Wikimedia is the non-profit firm behind Wikipedia and a host of other sites that operate under similar principles, and has the goal of “developing and maintaining open content” and funding it. Now, after four months of community discussion and argument, it has announced that it will no longer be taking donations in cryptocurrency.
The 'no crypto' campaign was started by the multi-talented Molly White, a software engineer, the creator of Web3 Is Going Just Great, a Wikipedia editor with the unbeatable name GorillaWarfare, and a sworn enemy of crypto-bros everywhere. White made a Wikimedia 'request for comment' which ran from January 10 to April 12, during which time the community argued both sides of the crypto donation issue.
Around 400 community members took part and, per the Wikimedia document, the most common arguments in favour of the crypto-ban were “issues of environmental sustainability,” “that accepting cryptocurrencies constitutes implicit endorsement of the issues surrounding cryptocurrencies,” and “community issues with the risk to the movement's reputation for accepting cryptocurrencies.”
Opponents of the ban argued that there are “less energy-intensive cryptocurrencies” that relay on proof-of-stake, that “cryptocurrencies provide safer ways to donate and engage in finance for people in oppressive countries,” and that “fiat currencies also have issues with environmental sustainability.”
what’s that rumbling noise in the distance, slowly growing louder, you ask?it is the stampede of crypto zealots who have never once donated to the wikimedia foundation, shouting “guess i’ll take my money elsewhere!”April 13, 2022
Amusingly enough, while this was going on the discussion was posted to several crypto forums and subreddits, leading to one thing that Wikipedia editors Do Not Like One Bit: external brigading on a matter of wider community interest. A notice clarifying that 'this is not a ballot' was added, though as the appropriately named AndyTheGrump noted: “Maybe at least one or two of the crypto-Redditors will read it, though I suspect most won't.”
Eventually, a community vote was held: 232 community members voted that Wikimedia should no longer accept donations in crypto, while 94 voted that it should. This meant 71.17% supported the proposal, and thus it was requested that the Wikimedia Foundation stop accepting cryptocurrency, which it has now confirmed it is doing.
This is probably not going to make much difference to the Wikimedia Foundation in the short term: a very small amount of the organization's total incoming donations were in the form of cryptocurrency. The Foundation shared that it received $130,100.94 worth of cryptocurrency donations in 2021, which represented just 0.08% of total donations. It had been accepting crypto donations since 2014.
I've contacted White to ask about the campaign, but am yet to receive a response. She has however provided the following statement to the Verge: “I'm really happy that the Wikimedia Foundation implemented the request from its community, and I'm really proud of my community for making what I feel was the ethical decision after a lot of thoughtful discussion. There are just too many issues with crypto for any potential donation revenue to be worth the cost of helping to legitimize it.”
Ms White also made the following observation after several days of the crypto crowd getting mad at her: “For all the talk about community self-governance and individual agency, crypto people sure get mad when a community they're not a part of self-governs in a way that they don't agree with.”
The Wikimedia Foundation made this statement, which does leave the door open for a future reversal in policy: “The Wikimedia Foundation has decided to discontinue direct acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of donating. We began our direct acceptance of cryptocurrency in 2014 based on requests from our volunteers and donor communities. We are making this decision based on recent feedback from those same communities. Specifically, we will be closing our Bitpay account, which will remove our ability to directly accept cryptocurrency as a method of donating.
“We will continue to monitor this issue, and appreciate the feedback and consideration given to this evolving matter by people across the Wikimedia movement. We will remain flexible and responsive to the needs of volunteers and donors. Thank you again to everyone that has provided valuable input on this increasingly complex and shifting topic.”