Molly White, a longtime editor of Wikipedia who edits under the username GorillaWarfare, has submitted a proposal that seeks to end the Wikimedia Foundation’s acceptance of crypto donations. 

The Wikimedia Foundation is a nonprofit charitable organization that has been set up to fund Wikipedia. 

White’s concerns revolve primarily around the environmental impact of cryptocurrencies. Currently, Wikipedia accepts Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ethereum

White presented three key reasons for why the platform should end crypto donations. 

First, she claims that “accepting cryptocurrency signals endorsement of the cryptocurrency space by the Wikimedia Foundation and members of the Wikimedia Movement,” adding that she believes Wikipedia is “mainstreaming the usage of ‘investments’ and technology that are inherently predatory.” 

She also claims that cryptocurrencies “may not align with the Wikimedia Foundation’s commitment to environmental sustainability,” and that the Wikimedia Foundation “risks damaging [its] reputation by participating in this.” 

Debating White’s proposal

White’s proposal, which was published on Tuesday, is followed by several sub-discussions and a vote.

It is important to point out that the proposal is not being judged by a majority vote, but instead via a discussion among Wikimedia contributors. “Agreement is gauged based on the merits of the arguments, not by counting votes,” the page reads. 

In any case, the majority of voters agree with White’s proposal. 

“Long overdue. Accepting cryptocurrency makes a joke out of the [Wikimedia Foundation’s] commitment to environmental sustainability,” one contributor said. 

Another added “the cryptocurrency donation feature completely disregards the Sustainability commitment. Cryptocurrency takes a massive toll on the environment.” 

Others, while in the minority, disagree with the proposal. One contributor said, “crypto aligns with our values of free software and user freedom.” 

White believes that should the Wikimedia Foundation decide to stop accepting cryptocurrency, it would not “cost us much in terms of lost donations.” In any case, she has asked for more information about the Wikimedia Foundation’s donations here

Crypto and the environment

The crypto industry’s impact on the environment is now well documented. 

The Bitcoin network, which consumes more energy than most of the world’s countries per year, generates a carbon footprint broadly equivalent to billions of pounds of burned coal, or millions of homes’ average annual consumption of electricity. 

In turn, the Ethereum network—which, like Bitcoin, operates on a proof-of-work (PoW) consensus algorithm—is said to consume approximately 106 terawatt-hours of energy per year. 

Of course, the Wikimedia Foundation is not the only one facing public calls to suspend crypto donations amid growing concerns over the industry’s carbon footprint. 

Mozilla, the nonprofit behind the Firefox internet browser, faced immense backlash recently after tweeting a reminder that crypto donations were accepted. The backlash was so intense, Mozilla announced a pause on crypto donations to review if they fit with the company’s climate goals. 

“It seems to be a trend now,” Digiconomist founder Alex de Vries told Decrypt, citing Mozilla’s recent decision. 

Wikipedia’s relationship with crypto

Despite the Wikimedia Foundation accepting crypto donations, Wikipedia’s editors have previously been embroiled in crypto controversy. 

In March 2020, Cardano founder Charles Hoskinson said Wikipedia’s editors censor crypto

“David Gerard is the one who has been a censor. It has been going on for years since the Ethereum days,” Hoskinson said. David Gerard is a well-known crypto-critic who, in 2017, published a critical book of the industry titled “Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain.”

Wikipedia claimed text relating to Ouroboros—the consensus algorithm that powers Cardano—was self-promotional. 

“The text proposed above is hardly neutral—it talks about ‘diligent research’ and ‘innovative features’ which ‘lend credibility to its claim,’” one editor operating under the name Bonade said.