It is undeniable that Bitcoin has a dark history, in 2019 alone over $1 billion in Bitcoin was spent on the dark web. These funds were used for many purposes – some good, some bad. Unfortunately, in some cases, it was used for drug trafficking, child porn, and even hiring a hitman such as a case in California where a woman paid 12 Bitcoin to have her ex-husband assassinated.
Privacy-based cryptocurrencies such as Monero, and Zcash have historically been associated with detrimental purposes. These cryptocurrencies have use-cases where privacy is important, and we support the freedom for users to decide when and where these cryptocurrencies should be used for legitimate purposes. Nonetheless, the industry has spent years tirelessly working to legitimize digital assets. Pundits have gone to congress to discuss the merits of the industry, others have supported positive use cases such as remittances abroad, and in many cases, individuals are offered opportunities to bank in areas with autocratic governments.
Nonetheless, even after all of this shared history, including the years of struggle that were dedicated to legitimizing this industry, we may have a problem. After the recent attacks on Capitol Hill by a crazed mob of Trump supporters, and the subsequent crackdown from social media on domestic terrorists, there has been renewed interest by some members of the cryptocurrency community to push cryptocurrency products that are used by extremists, conspiracy theorists, and domestic terrorists. In some cases the push is simply to pump a token which they later plan to dump, in other cases, it is to support a project they are passionate about.
You can see examples of this all over social media platforms such as Twitter – Tweets that push the services of the decentralized hosting platform Filecoin so that it can host websites such as Parler that are frequented by extremists and QAnon supporters who are attempting to overthrow the United States government. This is why Amazon terminated its agreement with Parler and removed the website/app from its cloud hosting platform.
Others are pushing privacy-based cryptocurrencies such as Zcash, Monero, and Dash, in case these same dangerous individuals need to move funds around without law enforcement noticing in order to purchase illegal weapons, or other services that are used for a dark purpose.
The irony is that many of these same individuals who are pushing privacy-tokens fail to understand how cryptocurrencies are tracked on the blockchain and the fact that Monero is currently being monitored by the FBI. If this trend continues, exchanges will be pressured to delist these tokens and this will result in these same tokens rightfully plunging in value, what a shame that would be.
The question that needs to be asked is “why”? Why do some members of the community feel the need to be associated with violent extremists or the Dark Web? Is there really any amount of money that can justify the negative consequences of these actions?
From a purely selfish point of view, the more negative association that the industry shares, the more unlikely the industry is to have wide-reaching adoption, investments by venture funds, and SEC approval of a Bitcoin ETF.
This industry does not need to be the last bastion for those who require decentralized services to hide their nefarious activities. We need to stand together, and tell the extremists that we do not want to be associated with them. Only when the industry comes together to push out conmen, hustlers, and extremists can we finally be widely accepted by the global community. If we want true market adoption, then we need to play our part.
Many will claim that to protect the 1st Amendment is why we need to enable these dissenters. Unfortunately, it is these same people who have failed to understand what the 1st Amendment actually means, this is how it is written in the constitution:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
At no point does the 1st Amendment stipulate that private companies are obligated to offer refuge to any entity that is abusing the terms and services of their platform. If someone owns a platform, it is their 1st Amendment right to choose how they wish to police that platform. It is that communities right to demand accountability, to request to have terms and conditions against hate speech and to remove offending users.
It is my hope that our decentralized community can reject the call to be used by extremists. This community and the world deserve better.