The Wikimedia Foundation will stop accepting crypto donations after months of pressure from members of the Wikipedia community. The foundation said on Sunday it will close its BitPay account, which facilitated crypto gifts.
Members of the community had asked for the foundation to end crypto donations last month following a debate among 400 Wikipedia users. The group opposing the foundation's crypto policy was primarily concerned with the negative climate impacts of crypto mining and the foundation's reputation.
The majority of those participants ultimately decided that Wikimedia Foundation should stop taking crypto gifts. Although the foundation wasn't obliged to respond, it did, saying it would discuss whether to stop taking crypto payments internally and provide an update by the end of April.
"Times change and situations change," Megan Hernandez, Wikimedia Foundation's VP of Advancement, said at the time.
Molly White, who goes by GorillaWarfare on Wikipedia, helped lead the push to stop crypto donations. “I’m really happy that the Wikimedia Foundation implemented the request from its community, and I’m really proud of my community for making what I feel was the ethical decision after a lot of thoughtful discussion,” White told Protocol. “There are just too many issues with crypto for any potential donation revenue to be worth the cost of helping to legitimize it.”
Lisa Seitz-Gruwell, the foundation's chief advancement officer, wrote on Sunday that Wikimedia Foundation will continue to monitor the issue and "appreciate the feedback and consideration given to this evolving matter by people across the Wikimedia movement."
"We will remain flexible and responsive to the needs of volunteers and donors," Seitz-Gruwell said.
The foundation has accepted donations in bitcoin, bitcoin cash and ether since 2014. The foundation received $130,000 worth of crypto in the last fiscal year, which accounted for about 0.08% of its annual revenue.
"Wikimedia is my community, and I care very much about it, which is why I pushed for this change," White said. "But generally, my goal is to inform and educate people about crypto so they can make their own decisions."
Crypto mining has become a flashpoint as the world grapples with climate change. Proof of work is a computing-intensive technique used by bitcoin and Ethereum to keep the network secure that requires monster amounts of energy, often from dirty sources. (The latter is switching to a different approach that will consume less energy.)
Bitcoin alone has the energy footprint of the Czech Republic while Ethereum's is on the order of Kazakhstan, according to calculations by crypto watchdog Digiconimist. Pressure to clean up crypto has been ramping up, and the Wikimedia Foundation's decision could spark other campaigns to tackle crypto mining's ballooning carbon footprint.
This post has been updated with comment from Molly White.