In brief

  • Coinbase outlaws political debate at the workplace, calling it a distraction.
  • Jack Dorsey argues that the move rejects Bitcoin's ideals.
  • Coinbase boss Brian Armstrong offers a severance package for those who disagree with the new stance.

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong has elected to ditch political debate in the workplace, fearing deviation from its broader mission of fostering crypto adoption and building the company. But some, including Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, don't entirely agree.

“Bitcoin (aka "crypto") is direct activism against an unverifiable and exclusionary financial system which negatively affects so much of our society,” Dorsey tweeted. “Important to at least acknowledge and connect the related societal issues your customers face daily.”

He added that Coinbase's new attitude could leave people behind. 

This debate comes at a contentious time in global politics. Human rights activism and protests are sweeping the world amid cries of social injustice, and a presidential race threatens to widen the divide further. Not to mention coronavirus-ushered economic crises and unprecedented responses from central banks and governments alike. But for Coinbase, that's all just a little too distracting.

Armstrong's Rationale

On September 27, Armstrong set out his manifesto, vowing to disengage from policy decisions that don't directly concern crypto, as well as avoid political partisanship and broader societal issues. Instead, the firm pledged to concentrate on building products, sourcing talent, and creating an inclusive workplace environment.

"We are going to focus on being the best company we can be, and making progress toward our mission, as compared to broader societal issues," stated the Coinbase blog.

For Armstrong, the shift to a politically neutral workspace comes in the wake of Silicon Valley's activism spring, which has oft boiled over into the ousting of c-level execs and mass strikes over the years.  While caveating that efforts are likely well-intentioned, Armstong stressed that on-the-job discourse has the "potential to destroy a lot of value at most companies, both by being a distraction and by creating internal division."

GitHub director of engineering Erica Joy claims that, according to insiders, the blog post comes after internal strife over Coinbase’s slow response to the Black Lives Matter movement. While Armstrong did tweet that Black lives unequivocally matter, it was reportedly after much debate—that later led to the blog post. 

Since then, Coinbase has offered employees who don't "feel comfortable with the new direction," a redundancy package. According to an internal company email, the package will contain six-month severance pay and a seven-year option exercise on vested stocks.

A decision that has also opened up plenty of debate.