‘Ethical Questions’: Senior Executive Halts Wall Street Journal’s Own Cryptocurrency

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The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) created and then destroyed its own cryptocurrency in a bid to “understand” the industry, the publication revealed in a mini documentary Wednesday, October 3.

WSJ Coin, which journalist Steven Russolillo hoped would shed light on the emerging crypto economy while providing real use cases for the journalism industry, made it to the grand total of two issued units.

A mound of around 150 physical WSJ Coins was further distributed to the audience of a panel discussing the concept at the publication’s D.Live annual technology conference in Hong Kong.

Speaking on the panel were remittance service BitPesa CEO Elizabeth Rossiello and former Ripple CTO Stefan Thomas, who both saw considerable potential in a journalism-based crypto asset.

“If you lower the cost of moving money around, the entire economy changes … ‘How do I pay for a news article online?’ changes,” Thomas said by way of example.

Russolillo teamed up with Japanese developer Makuto Takemiya to use Hyperledger’s Iroha blockchain as the basis for WSJ Coin.

The two fixed a supply of 8.4 billion units, which they arrived at by averaging the supply of the top ten cryptocurrencies by market cap.

Two coins made it to a local bar to pay for two beers.

When Russolillo pitched a full issuance to investors, however, it was the WSJ’s own ethics head who shut the scheme down. Neil Lipschitz, editor for ethics and standards, said WSJ Coin raised what Russolillo says are “ethical questions.”

“We’re not in the business of getting into the cryptocurrency world; we’re here to report it and to explain it, just like we report on banks but we don’t go out and start a bank,” he said, adding:

“We’re not going to create a currency.”

At the end of August, the Associated Press signed a partnership with content licensing partnership with blockchain-based startup Civil to explore ways to secure intellectual property rights, support ethical journalism, and track content usage with blockchain technology.