Coinbase

By Brian Armstrong

In the last few years, it’s become increasingly common for tech companies to censor customers or close their accounts for a range of reasons (e.g., misinformation). Luckily, as a crypto business we don’t face this issue as frequently as a social network does, but we still need to set clear policies around acceptable use of our products. As our product suite grows, it will even include products that host user generated content like NFTs.

Our high level philosophy is that, in a democratic society, the people and their elected officials should decide what behavior is allowed and not allowed by setting laws. We think it sets a dangerous precedent when tech companies, such as Coinbase, or their executives start making judgment calls on difficult societal issues, acting as judge and jury. This approach sounds simple in theory, but in practice it is anything but.

First, it can be very complex to determine whether an activity is legal or illegal. Laws vary greatly across different countries, states, and regions. Some activities are legal only if you have a license. Some activity is in a gray area. Some unjust laws go unenforced. Like most companies, we refer suspected illegal activity to the relevant authorities, but we can’t expect to receive a timely response or opinion back from them given the many demands on their resources. Unfortunately, this puts us, along with most companies, in the unfortunate position of having to make our own determinations about what activity is legal or illegal.

Second, even if some activity is legal, it may be something that…


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