Coinbase Explains Guidelines for Removing Accounts and Content

Coinbase Explains Guidelines for Removing Accounts and Content

“Our approach is to be free speech supporters, but not free speech martyrs,” writes Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong.

Coinbase’s CEO spelled out the crypto exchange’s policies on when to remove accounts or moderate content, wading into a broader tech industry debate about free speech, de-platforming and corporate responsibilities.

It’s a dangerous precedent, Armstrong wrote in a blog post Friday, when Coinbase (COIN) or any tech company begins making “judgement calls on difficult societal issues, acting as judge and jury.”

Armstrong’s post was a timely one given what’s happening in Canada, where the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe – at the Trudeau government’s request – has frozen distribution of more than C$9 million that had been raised in support of protesting truckers. It also comes amid mounting pressure on streaming platform Spotify to drop Joe Rogan’s podcast for allegedly spreading coronavirus “misinformation.”

In describing CoinDesk’s approach to removal or moderation, Armstrong first differentiated between infrastructure products and public-facing products. Infrastructure products are used privately by individual customers and allow access to basic financial services.

For these, he wrote, Coinbase will follow “rule of law,” as elected governments, not companies, should decide what is and isn’t allowed.

Public-facing products may include user-generated content, with social features visible to large numbers of users, and thus require a more nuanced approach, Armstrong wrote, in an apparent reference to Coinbase’s forthcoming marketplace for non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Coinbase will remove content only if 1) It’s illegal in a jurisdiction in which Coinbase operates; 2) It’s a free speech exception under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; or 3) A critical partner (such as a payment processor or bank) requires Coinbase to remove it.

“Our approach is to be free speech supporters, but not free speech martyrs,” Armstrong wrote.

Armstrong previously went against the Silicon Valley grain in 2020 by declaring Coinbase was an apolitical company while big tech companies signaled support for protest movements.

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