Leaked Coinbase audio sheds additional light on the company’s apolitical sea change.
Coinbase leadership recently moved to curb sociopolitical discourse within their company, mandating that the team should focus on the company’s mission rather than politics. Coinbase co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong later held an all-hands meeting, billed as an “ask me anything” session, to discuss changes in company culture with his employees. Audio of this staff-wide meeting from Oct. 1 was subsequently leaked to media outlet Motherboard; the technology wing of Vice media.
“An internal all-hands meeting obtained by Motherboard shows Coinbase management was accused of ‘stunting internal discussion’ and that it forced employees to delete political Slack messages,” Motherboard wrote.
Motherboard reached out for comment, to which Coinbase responded: “these accusations are quite extreme and absolutely false.” Coinbase did not follow up with Motherboard, on the record, on which specific accusations they meant.
Armstrong conducted the online meeting to lay ground rules for Coinbase employees going forward, and invited staff to share their thoughts on the company’s shift in values.
On Sept. 27, Armstrong published a blog post which detailed how Coinbase would refocus its efforts back toward the company’s core mission amid a wild, hyper-political year. Under this new direction, the company would now refrain from taking a political stance when it did not directly relate to crypto, and further decreed that employees should not focus on unrelated matters and topics while at work. Roughly 5% of Coinbase staff subsequently took an exit package from Coinbase, leaving the company.
Motherboard reported that Coinbase also mandated that staff should erase certain politically-themed correspondences, posted internally on the Slack messaging platform. Coinbase leadership reportedly spoke with specific staff on the importance of deleting certain content.
Armstrong alleged in the meeting that a “silent majority” of staff sided with him on this new direction. Motherboard detailed that this did little to quash fears of reprisal for employees expressing contrary views.
Motherboard reported that staffers feared leadership would begin watching their every move, and would monitor the team’s messages — some of which were conducted via personal devices.
“One former Coinbase employee who left the company after the AMA and to whom Motherboard provided anonymity due to fear of industry reprisal said that these assurances were insufficient and workers feared surveillance and censorship,” Motherboard reported.
While certain employees felt they were being stifled on their freedom of speech, the change in direction was reportedly met with agreement by Coinbase’s top brass.
UPDATE Oct. 16, 16:57 UTC: This article has been updated with added information.