Blockstream CEO Adam Back has defended his company’s contracting of a man accused of “vandalizing” Bitmain’s Israel office in a May 2017 protest. The incident in question happened “long before” he performed consulting work for the company, he said.
Trustnodes reported that Israeli bitcoiner Nadav Ivgi had written in the Bitcoin Israeli Facebook group (in Hebrew) that he would be providing research and development consulting services to Blockstream, as well as working at his own startup Bitrated.
Readers connected the dots and debates erupted on social media and chat forums over whether Ivgi may have been acting on Blockstream’s behalf — as a paid employee or ideological companion.
In response, Ivgi posted on Twitter: “I do work with Blockstream on FOSS projects as an external contractor, but this is not my main activity.”
The issue has brought Bitcoin’s alleged corporate proxy wars into the spotlight once more. Companies with investment and influence in various sectors such as mining and protocol development — such as Blockstream, Bitmain and nChain — are regularly accused by each other’s supporters of unethical behavior to promote their agendas.
In May, Bitsonline reported Ivgi and a group of friends visited Bitmain’s small office of six employees in Ra’anana near Tel Aviv outside of working hours, plastering doors and windows a series of printed messages attacking Bitmain’s business practices and insinuating the company had prepared secret backdoors in its Antminer mining machines.
Did the act constitute a criminal act, vandalism, harassment of staff or threatening behavior? Debate raged in May and flared up again this week. Bitmain’s Gadi Glikberg certainly thought it was, posting his thoughts about it and Ivgi on Medium.
Bitmain CEO Jihan Wu had described Ivgi as a Bitcoin Core “storm trooper” and said the actions were “a very important step in the growth of a dictatorship”.
One Bitmain employee at the time, however, thought the “vandalism” tag was a little strong:
As someone who worked for Bitmain at the time @shesek "vandalized" our offices, I can personally testify that it was the nicest most considerate vandalism ever. He even used blu-tack so that the signs could be taken off easily without leaving a mark.
— Eliran Zach (@EliranZach) December 28, 2017
You can judge for yourself — a video of the incident titled “A night visit in Bitmain Israel offices” has been available online since it happened. The group “Fork your Bitmain” also posted an image gallery of their work.
While no permanent physical damage was done to the property, employees returning for work the next day would certainly have found the display confronting and were forced to spend time removing the signs.
Posting in an online Bitcoin discussion group, Blockstream CEO Adam Back said putting some flyers on a wall with Blu-Tac did not constitute vandalism. He added:
“I have the idea it was in the hallway outside their locked office door, accessible in a multi-tenant building. At least that’s how it looked and was described in the Bitcoin media at the time… Also this was long before he did some consulting work for us — ‘small external consultant, in parallel to my work on Bitrated.’ From his Facebook page.”
Exactly what kind of action the office “night visit” constituted is less relevant seven months later, and some expressed dismay that it was being brought up again.
It's heartwarming to see folks recycling old drama rather than wasting resources creating new drama that's just going to be thrown away.
— Jameson Lopp (@lopp) December 29, 2017
However questions remain over how organic many of Bitcoin’s “grassroots” social media movements — like #UASF, #NO2X and Bitcoin Cash — actually are.
Blockstream and CEO Back are often tied to the “small block” group and the Bitcoin Core developers, while nChain and its chief scientist Craig Wright are often associated with “big blockers” and Bitcoin Cash. Opponents accuse each of promoting a vision of Bitcoin that suits their business model.
Other companies, Bitcoin media outlets and the user community who express opinions in public often find themselves lumped in with one group or the other, or even accused of being on the payroll directly or indirectly.
Do companies in the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency space use supporters to promote an agenda? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Fork your Bitmain