Wikipedia editors don’t want crypto donations any more

14 Apr 2022

Image: © monticellllo/Stock.adobe.com

Editors voted 232 to 94 in favour of banning crypto donations to Wikipedia, highlighting the environmental impact of bitcoin and Ethereum.

More than 200 Wikipedia editors want the Wikimedia Foundation to stop accepting crypto donations such as bitcoin, citing environmental and ethical concerns.

Members of the Wikipedia community arranged a debate between January and April that saw both sides, crypto sceptics and proponents alike, present their arguments.

Future Human

Those in favour of banning crypto donations to the world’s most popular online knowledge compendium stressed the environmental and sustainability issues created by the mining of energy-intensive proof-of-work cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and Ethereum.

The discussions concluded this week, with editors voting 232 to 94 in favour of halting all crypto donations.

The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that supports Wikipedia and its related projects, currently accepts donations through cryptocurrencies including bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and Ether using BitPay.

GorillaWarfare, the Wikipedia editor and administrator who proposed the ban, said that accepting crypto donations would mean an official endorsement from the Wikimedia Foundation and the movement as a whole, risking reputational damage.

“Cryptocurrencies are extremely risky investments that have only been gaining popularity among retail investors particularly in recent times, and I do not think we should be endorsing their use in this way,” the editor, whose real name is Molly White, wrote.

“In accepting them, I believe we are mainstreaming the usage of ‘investments’ and technology that are inherently predatory.”

She also highlighted that cryptocurrencies may not align with the Wikimedia Foundation’s sustainability commitments.

Proponents of crypto donations, however, were quick to point out the existence of less energy-intensive options such as proof-of-stake crypto, which is currently being tested by some.

They also argued that bitcoin and Ethereum can provide safer ways for people in oppressive countries to donate money and engage in finance.

But White, who is a sceptic of Web3, wasn’t convinced. She noted that even though Ethereum and bitcoin might move to a proof-of-stake model at some point in the future, any change has been slow to arrive and that “the current models continue to be extremely damaging to the environment”.

The vote is non-binding on the Wikimedia Foundation and merely represents what a majority of editors on the platform want.

According to Ars Technica, foundation spokesperson Greg Varnum said in a January statement that “our teams will continue to follow this discussion and listen to the feedback; we are already considering what has come up here as we determine our path forward”.

Earlier this year, the Mozilla Foundation paused cryptocurrency donations following concerns around their environmental impact. After a review, the nonprofit said last week that it will no longer accept proof-of-work cryptocurrencies, but will accept proof-of-stake cryptocurrencies as these are less energy intensive.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com