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?”
“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 CCN reported, Coinbase has a checkered history in this regard after hiring a team involved in selling spyware to corrupt regimes.
Congrats to Coinbase on the acquisition of chain analysis startup Neutrino!
FYI, the CEO, Giancarlo Russo, was ex-COO of HackingTeam (https://t.co/qyQ6mLU8XE), who sold "offensive intrusion and surveillance capabilities to governments, law enforcement agencies and corporations." pic.twitter.com/VVza5AjIYa
— Arjun Balaji (@arjunblj) February 19, 2019
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.
Does @coinbase's acquisition of Neutrino (ex-Hacking Team) lower your trust in the organization?
— Wednesday Polls (@WednesdayPolls) February 27, 2019
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.
Wow. I’m really struggling to view Coinbase’s actions in anything but the harshest light.
1. Deal with blockchain tracing firm
2. Discover that firm selling client data
3. Don’t disclose this to anyone
4. Buy a firm that is made up of human rights violators
5. Profit?!? https://t.co/9om7HRxape
— Riccardo Spagni (@fluffypony) March 3, 2019