Bitcoin at the barricades: Ottawa, Ukraine and beyond

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Protesters against wax truck drivers who shut down downtown Ottawa, Canada, have closed their assembly stand because its owner fears “propaganda of violence.” Protesters are taking to the Bitcoin crowdfunding service. He quickly raised $900,000.

Russian troops gather near the border of Ukraine. According to a study conducted by blockchain analytics firm Elliptic on February 8, Ukrainian public and social organizations are using cryptocurrencies to help defend their country in the event of an imminent war.

Recent posts like this raise the question: Will Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies become the preferred fundraising platform for political protesters and social movements, given that cryptocurrencies do not respect national borders and are relatively resistant to censorship? And if so, is it worth worrying?

After all, some find it difficult that the same fundraising platform that allows freedom fighters can also provide funds to a racist or terrorist group. According to the New York Times, a majority of Canadian citizens also did not support the truckers’ siege of downtown Ottawa. If true, is bitcoin being used as a tool to undermine democratic processes?

“Cryptocurrency has proven to be a reliable and growing alternative (to traditional currency), especially when it comes to donations from other countries,” Elliptic said. He notes that Bitcoin donations to Ukrainian volunteer groups to purchase military equipment, training services, and medical equipment for a possible war exceeded $500,000 in 2021, ten times more than the previous year.

“One of the advantages of Bitcoin is its resistance to censorship,” Bitcoin payment processor OpenNode wrote last year. “Without any central authority to dictate who can and cannot use bitcoin, it has proven to be the currency of choice for many individuals and organizations who have remained outside traditional payment methods.”

Pandora’s box opened
Some believe this trend is likely to continue. “Social movements will eventually raise money through blockchain-based crowdfunding platforms,” Erica Pimentel, assistant professor at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in Canada, told Cointelegraph. There is little incentive to use centralized fundraising platforms like GoFundMe – the original Canadian truck driver platform before it got its stamp – when campaigns on these platforms can easily be closed down. “You can never close the lid of Pandora’s box again,” she said.

Bitcoin has certainly been a fundraising tool for quite some time now. The political movement of imprisoned Russian dissident Alexei Navalny has been receiving BTC donations since 2016, although the influx increased significantly in 2021. As of February 16, 2022, the movement had received a total of 667 BTC, which at that time was more than $29 million. Letters. , according to the bitcoin address promoted by the group.

In Belarus – a former Soviet republic like Ukraine – the Belarus Solidarity Fund (BYSOL) has received cryptocurrency donations to support political victims of the country’s security forces in the wake of street protests following the controversial 2020 presidential election. The foundation pays fines for protesters. And he has been using cryptocurrencies since the beginning, because “it is very difficult for the Belarusian authorities to stop these flows,” said Andrei Strizak, head of BYSOL.

Protest action against Lukashenka, 16 August 2020. Minsk, Belarus. Translation: “Just a choice. Court. Freedom for political prisoners. Source: Homoatrox.
Bypassing financial institutions is often the main reason for raising funds based on blockchain. “In some cases, we found that financial institutions closed accounts belonging to these fundraising campaigns,” Elliptic said, adding:

“This cannot happen with a crypto wallet. Cryptocurrency is also particularly suitable for cross-border donations, providing easier access to wealthy foreign donors.”
Extremist groups have also used bitcoin to raise funds. For example, the neo-Nazi group the Daily Stormer received 15 BTC from an anonymous donor in August 2017, its largest donation ever, just one week after it participated in a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlotteville, Virginia. Bitcoin became the main source of funding for the group after the Daily Stormer was blocked by Paypal and cut off from credit card companies, according to a PBS Frontline report in which I spoke with Beth Littrell, an attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Laetrile note:

Source: CoinTelegraph

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