Aragon, a decentralized governance project, has banned at least a half dozen members of its community from the town square after a discussion about the project’s financials turned bitter and into a conspiracy.

Jessica Smith, Aragon’s head of communication, said in an email that “coordinated” actors had flooded Aragon’s Discord server on Tuesday with “probing” questions and “inappropriate” language. The chatter and the influx of new members occurred during an important but long-delayed attempt to bring Aragon’s large treasury into community control.

Smith stated that “we have reason to think these actors are coordinated, and linked to past governance intervention in other DAOs,” without elaborating. “Therefore we decided to act quickly but temporarily to ensure the safety of our community.”

Aragon responded by exiling a number of community members who had questioned the leadership, processes, and status as an authentic decentralized autonomous organisation (DAO). CoinDesk interviewed seven community members who were affected by the ban. Most of them said that they had invested in ANT and therefore, DAO members or have been members of Discord for months.

Aragon’s banhammer buttons were smashed on its own voters to highlight the tension between the illusion that DAOs give “power to the people”, and the reality of the fact that some stakeholders have a lot of influence. Aragon’s Discord moderators have the power to set (or rejigger) the conversation by banning dissenters and deleting their opinions, actions anathema to the idea of “censorship-resistant” cryptocurrency.

Aragon DAO builds DAOs

Aragon develops software to support crypto clubs, where token holders have a voice in business decisions. Aragon’s community of ANT token holders voted almost a year ago for more direct control over the project’s treasury. The treasury holds cryptocurrencies valued at more than $70million.

Transferring money has not been easy. After months of delays, Aragon’s power brokers finally began moving money to a new structure controlled by the DAO on Tuesday. Around the same period, its moderators started banning anyone who dared to question the project or its leadership.

Smith claimed in an email that the banned members were known to have “similar incidents” within other DAOs. She refused to give any further details on why Aragon thought the alleged conduct was conducted by “coordinated actors,” but said that the information came from “a trusted source.”

The ROOK Connection

A common thread is that every banned member CoinDesk has spoken to was also a part of ROOK. Last month, the DAO was dissolved after activists demanded that the project return capital to token holders. This was achieved through a series votes regarding its on-chain Treasury.

Smith stated that membership in ROOK DAO was “not the basis of the decision.”

CollinM11, a Rook and Aragon DAO user who uses the screen name CollinM11, said in a tweet that the mass banning started after a prominent Rook member tipped Aragon’s Discord to a discussion about risk-free values, or RFV. This is better known as “book value” in traditional finance circles (TradFi).

“Basically, [decentralized finance or DeFi] is used when a token’s treasury exceeds its market cap,” explained the activist investor Wismerhill who championed DAO’s failure. “Aka team either destroys value/or siphons DAO controlled resources until the end of time.”

Wismerhill stated that there is “zero similarity” between Rook, an active project, which has stagnated for months in its product development, and Aragon. Aragon has mechanisms to return token value to holders. He said that Aragon was only attractive because it could buy back ANT tokens.

Wismerhill claimed he was “immediately banned while typing” when logging in to Discord on Tuesday night to catch up with the drama.

Not all exiles, however, are as notoriously known as Wismerhill. Some are occasional posters, who asked well-intentioned but pointed questions about Aragon’s timeline. The treasury transfer was first authorized almost a year before.

Smith stated that the bans were temporary, but she did not provide a timeline for reinstatement. She declined to comment further.

Nick Baker is the editor.