Coinbase adds hidden message with political undertones to BTC blockchain on day of IPO
The crypto exchange, whose CEO has previously dissuaded employees from expressing political views, started its initial public offering off with a message referencing U.S. President Joe Biden’s stimulus package.
According to Coinbase, the crypto exchange had mining pool F2Pool embed the title of a New York Times article in the Bitcoin (BTC) blockchain at 2:05 PM UTC today. The message in block 679,187 refers to the U.S. Congress passing the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on March 10 — a bill which set aside $1.9 trillion for measures aimed at curbing the economic impact of the pandemic.
In posting the message on the day its COIN stock opened on the Nasdaq, Coinbase said it was paying homage to the title of a news article Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto embedded in the BTC genesis block mined on Jan. 3, 2009. The story, “Chancellor on Brink of Second Bailout for Banks,” was from the publication The London Times during the financial crisis starting in 2008.
Though Satoshi started the trend, other crypto miners have previously used hidden messages to mark notable events in Bitcoin history. Immediately prior to the third BTC halving in May 2020, F2Pool included a message in the Bitcoin blockchain containing the title of a New York Times article comparing the financial crisis caused by COVID-19 to the situation in 2008. An unknown miner also embedded a Bible verse in a transaction in block number 666,666 of the blockchain — the number 666 is well known for its religious connotation.
U.S. lawmakers voted on the American Rescue Plan almost entirely along party lines, with the bill receiving no Republican support in the House or the Senate. However, the implication of an article like the one Coinbase had F2Pool add to the blockchain would seemingly go against CEO Brian Armstrong’s stance on his employees expressing political views.
Last September, Armstrong wrote a blog post claiming Coinbase’s mission did not include advocating “for any particular causes or candidates internally that are unrelated to our mission because it is a distraction from our mission.”
“We won’t debate causes or political candidates internally that are unrelated to work,” said Armstrong at the time. He added that Coinbase employees should not “expect the company to represent our personal beliefs externally” and the exchange should instead be “laser focused on achieving its mission.”
Sixty Coinbase employees, or roughly 5% of its staff at the time, reportedly left the firm following the CEO’s announcement. Armstrong later claimed that a “silent majority” of employees sided with him on keeping politics out of Coinbase, but some who stayed have allegedly said the firm is stifling their freedom of speech.
Though there is no constitutionally mandated right to free speech within private companies, the topic has been fiercely debated. Institutions like Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Major League Baseball, and others have spoken out against a Georgia law many civil rights advocates say is aimed at voter suppression. In a followup interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box regarding politics at Coinbase today, Armstrong said companies “with great intentions can sometimes end up creating division and unwelcoming environments internally by engaging some of these issues.”
The embedded BTC blockchain message from today did not seem to spark the same level of outrage from social users as the CEO’s tweet in October. On that occasion, during regular business hours, Armstrong sent a link to his more than 500,000 Twitter followers to an article containing falsehoods about then-candidate Joe Biden’s son, Beau.