This week we have reported on many firms withdrawing their products and services from Russia. However, fintech's problem children – cryptocurrency platforms – are steadfastly refusing to impose blanket bans on Russian users.
Coinbase and Binance, two of the world's biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, today rejected calls to ban all Russian users from trading. Are they being selfish in their resistance to limit Russian traders while other tech titans walk away?
"We believe everyone deserves access to basic financial services unless the law says otherwise," wrote Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong today. On behalf of Binance, a spokesperson wrote to Reuters to protest, "We are not going to unilaterally freeze millions of innocent users' accounts."
So, in brief, the cryptocurrency exchange giants are staying open in Russia as they reckon they are helping innocent citizens who have nothing to do with the war or the political establishment.
However, a different view is held by European regulators. Those who would like to see Coinbase and Binance act decisively to block Russian traders say cryptocurrency exchanges are helping oligarchs and other sanctioned backers of Putin with money laundering activities. The regulators reason that the crypto avenue lessens the impact of other sanctions. Interestingly, the price of Bitcoin jumped with the onset of war (as did gold), giving it conflict currency credentials.
Shuttering the two major cryptocurrency exchanges isn't likely to have the impact of AMD or Intel closing up shop. Several other exchanges could facilitate the same activities. Thus we could see a whack-a-mole situation if the "big two" were pushed hard enough to deny Russians.
Despite their protestations concerning shuttering their services to the Russian populace, Coinbase and Binance aren't going to break any sanctions. Coinbase, for example, said that if the US government imposes a blanket ban that affects its services, it would follow that directive and fully comply.
The War in Tech News, a Brief Recap
The Russia – Ukraine war has naturally encroached upon technology news as the conflict continues and even seems to be intensifying. We have reported multiple times on the industrial and supply disruptions that are emerging. More recently, the most prominent names of tech have withdrawn products and services from customers in Russia.
Today we reported on Microsoft's withdrawal from the Russian market. Earlier in the week, AMD and Intel halted processor sales in the country, which is heavily impacting consumer pricing. We haven't reported on actions by the likes of Apple, Facebook, Twitter, TSMC, YouTube, or various video gaming companies – but they are all putting Russia blockades in place. Moreover, a week ago, we foretold this trend with a report about new export rules.