Finance

Bitcoin as Censorship-proof Money for Activists and Protest Groups

3 Mins read

From feminist organizations in Nigeria and Afghan activists to NGOs in Belarus and the Canadian trucker protest, protest groups worldwide are discovering the power of Bitcoin as politically neutral and censorship-resistant money. If you are a Bitcoin trader, here are some important tips for Bitcoin trading that you must know.

Bitcoin is a decentralized network with no central authority. No party can turn the knobs on its own. As a result, monetary policy is immutable, but it does not allow anyone to block users and transactions or confiscate funds. Due to its decentralized nature, Bitcoin has the rare qualities of being politically neutral and censorship-resistant money.

Fortunately, most people do not often deal with financial censorship because it is a highly severe sanction. Financial censorship can mean that services are discontinued, money is confiscated, and accounts are frozen or blocked. You cannot buy food or goods, pay rent or bills, and campaign or protest without a payment option.

It is a modern exile intended for criminal or terrorist organizations and national threats. However, governments are also increasingly using it against activists and political opponents. All over the world, all kinds of protests are happening—the power of bitcoin as politically neutral and censorship-resistant money.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the non-profit organization Code to Inspire worked to teach programming to young Afghan girls. Since the Taliban took over the country, the organization continues to teach, mostly virtually, but famine has increasingly become a bigger problem than lack of education. Today, therefore, the organization mainly focuses on providing food aid.

“Fereshteh Forough,” an afghan social activist of “Code to Inspire,” looked for ways to send money to needy students. However, due to sanctions imposed, banks refused to cooperate. In addition, many students indicated that local bank branches were closed or that caps or other restrictions were in place.

She found an alternative method in cryptocurrency to get the emergency money to the girls. Forough sends the money via a stablecoin, and in Afghanistan, the girls exchange the amount into the local currency at a local exchange. “We’ve created a safe way for our girls to exchange their crypto and pay for their expenses so that they can pay for medical expenses and food, and whatever else is needed,” Forough told The Intercept.

“I still can’t believe that I could receive money in such a transparent way, without the fear of it being confiscated in some way,” said the anonymized TN, a 21-year-old student from Herat.

Canada

A lot is going on in Canada right now. In response to the truckers’ protest, the government declared a state of emergency and, with the additional powers, applied financial censorship to halt the protest. Protestants’ accounts were frozen, and fundraising via donation websites was blocked. Protesting truckers also risk having their insurance canceled.

Shortly after regular donation websites stopped providing services, the truckers found an alternative way to raise funds in bitcoin. As a result, about 21 BTC in donations came in in a short time, worth about 700,000 euros.

Those bitcoins may now be on a sanctions list because the Canadian government identified 34 wallets and obliged exchanges to block transactions to and from the wallets. In addition, it is reported that the funds raised will now be distributed through direct peer-to-peer transactions.

Nigeria

In October 2020, In Nigeria, resistance to the excessive police brutality of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad police unit grew. The SARS unit was accused of fraudulent checks, extortion, robberies, torture, and even extrajudicial killings.

Financial censorship was soon applied to quell the protests. The bank accounts of the Feminist Coalition, one of the organizers of the protests, were frozen and fundraising via a donation website blocked.

However, The Human Rights Foundation helped the Feminist Coalition set up its BTCPay server, after which the organization received more than €150,000 in bitcoin donations. The Feminist Coalition funded 128 protests and eventually ceased fundraising when disbanded the SARS unit was.

Russia

Activist Alexej Navalny is President Putin’s most outspoken political opponent in Russia. He has been in opposition for years and would run for the presidency, but the Russian government stopped that.

Navalny was arrested several times, and the Russian government designated his non-profit organization, The Anti-Corruption Foundation, as an extremist group. Then, in 2020, Navalny was flown to a hospital in Berlin for poisoning with a nerve agent. Navalny was immediately arrested upon returning to Russia and is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in one of Russia’s strictest prisons.

It is illegal to donate to ‘extremist groups.’ Donating through traditional means is therefore practically impossible. However, Leonid Volkov, one of Navalny’s allies, pointed out that it is nevertheless essential to continue fundraising but that donors must be protected in the process.

“It’s not that easy right now – the money flows within the Russian banking system are so clear and transparent to the Russian state, that’s why you and I should stay away from that,” Volkov told his social media followers. “Since the state is denying us simple and understandable donation methods, it means that we have to explain to each other how to use cryptocurrencies patiently, and we will teach ourselves.”

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