The Associated Press published an article today titled "Far-right cryptocurrency follows ideology across borders" (https://apnews.com/article/cryptocurrency-coronavirus-pandemic-technology-business-europe-f7f754fc2c68b0eb0d712239323f26c3). The article is about far-right and extremist groups across the globe and their use of cryptocurrencies. Half of the article refers to Bitcoin and the other half to Monero. The title seems to come from a quote about half way though:
Richard Spencer, an American white supremacist, has dubbed Bitcoin the “currency of the alt-right.”
I am a big fan of Monero, but articles like the above do give me pause at times about the project. I thought that I would share my thoughts on what keeps me going and why I don't consider how Monero is used by some to be a reflection on the project or community as a whole:
Monero is a tool. It has no moral qualities. People use tools for all sorts of things, both good, bad and mundane/ordinary. Tor, for example, is a tool that can be used for great good or great evil or to just browse the internet.
Soon after 9/11 here in the States, there were many conversations about the need for backdoors in computers and software, that encryption in general was too dangerous due to its use by 'evil doers'.
This conversation continues to this day and while our privacy and rights continue to be eroded, some things have gotten better. More people understand that encryption hashes/algorithms, much like Monero, are basically just math when you boil it down. They don't have a moral quality and it is very difficult to illegalize mathematic equations.
Furthermore, it is not just 'evil doers' who rely on encryption. The US Federal government heavily relies on encryption for both their files and communications, so does most every major modern business. Today, thanks to PGP, the tireless advocacy efforts of groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (and MANY others) and implementation by projects such as Signal and Protonmail, even the most main stream platforms are beginning to implement E2E encryption for regular users on their messaging platforms. Even most Apple and Android devices are encrypted by default. Where previously this level of encryption was vilified, it is now becoming totally ordinary.
TLDR: My point here is that you would not say that Tor is "bad" just because of how certain people use it. You would not say that PGP is "bad" due to how certain people use it. You would not say encryption algorithms are "bad" due to how certain people use them. We should have the same attitude with Monero.
A few other points about the article:
- I chose to say that Monero has no 'moral qualities', as opposed to political because Monero, arguably, does have some political leanings. Monero, and many other cryptocurrencies, were brought about in hacker/crypto-anarchist/libertarian online communities. Not everyone in the Monero community shares these values or associates themselves with them, but it is still definitely there. It is worth noting though that none of the aforementioned groups are the same as the trash the AP article is about.
- I chose to share this article not to spread FUD, but to share my thought on what will continue to be an ongoing issue, and because I believe that one of the Monero community's biggest strength is its ability to question and discuss issues in a productive and civil manner. This is not a community that just goes with the flow unquestioningly.
- It is also worth reminding ourselves that financial privacy is not something new. It is, to a certain extent, a right that has been largely curtailed. In the past, at least here in the States, there was wide-spread skepticism of the financial surveillance that credit cards would bring, of a potential national id and of surveillance in our everyday lives by the government. Much of that sentiment has, unfortunately, disappeared, and we are left trying to claw back much of what we previously had. Electronic money is new – cash, coins and gold were the law of the land for hundreds of years. Surveillance and control at the individual transaction level, on a global scale, is VERY new. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking that this is just the way it has always been.
- This is not so "short" any more, my bad, but I will close by saying that politics, policies and governments change. It is easy to give up our rights when the groups being targeted are ones like those in the article, but in the future, those that are targeted could change and we'd all be screwed. It could be workers trying to unionize or human rights groups, or people trying to access reproductive care. If we give up our rights now, it can be difficult to impossible to get them back when we need them.