The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) — an organization focused on global digital rights — is now accepting donations in bitcoins again after having stopped two years ago … though it’s quick to add that doesn’t mean it’s endorsing the digital currency.
Nothing against Bitcoin, the EFF states. It’s an equal-opportunity non-endorser:
“EFF does not typically endorse products or services, and we certainly do not endorse any of the electronic payment methods that we currently accept (credit cards, PayPal, and now BitPay).”
The EFF — a sort-of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for the online world — had actually begun to take bitcoin contributions a couple of years ago, but suspended that option in June 2011. Among the reasons it gave for that decision at the time was that it didn’t fully understand the “complex legal issues” raised by Bitcoin, didn’t want to mislead donors and was concerned about the appearance it was endorsing the currency.
The EFF said it returned bitcoins donated at the time using Bitcoin Faucet.
Since then, the organization has reconsidered the bitcoin donation option and has decided to again accept bitcoins for several reasons. One key factor in the decision, it said, was because, “Censorship by payment intermediaries is an ongoing problem for free speech online – so it makes sense to start diversifying the available options.”
Probably the highest-profile example of such “payment censorship” was the move by numerous financial companies — including PayPal, Mastercard and Visa — to suspend transactions intended for Julian Assange’s whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks in the wake of its publication of leaked US diplomatic cables in late 2010.
The EFF also noted that the recent guidance issued by the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) “reduced our concerns that by accepting (b)itcoins EFF risked moving away from its role as a defender of innovators and into the role as a possible defendant.”
Finally, the EFF added, its members “kept politely asking for” the bitcoin option.
Bitcoin fans on reddit promptly and vigorously welcomed the decision:
“Donated $250,” wrote reddit user willphase. “I had emailed them twice about this already, and I just emailed them again to thank them for finally accepting USD via the bitcoin payment system as well as via paypal and credit card processors. Seemed like a no brainer for me.”
“Let’s support the shit out of this,” said reddit user elux. “Make them regret not doing this sooner. Let’s reward them for having the courage, and also the wisdom, to come around. Gentlemen. Ladies. Ready them wallets.”
One more note: despite the EFF taking pains to “not endorse” Bitcoin, the organization’s senior staff technologist, Seth Schoen, and activism director Rainey Reitman, do plan to be in attendance at the Bitcoin 2013 conference, which kicks off today in San Jose.