Justin Sun’s Steem locks user funds

Steem is going to freeze roughly $5 million in Steem tokens that belong to supporters of Hive.IO, a hard forked version of the Steem blockchain. The battle between Justin Sun’s Steem and Hive has been going on for more than three months now, and the trouble began when Justin Sun acquired Steemit.

Sun purchased Steemit, the blockchain-based blogging and social media website that rewards its users in Steem for publishing and curating content, on February 14. As part of his purchase, Sun became entitled to millions of pre-mined tokens (called the founder’s reward) that belonged to former Steemit owner Ned Scott.

However, the Steem community viewed Sun’s acquisition as problematic. Steem is a delegated Proof-of-Stake blockchain that is governed by the community and the community’s votes—the more Steem tokens a user holds, the more voting power they have. Sun’s Steem inheritance represented about 20% of the total supply of tokens, which made him one of the most powerful voters.

Sun’s acquisition of Steemit will be a precedent that showcases the problems that can arise from Delegated Proof-of-Stake networks–problems that Ethereum is bound to run into when it switches from Proof-of-Work (PoW) to Proof-of-Stake (PoS) in the Ethereum 2.0 upgrade. 

PoS networks can quickly turn into an oligarchy because token distributes are rarely, evenly distributed. As a result, on Proof-of-Stake network, the richest users on the network have the lion’s share of power when it comes to decision making or mining new blocks—which extends the gap between the rich and the poor on the network. Proof-of-Work networks eliminate these problems because competition between miners is fierce. In addition, the gap between those who frequently mine blocks and those who don’t can close very quickly in a PoW system. As Eli Afram says in his latest article, “ While the majority staker inevitably grows to become a bigger majority staker in a PoS systems, it is not so in a PoW world. The competition among POW miners is fierce… a newcomer with a great new invention in ASIC mining could perhaps take the lead…A society that rewards competitiveness, risk, and investment is far superior to a society that rewards oligarchy and the descent into the hands of another.”

The Steem community feared that Sun’s acquisition threatened the decentralization of the blockchain because it put too much power into the hands of Sun. To solve this problem, the Steem community created a community proposal that suggested the Steem blockchain soft fork in a way that would prevent Sun from being able to access and vote with the pre-mined tokens he inherited. The community voted in favor of this proposal—which only made matters worse.

Justin Sun regains control

Once the community voted to soft-fork away from Sun controlling the pre-mined tokens, a proposal was created on Justin’s behalf that would allow him to regain control of the pre-mined tokens if it was passed.

Sun enlisted the help of three digital currency exchanges—Binance, Huobi and Poloniex—and had them vote in the proposal by (illicitly?) pooling together the Steem tokens that were held on their exchanges by their users, and putting them towards the proposal to put Sun back in control of the pre-mined tokens. With the help of the three cryptocurrency exchanges, the proposal passed.

Hardfork to Hive

To combat Sun regaining control of the pre-mined tokens, Steem supporters decided to hard fork the Steem blockchain and call it Hive, a blockchain where everyone was airdropped Hive tokens in a 1:1 ratio to the Steem tokens they held—except for the founder’s reward. On Hive, Justin Sun is not a central source of power that can sway community voting decisions.

Where we are today

The Hive blockchain has persisted without Sun or individuals that support the Sun’s vision for the Steem blockchain. But in what seems to be a move to get back at those who support the Hive blockchain, a Steem hard fork scheduled for May 20 freezes roughly $5 million of STEEM that belongs to Hive supporters and even calls the users whose funds will be frozen out by name.

It is even rumored that Justin Sun has gotten law enforcement involved to put an end to the Hive blockchain, a chain he said was illegally created and is the work of hackers. 

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