Popular cryptocurrency bank/exchange Coinbase has reportedly banned controversial social media platform Gab from transacting. It’s actually the second time the exchange has banned Gab in less than a year. The increasing amount of censorship has crypto purists up in arms while others cheer the ecosystem’s self policing and maturation.
Coinbase Bans Gab
Two tweets from Gab in not quite 24 hours tell part of the tale. “As predicted: the on ramps and off ramps (exchanges) are going to start censoring not only companies, but also individuals. @coinbase has now banned both Gab’s merchant account and Andrew Torba’s personal account. Decentralized exchanges are the future,” came the confirmation from its official account.
In what turns out to have been a bit of premonition, the social media site tweeted out its general objection to censorship just hours prior. “The next phase of financial censorship as people move to bitcoin is censoring the on ramps and off ramps (exchanges.) This will force and incentivize people to not use those ramps and instead only use bitcoin for all things. Keep censoring. It will only push people to bitcoin,” Gab tweeted. Coinbase is pushing, again, evidently.
The dust ups have come largely from Gab having been accused of fuzzily providing intellectual shelter for the likes of mass murderer Robert Bowers. Not quite three months ago, he slaughtered nearly a dozen worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue, and investigators immediately seized upon his having had an account on Gab where he allegedly announced what he was about to do.
Coordinated and Chilling
Gab suspended the account once alerted, but public uproar caused Joyent, GoDaddy, PayPal, Stripe, and Medium to drop the platform altogether. And now Coinbase can be added to the list, and it’s a chilling reminder of centralized exchanges’ power. It has been a crazy ride for Gab, which has been around for two years, and only began open registrations in 2017.
Gab is considered a wildcat space open to everyone, but a haven for otherwise increasingly excluded social media pariahs: white nationalists, assorted racists, conspiracy types, conservatives and libertarians. As social media platforms go, Gab is relatively small with under a million users. But its existence, its mere availability, has roiled more progressive-leaning lawmakers and businesses, all of whom have called for deplatforming the site and its content.
For crypto enthusiasts, quite a few of whom count themselves as libertarian-ish or fellow travelers, Gab poses an interesting problem. Must a site necessarily endorse views it helps to spread? Can supremacists and so-called “hate” speech be banned when a platform exists as a place to speak freely? Co-founder Andrew Torba has insisted his personal worldview is not necessarily reflected in Gab users, and bad speech, objectionable speech is best counteracted with more and better speech, not less.
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