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Should the Wikimedia Foundation continue to accept cryptocurrency donations?

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By GorillaWarfare
GorillaWarfare is Molly White, a software engineer and longtime Wikipedia editor. She has been editing the English Wikipedia since 2006, has served several terms on the Arbitration Committee, and is an administrator and functionary.

When the Wikimedia Foundation first began accepting cryptocurrency donations in 2014,[1] it was still fairly nascent technology. Cryptocurrencies resonated with many in free and open-source software communities and in the Wikimedia movement more specifically, and cryptocurrency projects tended to share similar ideals: privacy, anonymity, decentralization, freedom.

In more recent history, cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based technologies more generally have morphed into something very different from the ideals of their youth. Some proponents continue to speak about freedom and decentralization, but the space has overwhelmingly become an opportunity for self-enrichment at the expense of others and the environment. Cryptomining operations set up shop in locations with low energy costs—until late 2021, most bitcoin mining happened in China, where it relied on coal so heavily that the resulting coal mining accidents from increased demand contributed to a crackdown on the practice.[2] Some of those miners moved to Kazakhstan, where they were using the nation’s supply of lignite (an extremely harmful form of coal) to produce 18% of the global computing power behind bitcoin in January.[3] Bitcoin mining alone rivals the total energy use of countries like the Netherlands or Finland;[4][5][6] emissions from other popular cryptocurrencies like ethereum only compound the problem.

Furthermore, in recent years, more and more enthusiasts are being convinced that they too might strike it rich by buying in early to the next bitcoin or the next ethereum. But unfortunately, the playing field more often resembles a landscape with scammers and marks. Many are convinced that purchasing these currencies is an "investment", rather than risky speculation that would be more accurately described as gambling if not outright investment fraud. People are regularly scammed for enormous sums of money, and the anonymous, nominally decentralized, and largely unregulated nature of the space offers them little recourse.[7]

The purported benefits of cryptocurrencies have also been largely unrealized. Rather than empowering the unbanked and distributing wealth to those in need, as once described, money has been hoarded in incredible amounts by a few wealthy individuals—0.01% of bitcoin wallets collectively own 27% of bitcoin in circulation, equivalent to around $232 billion.[8][9] Furthermore, the underlying technology is enormously slow and difficult to scale when compared to databases used in most modern computing, so many technologies built around blockchains have spawned new, centralized solutions to the problems the blockchains themselves have introduced. As a result, the decentralization of the web that was supposed to result from the adoption of blockchain technologies has only resulted in the centralization of power in a handful of companies and venture capital firms.

The Wikimedia Foundation's acceptance of cryptocurrency donations has had minimal returns, and no longer accepting them is unlikely to have a major impact on the Foundation's ability to fundraise. In 2021, the Wikimedia Foundation only received about $130,000 in donations via cryptocurrency, making it one of their smallest revenue channels at only 0.08% of total donations.[10] The benefits to donors are also minimal: the anonymity that might normally be offered to those who use cryptocurrencies is largely nullified by the WMF's cryptocurrency payment processor, BitPay, which requires prospective donors to disclose their identities.[11]

The most impactful result of the WMF's acceptance of cryptocurrencies has been to normalize their use. As the technology space around blockchains has evolved over the years, so too should we. Cryptocurrencies have been joined by a bubble of predatory, inherently harmful technologies that take advantage of individuals and contribute to the destruction of our environment. It is no longer ethical for the Wikimedia Foundation to tacitly endorse a technology that incentivizes the predatory behavior that has become rampant in the cryptocurrency space in the past few years. I have asked that they stop doing so in an RfC on meta.


  1. ^ Seitz-Gruwell, Lisa (July 30, 2014). "Wikimedia Foundation Now Accepts Bitcoin". Diff. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  2. ^ Mellor, Sophie (December 9, 2021). "Bitcoin miners have returned to the record activity they had before China's crypto crackdown". Fortune. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  3. ^ Wilson, Tom (January 8, 2022). "Bitcoin network power slumps as Kazakhstan crackdown hits crypto miners". Reuters. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  4. ^ Rowlatt, Justin (February 27, 2021). "How Bitcoin's vast energy use could burst its bubble". BBC News. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  5. ^ Huang, Jon; O’Neill, Claire; Tabuchi, Hiroko (September 3, 2021). "Bitcoin Uses More Electricity Than Many Countries. How Is That Possible?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  6. ^ "Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI)". Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance. January 21, 2022. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  7. ^ Sigalos, MacKenzie (January 6, 2022). "Crypto scammers took a record $14 billion in 2021". CNBC. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  8. ^ Vigna, Paul (December 20, 2021). "Bitcoin's 'One Percent' Controls Lion's Share of the Cryptocurrency's Wealth". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  9. ^ Makarov, Igor; Schoar, Antoinette (October 13, 2021). "Blockchain Analysis of the Bitcoin Market". National Bureau of Economic Research.
  10. ^ "Talk:Fundraising/2020-21 Report". Meta-Wiki. Retrieved January 22, 2022.
  11. ^ "Privacy Notice". BitPay. December 13, 2021. Retrieved January 22, 2022.

