Cryptocurrency and Blockchain as a Form of Free Speech
How many times have we failed to fight for our rights to freedom of speech? When is this battle going to end? ‘Freedom of Speech’ has been an ongoing battle of humanity for so many years. People have been deprived of their speech freedom as governments worldwide try to control information flowing in, out, and across their countries. They’ve been using high-technology censorship software that controls access to different websites, monitors people’s online activities, manipulates data, and takes down websites that expose their dirty and ugly operations.
As a result, many activists worldwide started to stand up against this gross violation of privacy, stealing data, and manipulating information online.
Fortunately, humankind has invented a technology that can play a big part in the movement for mitigating this unacceptable practice of governments — blockchain technology. Blockchain and its undermining applications allow citizens to practice their freedom of speech by communicating safety, revealing the oppression of the current regime, and avoiding the restrictions set by the government on different online platforms. These characteristics and abilities of blockchain technology may have made the government feel anxious and threatened.
But before diving into knowing how blockchain is associated with freedom of speech, let’s understand how blockchain works.
How does Blockchain Work?
Blockchain is a technology invented to safely store data, not relying on a central source but rather across a distributed data network. It is way too different from traditional record-keeping systems since it uses unique properties of Cryptography, the practice of techniques for secure communication between senders and recipients.
For a better understanding of the concept of blockchain technology, a good analogy is the public revisions and modification storage mechanism of Wikipedia pages. It is not new to everyone who uses the Internet that Wikipedia can store revision histories. Anyone can change, revert, modify, and publicly view all edits on all Wikipedia pages.
Like an edited Wikipedia page, blockchain can also provide a form of edits history for particular transactions. But, one of the distinctions is that Wikipedia is a centralized entity and blockchain is not. If they try to vanish Wikipedia, all modification records will die out in a tick of time. Still, if you place Wikipedia on blockchain technology, no single version can be censored or deleted because every data would be distributed across a network.
The same concept applies to how blockchain technology could be of great help to cases that become unacceptable in court due to altering evidence. The use of blockchain technology provides a transparent solution to get around the problem since each user in that system has a copy of the data. It has the power to authenticate system data and the basis for content file systems distributed throughout the network. Thus, there is almost a 0% risk of data misuse because it is decentralized and cannot be taken offline.
Among the widespread applications of blockchain technology is the so-called cryptocurrencies. Blockchain is the foundation of these digital currencies. Some eminent cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Satoshi, Ethereum, and many more are wings of blockchain technology. They do not behave according to monetary policies set by the government; they are intangible and prominently decentralized.
In simpler words, there is no world bank for cryptocurrencies. For instance, Bitcoin does not require banks to transfer amounts since the blockchain technology publicly verifies and keeps track of all transfers through crowdsourcing. Thus, anyone could go online and view all Bitcoin transactions happening from its origin since all data has been replicated throughout all nodes worldwide. It again explains the concept of blockchain technology.
There is no denial that blockchain technology has become a hot topic in the world. Many became so interested in the platform itself and what it can do to society. It has robust characteristics like transparency, disintermediation, pseudonymity, decentralization, and immutability. These characteristics can make humanity see an excellent potential to command censorship-resistant activities. Finally, it can protect and preserve freedom of expression, especially speech.
How Is Blockchain Associated as a Form of Free Speech?
So how can the robust characteristics of blockchain technology help aid freedom of speech?
- Blockchain is immutable. Blockchain technology does not allow alterations from any malicious third party since all data records are kept, distributed, and confirmed by thousands of people universally. It means that no political power or influence can modify documents or information the way they want it to appear. Thus, it prevents censorship or scrutiny of messages between two or more parties.
- Blockchain aids free speech through cryptocurrency adoption. One of the most popular platforms to help freedom of speech is cryptocurrency. A cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency that is less receptive to government or business interference. Suppose the government blocks the financial communications of specific individuals due to their political stance and beliefs.In that case, the cryptocurrency platform could still be an alternative to storing wealth without thinking about possible wealth controls and financial exclusions of services from the government. It is an intelligent way to enable cryptocurrency to save oneself from being affected by expressing negative political ideas against the government.
- Blockchain technology allows protected air grievances or complaints publicly. With the excellent protection feature of blockchain technology, criticisms, disappointments, and objections towards the government are feasible. Blockchain technology provides citizens the freedom to express their dissatisfaction without fear of tampering, censorship, and unease on the deletion of their disapproval expressions.
