Article 19 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.” Unfortunately, many governments around the world (as well as the UN) don’t always abide by this declaration, but the last line of the statement is still of vital importance – especially when it comes to discussions around cryptocurrency.
You see, cryptocurrency is a technology and an idea. It’s not limited by borders, so it’s a vital part of how we seek, receive and impart knowledge and information. Bitcoin (BTC) is at the center of this argument, because it’s the first cryptocurrency – and a Bitcoin is a transaction or an encrypted message – so therefore also a piece of information. One could go so far as to say that when free speech is under attack, Bitcoin is the weapon to resist. It’s not controlled by any central agency or authority, so it functions away from state censorship. Bitcoin (BTC) is the ultimate weapon in the fight for free speech, and we’ll show you how.
How does Bitcoin support free speech?
Chelsea Manning, a former US servicewomen, was found guilty on 20 counts in connection with leaking classified military intel on WikiLeaks, a whistleblowing website. Following her trial, many experts argued that Bitcoin was instrumental in the ongoing operation of the site.
You see, cryptocurrency has a major role in maintaining our right to free speech. The US government attempted to throttle the WikiLeaks payment system in an attempt to shut the site down. They were able to stop financial institutions like Visa and Paypal from processing donations to the site – but they couldn’t tackle Bitcoin.
Stephanie Murphy, a presenter on the radio show Let’s Talk Bitcoin! said that a number of people had approached her to tell her that they originally got into Bitcoin because they wanted a way to donate to WikiLeaks anonymously, as they were scared of FBI surveillance of controversial websites.
In order for free speech to function in our current global climate, we need platforms like WikiLeaks to have payment options that enable full anonymity – and Bitcoin provides that.
Patreon is a platform that allows its members to contribute to artists and creators that they follow online. Their contributions are made solely through standard payment methods like Paypal and credit cards. Over the last few months, Patreon has been removing creators that violate the rules of its platform.
Users like alt-right spokesperson Milo Yiannopoulos and British Youtuber Sargon of Akkad, were booted off the platform for association with the Proud Boys, a violent white nationalist terrorist organization, and for making racist and violent remarks towards minority groups respectively.
Hate speech is really only tantamount to attacks on a person or group based on their race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or gender. So have Yiannopoulos and Sargon of Akkad committed hate speech? Yes. But that doesn’t give Patreon the legal backing to have them removed. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that hate speech is legally protected as free speech under the First Amendment, so these creators are technically protected by the U.S constitution.
In response to Patreon removing alt-right users, a new Bitcoin-friendly platform has popped up. BitPatron has surfaced as an alternative to the site, providing a similar crowd-funding environment, but without the censorship. By using Bitcoin and Lightning as payment methods, the platform also states that it can keep fees lower than Patreon. There is no minimum pledge amount, and the total fees sit at around 4% instead of Patreon’s 10%.
BitPatron’s co-founder stated that he believes that BitPatron’s focus on Bitcoin is all about free speech. “Patreon publicly admitted that Mastercard required them to remove accounts. This is where Bitcoin and BitPatron come in. Bitcoin is censorship-resistant, free-speech money, and BitPatron is taking a leading role at building a Bitcoin-based, censorship-resistant platform that gives the power back to the community where it belongs,” Vin, told Bitcoin Magazine.
BitPatron still plans to censor some of its users. A spokesperson for the platform said that they’re still planning to monitor and block extreme users – such as those who upload illegal pornography, incite violence, and call for terrorist attacks.
It definitely still has a centralized element to it. The spokesperson added that ideally there’d be some kind of decentralized algorithm to do the necessary monitoring, but they’re not quite there yet.
So yes, when free speech is under attack Bitcoin is the weapon to resist – unfortunately the platforms that we use to resist aren’t perfect yet.
Bitcoin is free speech
Free Speech is vital to the existence of a functioning democracy, and yet we’re seeing it come under attack more and more. Cases like Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks, and even BitPatron, show us the importance of Bitcoin in the fight for free speech. Ultimately, we have to decide whether state censorship is something we’re going to resist or accept, and Bitcoin can be a tool to help us.
Without a doubt, when free speech is under attack, Bitcoin is the weapon to resist.