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This was actually published from my copy of the script, which probably has the same bug -- a real head-scratcher. Will have to remember this for February! jp×g 01:38, 31 January 2022 (UTC)[reply]
  • I invite you to consider the notion that the use of Bitcoin for remittances and financial inclusion is yet another move by Western capitalists to use lower-income countries to their benefit, by increasing the number of holders of their preferred financial asset in order to increase its value. If you want examples of local initiatives that are actually making a difference, see India's Unified Payments Interface and Africa's Pan-African Payment and Settlement System [1][2][3]. JBchrch talk 23:00, 2 February 2022 (UTC)[reply]
  • Thank you, I invite you to invite me to consider how I can take part in this without a birth certificate or a passport? Or if I need money to escape my slave master, or if my slave master keeps my documents.— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:38, 4 February 2022 (UTC)[reply]
    Do you realize how ridiculous you sound? How many slaves do you think have crypto currency wallets? How many slaves do you think have computers, or access to one? How likely is any of your dumbass scenario? Jorm (talk) 21:02, 4 February 2022 (UTC)[reply]
  • How am I not a slave if my forced husband owns me by law? How is my phone not a computer? Just because you don't know how to hide things on your phone doesn't mean that I can't, it also doesn't mean that I can't explain this to everyone I know. Just because I was born into an open air prison doesn't mean that I should not have means that allow me to make trades and hide them. I can do translation, accounting, design, almost anything for you on my phone, and you can pay me in any token, and one day I will have enough to escape. I can even get paid to play games. But I don't espect you to understand. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:31, 7 February 2022 (UTC)[reply]
  • How are traditional currencies any different in this regard? If the WMF held on to its crypto assets, and didn't spot convert it, its crypto donations would've dwarfed all other income 5x, and it would've today had 7 years of runway, instead of just 18 months. To boot, how do banks protect themselves against corrupt employees? Gold's value is not from jewelry and dentistry, it has value because it's fairly useless, yet scarce, but chiefly because it's a measure of the excess mining capacity and energy an economy has, so it's a peg on that. Similarly, oil is a peg on economic activity. Similarly, crypto commodities are a measure of how much excess energy and computing power an economy has. It smokes out cheap energy and computing, and with its hyper transparency it also smokes out corruption, and it rewards those who build it, three things that have much amplified value to our economies. This whole thread strikes me as the remarks of people who have never found themselves on the wrong side of any authority or regime. Count yourselves privileged and lucky, and I truly hope it stays that way for you, but don't assume that this is a luxury that everyone shares and don't expect everyone to await your imperial liberation with abated breath and don't forget that Wikipedia does not belong to the WMF. Actually, I just realized that WMF not accepting Crypto donations is totally fine, I am glad the WMF spot converted its Cryto donations, because I don't think it having more influence and power to spread its ignorance will change much.
  • Your explanation of gold and oil pricing is completely fabricated. I don't have the time to deconstruct it in detail but gold has not been a mesure of any country's economy since the end of the Gold Standard and oil pricing is heavily determined by what the OPEC does. In fact, this false explanation seems to be specifically built to justify the pricing of crypto. As for the authority or regime thing, I invite you to consider that a public and "hypertransparent" blockchain is not the best way to hide from an oppressive government. In fact, this notion is completely contradictory to your argument that crypto is good for anti-money laundering, anti-corruption and capital controls. JBchrch talk 14:01, 4 February 2022 (UTC)[reply]
  • And I don't resist adding that if the WMF had a stock of assets with returns so high that it would dwarf all their other assets, then the CFO should be fired, because they would have taken way more risk than a careful and long-term approach would dictate. It's a joke that Matt Levine has made a few times. JBchrch talk 16:29, 4 February 2022 (UTC)[reply]
To answer your question: yes, we should. That crypto currency is misused here and there doesn't change the fact that's it is a promising technology that could revolutionize how Wikimedia contributors are rewarded, etc. We should encourage more integration between Wikimedia and blockchain technology - of course, with the strong nod to the currencies that are more eco-friendly (not proof-of-work) and not scammy like memecoins etc. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 10:32, 13 February 2022 (UTC)[reply]
Wikimedia contributors should not be "rewarded" for contributions (compensation in a small minority of cases is separately motivated). If you want to focus on blockchains that are not proof-of-work then you will be focusing on cryptocurrencies that are not backed by any major authority and are therefore subject to large fluctuation in value based on market competition. (You can't even call pump and dump schemes, Ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes or other confidence tricks a "misuse" of the technology, because this is the only serious purpose of crypto.) I can't see in what way cryptocurrency is "promising" in achieving any positive goal. We already have a perfectly good open source system on Wikipedia (importantly: with no transaction fees for committing diffs), and there's no reason it would be advantageous for all financial transactions in a private individual's life to be made open source. Blockchains could speculatively be used for copyright in the future, but we're part of the open source community, so that would be mostly antithetical to our values. — Bilorv (talk) 11:16, 13 February 2022 (UTC)[reply]
Why "should not"? I fear that the fact that we aren't is responsible for a knee-jerk reaction each time someone is found to be rewarded or suggests others should be, and one stemming from simple jealousy (I could be wrong, but we need psychological research to understand this better, shrug). I have no idea what you mean by currencies backed by any major authority. Which authority is backing bitcoin anyway? Proof of stake is tied to some major altcoins that some are saying will eclipse bitcoin in few years (Cardano, Avalanche, Polkadot and Solana). I see plenty of cool ideas related to such tech, from gaming to creating a new IoT network (Helium) to many others. While the tech can be used unethically, such uses represent a minority of totals - at least that's how it has always been when it comes to social uses of pretty much all general technologies, and I see no reason why crypto should be different. Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 13:02, 17 February 2022 (UTC)[reply]
I have no idea who you think I am jealous of, but I would make different decisions about where to spend my time were Wikipedia a paid enterprise. El Salvador has Bitcoin as legal tender, to answer your question. I see no use for Helium when natural monopolies like wireless infrastructure are most efficient when nationalised rather than subject to market competition (as they will be in the cryptocurrency HNT). I have yet to see a game inherently dependent on cryptocurrency that is enjoyable in and of itself, rather than dull and play-to-earn mechanic-based, nor can I see how one could possibly exist with advantage over in-game currency (unless you happening to be a thrill-seeking gambler). You have not understood my point about the market mechanics of crypto being inherently a pyramid scheme and confidence trick. Line Goes Up, which I linked above, makes the case for this in a compelling manner. — Bilorv (talk) 16:24, 17 February 2022 (UTC)[reply]
Another, slightly more thorough, source on this last point: [4]. JBchrch talk 16:36, 17 February 2022 (UTC)[reply]
Ha, I can't agree on the moral conclusions but it's a very direct derivation of Bitcoin as an inherent Ponzi/pyramid scheme. Very interesting reading. — Bilorv (talk) 20:53, 17 February 2022 (UTC)[reply]

