According to a tweet, the WikiLeaks Shop has been banned from Coinbase without explanation. In response, they are asking their followers for a “global blockade” of Coinbase next week as an “unfit member of the crypto community.” The organization, spearheaded by Julian Assange, has suggested that Coinbase banned their store in response to a “concealed influence.”
WikiLeaks will call for a global blockade of Coinbase next week as an unfit member of the crypto community. Coinbase, a large Californian Bitcoin processor, responding to a concealed influence, has blocked the entirely harmless @WikiLeaksShop in a decision approved by management. https://t.co/PAldF8b12P
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 21, 2018
As reported in The New York Times and other publications, the Democratic party is continuing its Trump-Russia conspiracy in a new lawsuit, in which WikiLeaks is a named defendant. This lawsuit was put in motion at the same time that the Comey memos came out with no suggestion of collusion, according to the NY Post. President Donald J. Trump has claimed total vindication after the release of the former FBI Director’s memos, also timed with the release of Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty.”
It is a fact that WikiLeaks released hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and others that showed collusion within the DNC and with media organizations designed to increase the likelihood of a Hillary Clinton Presidency. Podesta claimed that the Russian government was behind the hack, according to the BBC. According to the Bernie Sanders campaign, the DNC did not act as a neutral arbiter of the Democratic Primary. Donna Brazile was shown to have shared questions with Hillary Clinton in advance of the debates, as reported in Vox. And, as shown in hacked emails released by WikiLeaks, the Clinton campaign was personally responsible for driving the narrative in mainstream media to make Trump the Republican nominee as part of a “Pied Piper Strategy.”
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) November 9, 2016
It is no secret that foreign governments interfere in elections all the time, and the United States is no different. As reported in an op-ed in The New York Times, the United States has a long history of intervention in foreign elections. Among other things, this includes “bags of cash delivered to a Rome hotel for favored Italian candidates.” As Steven L Hall, retired CIA chief of Russian operations stated, the United States absolutely has carried out such election influence operations historically, “and I hope we keep doing it.”
Under this assumption, it is certainly possible that Russian operatives are responsible for providing the hacked emails to WikiLeaks, though the organization denies it. However, it is also true that the emails proved that nefarious activities were going on within the Democratic Party, in collusion with mainstream media organizations, in an effort to get their preferred candidate elected. There may be nothing illegal about such activities, but it does shed light on the actual “democratic” process of elections in the United States. While people are free to vote as they choose, there is an element of transparency that is missing from the process, and there is a level of secrecy that WikiLeaks has been instrumental in bringing to the surface.
This brings us back to whether Coinbase acted alone in banning the WikiLeaks shop. The US government, as well as the UK government and others have put pressure on YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites to block certain forms of content that it deems dangerous or “terrorist” related. Perhaps the most well-known outcome is the taking down of videos of “known extremists.” Indeed, government actors have their interests in mind when pushing for such policies. Is WikiLeaks an extremist organization? That’s doubtful. They’re a news organization that publishes content received from anonymous sources. While an argument can be made about the risk to foreign operatives when content is published without sanitizing it first, there is an equivalent argument in favor of transparency in governance. WikiLeaks may have published content that benefited the Russian government, assuming that their goal was to cause civil discord in the US election process. But was this worthy of a Coinbase ban? Probably not. Was Coinbase at fault for executing such a ban? That depends on whether they agree with the idea that WikiLeaks was acting as an arm of the Russian government, or whether they were simply concerned with regulatory pressure on their business from the US government in response to non-action, and whether donations to organizations that publish hacked emails that prove nefarious activities by US government officials fits into an AML (Anti-Money Laundering) legal framework.