- Blockchain’s decentralization feature allows unencrypted messaging and difficult data scraping. Over the years, governments and giant corporations worldwide have been capitalizing on the vulnerabilities of centralized third parties like internet service providers and messaging networks that purely rely on cloud services (e.g., WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram).
- Blockchain technology is an excellent solution to the failure of retaining and keeping encrypted messaging networks safe and secure. It is a decentralized network where you can send messages that can’t be encrypted and send and store data that are harder to sweep. It is a ledger of information continuously updated and confirmed by people worldwide. It has given an excellent platform to express one’s opinion and criticism against higher positions without worrying about any interference.
Blockchain is an excellent record management tool for whistle-blowing operations. Blockchain technology is an expanding list of secured data records that are very difficult to modify. This characteristic of blockchain makes it a great record management tool favorable to whistle-blowing operations. All data in the blockchain network system is secured and traceable and can be presented upon need on legal actions or procedures.
Blockchain as the Medium to Document #MeToo Stories in China
The MeToo movement is a feminist movement fighting for the rights, inclusivity, and just treatment of women worldwide. It fights for justice on sexual violence and discrimination experienced by women.
In late 2017 in China, multiple stories of rape, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment in Chinese universities have been uploaded and shared on Chinese social media sites like Weibo and WeChat. During the early periods, the movement was called woyeshi, which is the Chinese translation for MeToo. The government responded to the issue by using high-technology software in filtering and censoring all keywords, hashtags, and ideas about woyeshi, MeToo, and eventually “Rice Bunny,” which has the same pronunciation as MeToo in Chinese.
There were also extreme cases where Chinese authorities detained women who organized protests on public transports that raised awareness of sexual harassment.
As a result of all manipulations, tampering, editing, and removal of stories regarding the MeToo movement by the government, campaigners and activists turned to blockchain technology to record and share all reports under the website “Every Snowflake.”
The website serves as a blockchain archive for stories about sexual abuse and harassment significantly to raise awareness on the cause. A Chinese student once posted on the WeChat app, “There is no 404 in the blockchain.” It just shows how powerful the blockchain technology platform is in not just exercising freedom of speech but fighting for what is right.
Aside from using the “Every Snowflake” website, activists also turned to one of the cryptocurrency blockchain platforms called Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum blockchain is a decentralized blockchain powering the cryptocurrency called Ether. The activities utilized the platform by sending tiny amounts of Ether with attached written memos in their transactions. These memos contained stories about sexual violence that are viewable from various websites that display blockchain transaction information, for instance, Etherscan.
Blockchain technology has been beneficial in spreading awareness on movements like MeToo. Victims have the freedom to share their stories without worrying about counterpart actions from the government. Although it became transformative in many aspects of data integrity, there could also be some problems and challenges with the platform.
It is why it’s imperative to be mindful of the consequences of using blockchain technology in uploading and sharing information digitally as it usually lives forever –no corrections, no modifications, and no deletions. But, what do legal experts have to say about blockchain technology and how can people utilize it for a cause?
Experts’ Take on Blockchain and Cryptocurrency as a Form of Free Speech
Have you heard of the cryptocurrency concept that states:
“Bitcoin is code, code is speech, and speech is protected under United States Law?”
Legal experts, business people, professors, executive directors, and court judges have different opinions and take on this statement and the subject of digital rights and crypto in general.
Some courts across the globe recognize code as speech. But, technically, it is still up for discussion and settlement as the Supreme Court hasn’t decided on this since there is no strong acceptance of the logic. Many experts agree that code put out by crypto developers is a way of expressing and communicating ideas, and therefore considered a form of speech. Code falls under commercial speech, so it has protection under a particular scope of laws. But how far can it be held protected under specific rules or regulations?
It can get tempting to accept that since code is speech, it is protected by particular laws. Things can get complicated when speech and actions overlap and result in communicative conduct. There are times when speech results in conduct that constitutes action and not just an expression of an idea. That is where the problem starts to arise. In general, a commercial speech that results in illegal activities is misleading, and false is unprotected by freedom of speech laws. Some even believe that code is generally unprotected if it is targeted as a machine-use.
On a positive note, the development of blockchain technology made people realize that there is always a chance to stand up and be morally responsible in stopping oppressive political policies of the government that limit freedom of speech and the press. Blockchain technology has the means to extend and spread this freedom across the world and heed that change is coming, and there’s no other choice but to embrace it.