if the tweet were not false, it went against Armstrong’s apolitical stance. Many have called Armstrong out for the hypocrisy.