Although cryptocurrencies are associated with crime, no other type of payment is free from illegal uses. Privacy is a right, but the community must also be responsible for its consequences.
Some pedophile networks sell pornography in exchange for Bitcoin, using the privacy provided by this payment method. This illegal use of cryptocurrencies and money in general has tarnished Bitcoin’s reputation and has been its detractors’ main argument.
Belankazar, a Venezuelan modeling academy has allegedly sold girls’ photos on social networks in exchange for cryptocurrencies. On Tuesday, September 3rd, Twitter users reported the modeling academy for allegedly creating content for pedophiles.
On social networks, there are myriad complaints with screenshots of Russian pages with which the academy allegedly traded the photos. They also observed inappropriate comments from adult men to girls between 11 to 16 years old on the academy’s Facebook account. One of the most controversial data was the use of the Skrill platform, BTC, BCH, LTC and even ETH to process payments for videos and private photos.
The concern is totally valid but the arguments against Bitcoin are based on complete ignorance about blockchain and the favorite payment methods of criminals. Bitcoin is not responsible for the promotion of illegal activities but the people who use it for such purposes. Money (in the form of digital currencies, bank transfers or paper money) has criminals among its many friends.
Most criminals do illegal activities to satisfy their desires (buying child pornography) or earn dishonest money (creating child pornography). Like any other activity, it is a cycle that sustains itself economically, and the problem is not cryptocurrencies, since all forms of money can be used in the black market.
Bitcoin Anonymity Is a Fallacy
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, whose blockchain has a totally public transaction log, do not have anonymous users. Any transaction in Bitcoin is recorded immutably in the eyes of anyone can use a blockchain browser. In other words, if a page on the Deep Web is processing payments for child pornography, users can follow the movement of this money in the network.
It is true that it is not easy to discover a Bitcoin user’s identity, but it is not an impossible task either. Some researchers have developed methods to track transactions in the network, used by law enforcement organizations worldwide.
Cybersecurity startups such as Chainalysis are dedicated to using blockchains such as Bitcoin to prevent human trafficking or child abuse. Since 2016, the company has collaborated with foundations and government authorities to stop criminals from hiding behind Bitcoin’s “anonymity.”
It is true that privacy has many benefits. Cryptocurrencies are preferred as a payment method to avoid censorship, centralized power and personal data theft. However, cryptocurrencies are not the only payment method used by pedophiles.
Chainalysis estimates that, by July 2019, USD 1 billion had already been used on the Deep Web to buy drugs, weapons or child pornography. The United Nations (UN) Organization also noted that the introduction of cryptocurrencies to the pedophilia market complicates police work.
Faced with these figures and cases such as Belankazar, it is questionable that certain users take advantage of an unregulated cryptocurrency ecosystem for objectionable purposes. This community cannot be built on selfishness and convenience, so it is important to respect everyone’s rights, including those of exploited children.
By Willmen Blanco