1) "..but the space has overwhelmingly become an opportunity for self-enrichment at the expense of others and the environment." However, that is not the case. Bitcoin's energy usage is very green, and some of it is even carbon negative. 2) "People are regularly scammed for enormous sums of money,..". That won't hold either. If you read the referred Chainanalysis report deeper than the title, you will notice that A) It doesn't apply to Bitcoin, B) Crypto space has grown so big that the 14 Billion is just a tiny part of it. According the report "Crime is becoming a smaller and smaller part of the cryptocurrency ecosystem" so things are going to better direction, not worse. 3) "Rather than empowering the unbanked" .. just when El Salvador took it in use for that. 4) "Furthermore, the underlying technology is enormously slow and difficult to scale". There has been build a second layer network on top of Bitcoin called lightning that will scale to process up to 1.000.000 transactions per second. 5) "As a result, the decentralization of the web that was supposed to result from the adoption of blockchain technologies has only resulted in the centralization of power in a handful of companies and venture capital firms." Outright wrong. Bitcoin is decentralized (and even more so after mining moved out of china) and it is by far the biggest, and not owned by venture capital firms. Second biggest is Ethereum and same applies for that. Otherways Crypto currencies were used a lot for donations, and the amount has been growing. --Editor92345 (talk) 18:12, 16 February 2022 (UTC)[reply]


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