The Ethereum ecosystem has just faced one of its most divisive social tests: voting to boot a leading web3 figure for doubling down on some confronting tweets from 2016.
The decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) managing Ethereum domain naming service ENS removed its director of operations Brantly Millegan on Sunday, having reached 75% majority.
Millegan, who doubled as one of Ethereum Name Service’s community stewards, had drawn ire from web3 progressives.
Posts had resurfaced displaying Millegan bluntly sharing his religious beliefs, which more-or-less reflect the ‘fire and brimstone’ Catholic church messaging of the ’70s and ’80s.
“Homosexual acts are evil. Transgenderism doesn’t exist. Abortion is murder. Contraception is a perversion. So is masturbation and porn,” Millegan tweeted.
The post has since been removed for violating Twitter’s community guidelines. “Catholic” has historically been the first word of Millegan’s bio.
- ENS allows the creation of ‘web3’ domains, which consolidates a user’s presence across the Ethereum space.
- Echoing the internet’s Domain Name Service, ENS offers the ability to assign characters and phrases to wallets.
- Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has “vitalik.eth,” for example, which can be substituted for his Ether address to initiate transfers.
ENS became a DAO last November when it switched from a “four-seven multi-sig” key management structure to a community-led venture.
ENS tokens (used for voting on changes to the protocol) were distributed to members in an airdrop. Balances were scaled to the length of time they’d held a domain (which are leased on yearly contracts).
The price of ENS has more than halved since the airdrop. Still, token holders can delegate their votes to other ENS participants.
Millegan was the elected delegate with the largest voting power before the controversy hit, which meant he held considerable voting power over the project.
However, it was a slightly different vote between community stewards that axed Millegan.
‘Mainstream traditional Catholicism’
Several Millegan tweets that resurfaced contained homophobic views and denounced other religions, such as Islam.
Millegan, who said he’d converted to Catholicism at 22, addressed the controversy in a Twitter Spaces session. Now on the cusp of his mid-thirties, he chose to double down on the opinions in front of his peers.
“These are controversial positions that the Catholic church has, I’m aware that this is controversial,” he told DAO members.
“I guess what I have to say is I do believe all that, this is mainstream traditional Catholicism,” he added.
Although, the current Pope preaches a less extreme version than Millegan.
“If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?” said Pope Francis about gay priests in 2013 (via Human Rights Campaign).
“They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency for [same-sex attraction] is not the problem. They’re our brothers.”
But the Pope’s views on the matter were complicated somewhat after a 2021 Vatican ruling prevented priests from blessing same-sex unions.
In his Twitter Spaces, Millegan expressed concern that his removal from one of web3’s most prominent projects due to “adherence to the world’s largest religion” was an “extreme position.”
Woke culture coup or DAOs working as intended?
Millegan said he believes web3 is for everyone and he’s willing to work with anyone regardless of their beliefs, despite what his tweets may suggest.
Crypto commentator Maya Zehavi noted she’d listened to community members who felt Millegan had “made them feel excluded in an identity-based community that’s supposed to be about inclusivity and openness.”
Nevertheless, while Millegan offered to compromise his views for collaboration, ENS DAO members ultimately did not.
In the fallout, ENS DAO members have wrestled with the implications of the decision, which raises further questions about so-called “DAOism” and the democracy of web3 itself.
“[Millegan] contributed to ENS success and deserves to be here. Woke and cancel people are more toxic than [Millegan] ever could be, pure herd mentality at work,” wrote one ENS DAO delegate.
“Ironically, the entire space sounded like a church sermon. People were calling to de-platform [Millegan] from web3 for what he said on a web2 website, and had nothing to do with his merit,” said another, who also called for Millegan’s Twitter Spaces host to step down themselves.
Web3 must be a bastion of free speech
It should be stressed that the vote to remove Millegan doesn’t impact his ability to use the ENS service at all. He just won’t be working on the protocol anymore.
In any case, the whole fiasco shows that Ethereum’s social layer — its community — is at a crossroads.
On one hand, Ethereum promises to supply web3 with a decentralized backbone on which to build out a truly censorship-resistant internet ecosystem.
But if those networks are worth their salt, anyone of any creed and cartoon fetish could carve their cryptographically-verified niche that nobody could ever seize or censor.
Indeed, Millegan’s ousting suggests web3’s future could feel more like the heavily moderated web2 experience than many proponents expect.
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