March 16, 2014 10:54 AM UTC

TechCrunch Gets It Wrong – There Are No Bitcoin Police

Author: Gordon Hall
Leah Goodman.

TechCrunch and Newsweek

TechCrunch’s East Coast Editor, John Biggs, recently published an editorial in response to a story which ran on ccn, “Leah McGrath Goodman Insults Bitcoin Community, Still Defends Her Article.”
The original story by our popular writer and Bitcoin enthusiast, Neil Sardesai, dealt with the reporter who turned the reclusive Dorian Nakomoto’s life into a worldwide media frenzy. The crux of the story was that Leah Goodman, the reporter in question, took a blatantly antagonistic tone in defence of her factually-dubious article.

Fanatical Bitcoiners?

As Neil describes, Leah Goodman insults “Bitcoiner fanatics” and claims to have retreated to a house in the mountains, where she spends her nights training with firearms.
She says this paranoid behaviour is in response to “serious threats” from Bitcoiners. I’d guess any such threats probably amount to a few nasty emails. If Goodman had received any credible threats, no doubt she’d have turned them into dramatic Newsweek clickbait, just like Dorian Nakomoto’s formerly peaceful life.
While Neil took a reasonable tone in his article, concluding that Goodman should be far more concerned about her professional reputation than her life, several strongly anti-Leah comments were left by the CCN “commentariat.” It is these comments which John Biggs took exception to, blowing them out of any sane proportion to support his argument that we “Bitcoiners” should police our ranks against such “terrorism.”
While Biggs does concede that Goodman acted badly, he’s quick to play the histrionic feminist card in her defence, decrying “misogynistic threats of violence and intimations of battering.” White knighting of the highest order, to be sure.
John Biggs grossly exaggerates the situation, perhaps for the very same reason as Leah Goodman – spinning some angry venting into a violent conspiracy probably draws many a click. It’s hardly ethical journalism but unfortunately common due to online media’s cash-for-clicks business model.

John Biggs.

Biggs Misses The Big Picture

“Bitcoiners, police yourselves.” Really?
By characterising the inevitable response to Goodman’s ratlike reporting by a small minority of “Bitcoiners” as a community problem, Biggs reveals a shallow understanding of the open source approach.
Although he mentions his love for cryptocurrency and 3D printing, Biggs fails to grasp that such open projects have no barriers to entry besides curiosity and no set rules for conduct. Everyone who participates or contributes is welcome, but there’s no method by which to punish or pressure people. Should some nutter print a plastic Liberator pistol and open fire on the pigeons in Central Park, would Biggs hold the maker community responsible?
How can a decentralised movement control the behaviour of its ever-changing and frequently anonymous participants? Mr. Biggs might suggest that CCN stifle the free speech of its readers, but what next? Delete such vitriolic comments from Reddit and BitcoinTalk too? Pretty soon we’d need to borrow China’s internet censorship tools just to deal with what he terms the “greasy kids stuff.”
Biggs’ instinct to defend a woman under threat – or more likely, one pretending to be under threat to amp up ratings – is understandable. His concern, that certain individuals may blacken the name of Bitcoin by threatening a journalist, is commendable. But his judgement is lacking if he thinks the Bitcoin community can control what individuals says on its behalf.

Leah Goodman shooting tin cans in the woods, John Biggs shooting his mouth off about suppressing nasty comments – both missing the mark?

Decentralised Organisations Don’t Police

As a “Bitcoiner” myself, I’m not responsible for a nastygram someone on the other side of the world sends to Leah Goodman, nor would I want to be. If said nastygram becomes a focus of negative PR and the Bitcoin price falls in response, well that’s too bad. That’s the downside of keeping the project open, the upside being anyone can contribute value. The latter far outweighs the former, just one reason among many why open source is the organisational model for the future.
The alternative is to centralise Bitcoin, screen new entrants and punish or exile anyone who breaks the rules. This is how traditional, centralised organisations like governments and corporations operate and most people’s expectations have been conditioned accordingly. Yet I hope Mr. Biggs will realise that is an invalid paradigm through which to view cryptocurrency.
Calling for non-existent Bitcoin police to suppress unruly comments, ludicrously described as incitements to holy war in Mr. Bigg’s article, is a waste of digital ink. I challenge John Biggs and TechCrunch to instead refocus their coverage towards people and projects which advance the state of cryptocurrency. It’s not a journalist’s job to regulate what others may say, rather journalists must regulate their own speech to ensure it’s always truthful and well-informed.

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