Stop Sending Me Bitcoins, Please!

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The Bitcoin community is an endearingly passionate group of people.

After I wrote a post last week expressing optimism about this technology's potential, I received 14 separate donations, totaling 4.097439 bitcoins (about $45), from generous Bitcoin fans. Most of them did so anonymously. (Bitcoins are divisible to the eighth decimal, hence the precise amount.)

Thank you. Now stop. Please.

My employer pays me to write about banking. It would be wrong for me to accept payments from any third party for work I perform for American Banker – even small, unsolicited donations, even after the fact, even if I have no idea who most of the third parties are. If you want to show support, leave a comment (or subscribe to American Banker if you haven't already).

I inadvertently got myself into this pickle. I'd included my 35-character Bitcoin address in the article, simply to illustrate the inscrutable, difficult-to-trace nature of the system's cryptographic identifiers. It didn't occur to me anyone would send me money.

I had underestimated the enthusiasm of Bitcoiners, which rivals that of Deadheads and Trekkies. Many of them were grateful that someone in the media had written a story that depicted Bitcoin as something greater than a criminal enterprise or a passing tech fad.

I call 'em like I see 'em. That's my job. But accepting even the tiniest denomination of coins for doing so would undermine my credibility as a journalist.    

So I'm going to try to return the bitcoins I received to the senders, and any coins I can't return I will donate to charity.

And no, I'm not going to say which charity. I prefer to give anonymously. See, Chuck Schumer? There are perfectly legitimate reasons to want to "disguise" the source of a payment.

Marc Hochstein is the executive editor of American Banker. The views expressed are his own.

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