Good afternoon, Cyber Saturday readers.
On this week’s episode of Balancing The Ledger, Fortune’s new show covering the future of finance, my colleague Jen Wieczner and I chatted with David Pakman, a partner at the venture capital firm Venrock, about the hardline approach tech giants are taking against the nascent cryptocurrency industry.
To wit: Facebook, Alphabet’s Google, and Twitter have all blacklisted cryptocurrency-promoting advertisements on their platforms this year. Google said Monday it would forbid extensions that “mine” cryptocurrency from its Chrome Web Store. And MailChimp, a purveyor of email newsletters, put the kibosh on dispatches that self-interestedly hawk virtual moneys. (If you’re seeking a responsible replacement, I might recommend our upcoming Ledger newsletter; sign up here.)
Presumably, the Internet behemoths—who have been facing increased scrutiny from the public and regulators in recent months—are reacting harshly to appease a growing chorus of critics. An apologist might say that these companies are simply trying to protect consumers from scams. (The field abounds with swindlers, yes.) But could there be an ulterior motive behind Big Tech’s blanket bans?
“It’s just a little bit too convenient for my taste to see a platform ban an entire ecosystem, or an entire market segment, just because they don’t want to spend the time figuring out who the bad actors are,” Pakman told me.
“We’re talking about highly centralized platforms who, in theory, have the most to lose from the advent of decentralized technologies and platforms,” Pakman said. “It kind of underlines the point of why alternative structures for platforms are needed, because on a whim a single platform can ban an entire market.”
Conspiratorial as it may sound, Pakman has a point. Whether Big Tech is conscious of the biases it possesses or not, there’s no denying the incumbents have an interest in smothering a would-be usurper in its crib. Cryptocurrencies, which proponents expect one day could decentralize Internet services, like social networking, search, and more, pose a legitimate, if early, threat to today’s tech business models.
“The space should be cleaned up, but sometimes we lose sight of the fact that there’s incredible innovation happening,” Pakman said. “We hope they don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”
We hope so too. Have a great weekend; I’ll be sipping the last dregs of the ski season on a mountain in Vermont.
Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’sdaily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.