The delisting of Craig Wright’s Bitcoin fork—Bitcoin SV—has been largely met with jubilant approval throughout cryptoland.
First came Binance, and now, Kraken, which announced today it was giving Wright’s baby the boot. Erik Voorhees’s ShapeShift has also said the coin’s days are numbered on his exchange. And the cheers are only getting louder among the denizens of cryptoland, who are disgusted by the Australian’s litigious ways and interpret all this as just deserts.
But there are a few voices in the wilderness urging caution about the kind of precedent that’s being set.
“This move was all about money and power,” says Olta Andoni, head of Ziliak Law’s blockchain practice and an adjunct professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. “This was done in retaliation of a personal feud and was not based on any ethical principles.”
Wright, the man largely responsible for willing Bitcoin SV into existence, wants the world to believe that he is also the man behind the Bitcoin—Satoshi Nakamoto—and will sue anyone with a big enough following who says that he isn’t. But taking aim at an anonymous crypto trader on Twitter—even offering a $5,000 bounty to anyone who could successfully dox Hodlonaut, proved to be a bridge too far in cryptoland.
On Monday, Changpeng Zhao (CZ), CEO of Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange—and arguably the most powerful company in the industry, made good on his threat to banish Bitcoin SV from his exchange if there was “anymore of this sh!t”—which, of course, Wright promptly ignored by providing plenty more.
Craig Wright and Bitcoin SV are toxic and must be stopped, says the mob. But at what cost?
Andoni says she isn’t taking anyone’s side in the dispute, and has no special affinity for Wright necessarily, but is nevertheless concerned about the potential for abuse being put on display. “Exchanges have the right to police their ecosystems and establish compliance standards for their projects, but at the same time they should follow some due process for delisting tokens,” she says. “Imagine if NASDAQ would delist the same way.”
Binance, like every other crypto exchange, has no formal listing or delisting policy—at least not one that is publicly available. Its statement announcing the removal of Bitcoin SV from its platform followed the same boilerplate messaging as every previous announcement of its kind: the digital asset, it said, had violated one of a possible seven “variety of factors,” including “evidence of unethical / fraudulent conduct” or lack of “contribution to a healthy and sustainable crypto ecosystem."
Comments from CZ on Twitter, however, betray perhaps a more honest view: “I normally don't like [to] get involved in debates, pick sides, etc.,” he said. “But this is going too far. I also didn't like the fact that the fork caused BTC to drop below $6k, which caused pain to many in the industry.”
The mass delisting in-progress has already caused the price of BCHSV to tank, raising questions about whether industry-wide procedures ought to be put in place to protect investors from such practices. “Some retail [investors] will be severely hurt by this delisting,” said Gabriel Shapiro, an attorney at DLx Law. “I think Binance did the right thing. But you can see how there is potential for delisting abuse. Some rules around sufficiently advanced public disclosure, orderly unwind [and] market circuit breakers would be good.”
Andoni echoes the sentiment, adding that “if we are trying to bring in institutional investors, this sort of ‘self-policing’ regulation is not going to help.”
What’s more, Andoni says the entire affair is very reminiscent of the mass deplatforming and censoring of individuals on social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter—Binance has kicked off a trend, sealing BCHSV’s fate, without any sort of public adjudication process or opportunity for appeal.
Indeed, those who defend Binance’s actions say it’s a private enterprise and can do whatever it pleases with its business—the same defense offered by the apologists of the social media giants.
And while the argument may be technically—and even legally—correct, the irony is inescapable.
The same crowd that champions decentralization and uncensorable, immutable speech etched in code, now cheers as a token—itself a symbol of man reviled across cryptoland—is effectively deplatformed en masse.
Somehow, Binance—through a show of force and a willingness to arbitrarily flex its muscle and separate princes from paupers in cryptoland—has become the hero in this story.
It’s understandable. It took the perfect villain.
Wright may be a jerk—and a rich, litigious one, at that. He finally crossed the line. We get it.
Still, the whole thing feels a bit weird—like, sliding down a slippery slope with both hands in the air, giant shit-eating grins across our faces, praying we don’t slam into a tree kinda weird.
Nobody wants that. Not Wright. Not crypto hodlers. And not Satoshi, whoever he/she/it/they really is.