As part of our ongoing efforts to be maximally transparent and accountable to the community we serve, CoinDesk has substantially updated and expanded its ethics policy.
I encourage all readers to take a close look at the new page, which lays out, in greater detail than ever before, a number of important items, including:
- Our relationship with parent company Digital Currency Group and the editorial independence policy, mutually agreed upon by both firms, that ensures we cover the industry without fear or favor
- Our revised guidelines about when and how we disclose our ownership by DCG in articles
- Our journalistic standards, including guidelines on issuing corrections and using anonymous (and pseudonymous) sources
- CoinDesk’s company-wide policy on personal investing, and related disclosure requirements for the journalists on staff
- Our social media guidelines
- Our advertising policy (you may notice that ads have returned to the site, but they’ll never again be the intrusive and seedy kind of programmatic advertising that made our staff cringe along with readers during the 2017 boom)
Some of the practices laid out on the new page have been in place for a long time. For example, our journalists have been required to disclose crypto holdings in their profile pages since before I joined in 2017, and the company-wide trading and investing policy has been in effect for well over two years. Other policies have been revised and iterated over the years.
How the sausage is made
When I started at CoinDesk, our policy was to include an in-text disclosure of our ownership each and every time an article mentioned DCG or any of its investments. Over time, checking every startup name against a list of 100-plus firms in DCG’s portfolio before publishing any article became unwieldy for a 24-hour news operation.
Later, we replaced the in-text requirement with a built-in disclosure of our ownership that automatically appeared at the bottom of every article, whether or not the piece mentioned DCG or one of its holdings. While this guaranteed disclosures, the placement was not conspicuous and fed a misperception in some corners that we were trying to hide something.
Compounding that problem, for a time after we rebooted our website in late 2019 the standard disclosure required users to click to see it. Luckily, this design feature was short-lived.
None of this helped us when covering and serving the crypto community, who are an instinctually distrustful bunch – as well they should be. In this day and age, no media outlet can demand the benefit of the doubt from its audience anymore, but especially not when reporting on a technology whose very raison d’etre is mistrust of intermediaries and authorities.
Returning to the disclosure question, in 2020 we have adopted a policy I believe combines the best of both worlds. As explained on the new ethics page, the standard disclosure still automatically appears at the bottom of every story and is again plainly visible, no clicks required. Better yet, it now contains links to the full list of DCG’s portfolio companies, digital assets and wholly owned subsidiaries (which you’ll also find in an appendix to the new ethics page).
On top of that, we once again require in-text disclosures of our ownership in any article mentioning DCG or one of its wholly owned subsidiaries (Genesis, Grayscale, Foundry or Luno). We have also added such disclosures in other appropriate instances, such as a lengthy piece on Decentraland (an asset in which DCG is a significant investor). It’s a belt-and-suspenders approach designed to be workable in practice.
Again, I invite everyone to review CoinDesk’s full, expanded ethics page – we welcome reader feedback as we strive to inform, educate and serve the crypto and blockchain community with the utmost integrity. You know how to find us.