Coinbase CEO Wants to ‘Overthrow Corrupt Dictators’ After Hiring Team That Sold Spyware to…Corrupt Dictators

Irony alert: Coinbase chief Brian Armstrong wants to get rid of dictators. | Source: Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong Flickr/TechCrunch

In a livestream Q&A, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong outlined his vision for the future. Among the typical crypto company goals (reach one billion users, revolutionize the economy), Armstrong revealed a much stranger ambition: “overthrow some corrupt dictators in the world.”

Skip to 36 minutes, 36 seconds to see the segment.

Brian Armstrong’s Ambition to Overthrow Dictators

In the Q&A, someone asked the following question: “What’s the most ambitious thing Coinbase wants to do in five years. Any weird moonshot stuff?”

Armstrong responded:

“Maybe, you know, honestly like overthrow some corrupt dictators in the world, that would be awesome.”

He also hinted at improving bitcoin’s use case in collapsing economies such as Venezuela:

“One of the ambitious things is like, with GiveCrypto, we want to give 100,000 people in Venezuela a little bit of crypto like in the next, you know, roughly 12 months. And so, I want to see if we can spark a bunch of uses there and actually have a country in the world tip. In other words, like 50 percent or more of all transactions in the economy are happening in crypto. Like, that would be amazing.”

The Irony of Coinbase Overthrowing Dictators

Bizarre ambition aside, some commentators have pointed to the irony of Coinbase going after corrupt dictators. As reported, Coinbase has a checkered history in this regard after hiring a team involved in selling spyware to corrupt regimes.

Earlier this year, Coinbase acquired a blockchain data company called Neutrino. But an investigation revealed that Neutrino had links to the nefarious group Hacking Team. Hacking Team allegedly sold surveillance products to corrupt regimes including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Sudan and Venezuela.

Hacking Team even sold supplies to the Saudi enforcement unit involved in the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

Coinbase claims it has “transitioned” former Hacking Team members out of the company. However, former Hacking Team COO Giancarlo Russo is still listed as Neutrino’s CEO on LinkedIn.

Last modified: March 4, 2021 2:44 PM

Ben Brown: Ben is a journalist with a decade of experience covering financial markets. Based in London, UK, his writing has appeared in The Huffington Post and he was Chief Editor at Block Explorer, the world's longest-running source of Blockchain data. Reach him at Twitter at _Ben_Brown. Email ben @