Think twice before adding illegal content to Bitcoin SV chain
After Bitcoin SV (BSV) Node developers and miners lifted the OP_Return data size limits to 100KB, activity immediately took off as users started posting texts, videos and even pictures. Unfortunately, among these posts was apparently (not yet confirmed) a piece of illegal content involving alleged child exploitation material, The Next Web reported.
The content was posted via a transaction processed by Money Button. It was later discovered on BitcoinFiles.org, which proceeded to remove the content from the site after receiving “a notice from their local authorities about the nature of the illegal content viewable on their website.” According to Money Button, BitcoinFiles contacted them “suspecting that Money Button may have been the tool the criminals used to write this content to the blockchain.”
An investigation ensued, and Money Button confirmed that they “have banned the user responsible for creating those transactions.” The swift actions by Money Button and BitcoinFiles.org demonstrate responsible measures and leadership for the BSV ecosystem in how to address illegal content on the blockchain.
Stop the FUD
Nevertheless, with this incident, the TNW report misleadingly tries to claim it is now a so-called “harsh reality” involving a proof-of-work chain “perpetually verifying the existence of child exploitation material.” But the reality is the issue of illegal content on blockchains is not unique to BSV. As nChain’s Jimmy Nguyen (also Founding President of the bComm Association) pointed out, the Bitcoin SV chain is a data ledger, and just like any platform that is used to store and transmit data, there is always the possibility that some people will use the platform for nefarious reasons.
“The same is true for the Internet, and is true for the Bitcoin Core (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH-ABC), Ethereum, and other cryptocurrency networks—on which illegal content likely already lives,” Nguyen said.
Even in the Bitcoin Core (BTC) network, according to nChain Chief Scientist Dr. Craig Wright, it’s possible to encode data in the keys, allowing illegal content like child pornography in small transactions. In fact, there have been prior media reports (such as in March 2018) about researchers finding illegal content on the Bitcoin (BTC) blockchain. Therefore, any attempt – such as the TNW report – to suggest this issue is unique to the BSV blockchain is disingenuous and possibly an attempt at cryptocurrency market manipulation by unfairly painting BSV with negative accusations which apply to other networks as well.
Case point: In November, the ABC group introduced OP_CHECKDATASIG, also known as DSV op_code, paving the way for new parameters to the BCHABC chain that would allow it to be used anonymously, as well as for criminal activity. Supporters of this change expressly promoted the op_code for on-chain bets and wagers that constitute illegal bucket shops.
Contrary to the TNW report, rolling back the BSV blockchain via a hard fork to eliminate the alleged illegal content is not the solution. As prior media reporting about illegal content on the BTC chain has noted, any illicit “content doesn’t appear in the form of JPEG image or video files that can suddenly pop up on a user’s computer. The offensive content is instead house in the blockchain in the form of links buried alongside all the other data sent with a transaction. As such, fishing this out and decoding it would take a great deal of effort.”
The real solution, according to Nguyen, is having a responsible ecosystem. He explained:
“We of course do not encourage nor want illegal content on Bitcoin SV or any technology platform. The answer does not lie in limiting the data capacity of the platform. Instead, responsible service providers operating on the BSV blockchain will take measures to prevent writing to or reading from the blockchain any content that is illegal.”
Money Button, for instance, has already updated its Terms of Service to explicitly clarify that its service cannot be used to write illegal content onto the blockchain. In addition, the company said it is working with other businesses and groups “to create protocols and tooling for sharing blacklisted transactions and addresses.”
Currently, a wide range of illegal content still finds its way to the Internet. But with balanced laws (such as the Communications Decency Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the U.S.) and responsible actions from stakeholders, online service providers are able to address content that is unlawful for any number of reasons, including infringing intellectual property rights, defamation, constituting illegal pornography, or selling prohibited products, among others. The Bitcoin SV chain is no different, according to Nguyen.
“The BSV ecosystem’s ethos is very much to encourage legally-compliant business action. We are confident BSV applications will follow the journey of Internet service providers in taking actions which foster a safe blockchain ecosystem—while also taking advantage of the technological power of a BSV blockchain with no limits,” he said.
And to those who are still thinking of adding illegal content to the BSV chain, Nguyen, a former digital technology lawyer since the 1990s, has two words for you: think twice.
“Users must digitally sign any data they want to add to the blockchain. Those digital signatures are admissible in courts of law to prove possession of illicit material and intent to distribute,” he said.
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