Wikileaks has been a controversial source of news and leaked documents for some time now which has made it hard for them to solicit donations. However, for a little background, Wikileaks operates much like a regular mainstream journalistic news outlet does. Mainstream news outlets such as the Washington Post and The New York Times both regularly publish private documents when reporting on a story, and they suffer no consequences as this type of disclosure is protected under the law for news outlets. As long as a journalist didn’t break the law in obtaining private documents, he is not liable for publishing the documents assuming they are newsworthy. This applies even if the person who originally obtained the documents did so illegally. This is very important to understand and it often gets lost when people discuss Wikileaks. As a news organization, Wikileaks does not break the law.
So in this respect, Wikileaks is acting exactly as a mainstream news outlet is allowed to do, yet they have been demonized by virtually every side of the political spectrum at one point or another. In America, when Wikileaks released information about the Iraq war that was damaging to the Bush administration, Republicans called for him to be arrested and put on trial. Democrats at the time hailed him as a hero. But a few years later, Wikileaks released information damaging to the Clinton presidential campaign. Democrats called for his arrest and claimed he was a Russian operative. Republicans hailed him as a hero. So as you can see, both political parties have hated Wikileaks at one time or another.
In general, if both political parties are angry at you, it probably means you are telling the truth.
But all of this brings us to the situation with Coinbase. Wikileaks has had its accounts for accepting donations suspended by most every mainstream payment service, including Paypal. Crypto donations were their last resort to continue accepting donations since all of the methods for them to accept fiat had been suspended by the banks and financial services companies. But now, Coinbase has shown that they they are no different from any of those old world, legacy services such as Paypal and the traditional banks. Just as Paypal refused to do business with Wikileaks, mainly for political reasons, now Coinbase has done the same.
This shows that Coinbase is a crypto based business in name only. They are no different than the Long Island Ice Tea company which added “blockchain” to their name a few months back in an attempt to jump on the crypto bandwagon despite having no real attachment to crypto or blockchain technology.
Coinbase wants it both ways. They want the shine and luster of crypto, but they want to be in bed with the same old legacy, oppressive institutions and governments that crypto was designed to circumvent.
But not only this, we have to also ask what was the real reason that Coinbase decided to suspend the account of Wikileaks? Was it simply a lawyer representing them that decided it was a liability? Or instead, was it a regulator or group of regulators with political motives that put the pressure on Coinbase to suspend Wikileaks or face an uphill battle in future regulatory dealings? I think it’s quite obvious that Coinbase received outside pressure to suspend Wikileaks. Coinbase knew they were a customer and using the service, so it’s not like they suddenly found out. In fact, Wikileaks was probably one of their more prominent and most well known customers. So for them to suddenly suspend them suggests that they had received outside pressure to do so. If this was a strictly internal decision, they would have never allowed them in the first place.
Now granted, if they had to suspend Wikileaks to protect their own business, I understand that. But what does that make Coinbase? They did exactly what other banks and financial institutions did as well, so it makes them no different, which is fine for them. But they are simply an old fashioned bank selling you crypto.
But regardless of their reasons, this is a bad look for Coinbase and it shows that they are simply an old world financial company that happens to sell crypto at the moment. They are not a blockchain company and they are not supporting decentralization. In fact, they are starting to look like the opposite, a company focused on centralization and getting into bed with governments and legacy financial institutions for their own benefit.