Internet censorship during COVID-19 is a threat to cryptocurrencies freedom
By The Crypto Basic on The Capital
NetBlocks which is a “civil community organization acting at the intersection of digital freedoms, cybersecurity and internet governance,” stated unfamiliar internet interruptions in Wuhan on certain nights, when the COVID-19 disease got going.
The Farsi transcription of Wikipedia has been obstructed in Iran for about 24 hours.
VPN company Surfshark published that its VPN infrastructure in Iran saw a 50% decline in contact rates after WHO stated COVID-19 a pandemic on March 13.
Her cybersecurity advisor, Naomi Hedges, said:
“Since March 13th, when [COVID-19] was classified as a pandemic, Surfshark’s connection rates in Iran have dropped 50%. In the meantime, our website traffic from Iran has quintupled compared to its usual rate.
Before the announcement, we had no significant fluctuations in connectivity rates in Iran. The numbers, therefore, indicate increasing attempts to censor the Internet.”
China is also reported to be restricting Internet access outside the Great Firewall, with VPN providers and connections under pressure. Chinese social media networks like WeChat have reportedly also censored COVID-19 related terms since December 31.
In a remarkable incident, Dr. Li Wenliang censored by the Wuhan police for publishing COVID-19 in a private WeChat group.
This is a threat known to many advocates of cryptocurrency and Bitcoin. The Internet itself is a protocol on which Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies depend to communicate data. If the Internet is shut down or content is filtered/blocked, peers in a certain country cannot communicate effectively with each other.
If the content is censored or tracked, cryptocurrency miners and peers within a country may find that their attempts to connect to the global network are denied, effectively compromising their ability to transact and get the global status of the Bitcoin network.
For this reason, Blockstream has tried to separate Bitcoin from its dependency on an uncensored Internet by launching a satellite network that transfers data from the Bitcoin blockchain and all other data that is paid for uploading through the Lightning network.
This increases the cost of censoring Bitcoin and other information: The nation-states no longer have to interrupt domestic broadband communication but have to use kinetic forces in space — an option to which only a few countries have access and which would not be politically enviable even for them the boldest political leader.
Aside from the blunt question of on / off censorship, cryptocurrencies and their relationship to the internet pose interesting dilemmas overall.
As central banks are increasingly concerned with the digitization of their currencies and the legal attitude towards digital data protection is being redefined by COVID-19, far-reaching changes can be threatened
Centralized digital currencies have access to lots of metadata associated with each account, including possible location data that can be tracked and collated.
This may be necessary for the event of a pandemic, but in general, governments that face hard-fought emergency powers are unwilling to return it. In the period after September 11, there were a number of renewals to the approval of the armed forces and the Patriot Act, which expanded to protect various government powers until the reform took place more than a decade later.
This prompted Edward Snowden to warn that “temporary” surveillance powers could well survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
While governments are trying to respond to COVID-19, some will try to censor the Internet, and some will try to use digital tools to track their people during the crisis, possibly with long-term ramifications. Both have the potential for abuse and both pose different but ubiquitous threats to cryptocurrencies and our overall freedom.