Andrew Torba, founder of the social media platform GAB, published a tweet from the official website account on January the 4th revealing that his Coinbase account had been terminated:
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. pic.twitter.com/LXkjblrdgu
— Gab.com (@getongab) January 4, 2019
Coinbase is a digital currency exchange based in California. They provide a platform which manages how people transact their crypto tokens and serves as a wallet, where their digital currencies can be stored.
Torba’s account was allegedly closed in December, according to a report by blockchain blogger Breaker. Coinbase has allowed Torba to withdraw his bitcoins (BTC) and place them into other holdings. The exchange did not mention any specific reasoning for the termination of the account. It is most likely that Coinbase decided to remove the account on the basis that Torba’s website, GAB, is host to a plethora of racist, inflammatory opinions.
Gab describes itself on its website as a “social network that champions free speech, individual liberty and the free flow of information online. All are welcome.”
The site has proven to be host to white supremacists and members of the alt-right. According to the Huffington Post, Torba has “rooted for prominent racists, vilified minorities, fetishized “trad life” in which women stay at home with the kids, and fantasized about a second American civil war in which the right outguns the left.”
Gab was also the social platform used by the Pittsburgh shooter to post his final message before he shot and killed 11 people in a synagogue in October of 2018. PayPal, the world-renowned payment processor, banned Gab’s company account in response to this shooting. A month later, in November, another payment processor, BitPay, also closed off GAB’s account.
Bisq, another exchange for cryptocurrencies as well as fiat, took this opportunity to criticize exchanges which are becoming more centralized, and to promote themselves:
If Bitcoin allows you to “be your own bank,” Bisq allows you to “be your own exchange.”
YOU run Bisq on YOUR own machine and trade bitcoin P2P.
Censorship-resistance by design, not policy.
Gatekeepers have no business being in bitcoin.
Let’s shun them! https://t.co/DMG9vAFZXm
— Bisq (@bisq_network) January 5, 2019
The move undertaken by Coinbase is a controversial one. On one hand, it is a reasonable and decent move to separate those who promote bigotry and violence. On the other, the main core value of cryptocurrency and crypto exchanges is to be decentralized and thus censorship resistant. Coinbase’s actions, however justified, is further evidence that third party platforms may not be able to function as true decentralized entities.