In an open letter, tens of prominent Ethereum community leaders have spoken out against the “toxic” behavior prefacing Parity developer Afri Schoedon’s recent resignation. Heartfelt, it references Jameson Lopp, swatted in 2017. Lopp’s case is an “awful example of the intimidation that can be wrought in the midst of very heated debates.”
Afri Schoedon ‘Far From The First’ Crypto Casualty
“What?? You can’t just wave off any and all criticism by throwing ‘misogyny’ labels around. Nothing he said was misogynistic in the least, but because you once saw some misogynistic comments in a 4chan thread about you now you lump all your critics together? So childish.”
The letter is rather long, so we’ve decided not to republish it in its entirety. We thank BREAKERMAG for having done so. The letter reveals that Afri Schoedon actually received threats against his family in response to his mild trolling.
“Unfortunately, time and time again we have witnessed ecosystem members engage in toxic behavior that discourages open discussion such as doxxing, violent threats, or brigading against people they disagree with. In an instance just last week, one of our longest standing contributors, and the catalyzer of the Görli Testnet, Afri, received a wave of verbal violence from some Redditors, forced into the center of a storm on r/ethtrader which, triggered by a couple of tweets issued by him, turned menacing, dark, and deeply toxic. Under stress from this backlash and to protect himself and his family from threats coming from unknown internet users, he made the decision to leave his position as a core Ethereum developer.”
‘We Must Preserve The Mental and Emotional Health’ of Ethereum Developers
The plea goes on to point out that human capital is the backbone of the blockchain.
“It should also be said that the Ethereum network is built, maintained and scaled by humans. Though we are a global community, no single individual can be expected to be on call 24/7. […] We must preserve the mental and emotional health of those humans—especially as they labor through their nights, weekends, often without pay, in order to manifest the mission and vision of Ethereum.”
People including Ethereum Foundation’s Hudson Jameson and Chris Hutchinson of Status.im signed the letter. It asserts that the community response to Afri Schoedon has “gone far beyond acceptable standards of debate.” Notably missing from the signatories is Vitalik Buterin. Buterin appeared to reference the issue in a tertiary way on Twitter:
Granted I don’t comment on every new controversy du jour, but that’s because I’m trying to signal that those things are honestly not worth the attention they’re getting, and we should be focusing on 1.x, 2.0, layer 2, usability, security and privacy.
— Vitalik Non-giver of Ether (@VitalikButerin) February 19, 2019
Cyberbullying in Cryptocurrency: A Growing Trend?
There is significant research showing bullying to be a unique problem on the modern internet. A percentage of the human population gets a thrill out of saying harmful things. These people are often otherwise respectful, normal individuals.
In crypto communities, millions of dollars stand at stake; thus debates get more heated.
The Bitcoin community has had its share of contentious debates and often enough these have spilled over into personal attacks. Craig Wright has been vilified so routinely that to an outside party it might seem he’s truly horrible.
What impact the letter will actually have on the community is the real question. For certain types of people, the “why can’t we be friends” tone of the article will have the opposite effect. We can expect to see a minority of people step up their game. The next contentious issue in the Ethereum community might read more like Bitcoin’s block size wars as a result.
But, hopefully, for the mass of crypto users who care more about the success of Ethereum than thrill-seeking, the letter will stimulate a sober moment of reflection on the human cost of trolling. Dutiful developers spend huge portions of their lives working on these projects. Afri Schoedon is either Ethereum’s Mike Hearn or its Gavin Andresen. In communities that resist censorship, the only solution is to promote positive engagement.