Zero Tolerance for Illegal Contents on Blockchains

The Bitcoin SV ecosystem does not tolerate illegal activity.  Unlike the anti-government culture of many other cryptocurrency communities, Bitcoin SV is the most business friendly, government friendly, and law enforcement friendly.  

The BSV blockchain is a data ledger that provides a permanent and unmodifiable record of events using digital signatures for provable authorisation by an individual.  It is a system that is designed from the ground up for transparency and accountability.  But like any data storage and transmission platform, Bitcoin SV can be abused for illegal purposes.  This is not a new problem as internet giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter have been grappling with it for years.  Other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin Core (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), and Ethereum have also faced this problem as their chains have always allowed metadata (and thus image files) to be added to transactions, so the issue is not unique to BSV.  

Unfortunately, it appears that an item of illegal content was recently uploaded to the BSV blockchain – in what appears to be an improper attempt to hurt the chain and manipulate cryptocurrency market prices.  This is not the first time illegal content has been uploaded to a blockchain.  In March 2018, German researchers reported finding child abuse content on the Bitcoin Core (BTC) blockchain, including image files, exactly as in the recent BSV scenario.  There is nothing new in what has happened here on the BSV chain. 

It is important to understand that any illegal content resides in the blockchain only in the form of data.  It is not accessible or human viewable without specialised decoding tools and clear intent.

The BSV ecosystem’s response to this incident has been rapid and decisive. The message is overwhelmingly “Zero Tolerance.”

  • Both the site through which the illicit content was uploaded (MoneyButton.com) and the site on which it was discovered (BitcoinFiles.org) immediately took action to ensure the content was blacklisted and no longer accessible.  Other BSV network participants have taken similar measures to blacklist the content from blockchain data viewing services and make it inaccessible through web portals.
  • Money Button and BitcoinFiles.org immediately updated their Terms of Service to explicitly clarify that their service cannot be used to write onto the blockchain, upload or access illegal content.
  • Moderation facilities have been put in place to alert site operators of questionable content. 
  • Further actions have been taken to improve logging of source IP addresses so that more detailed evidence can be provided to law enforcement authorities to assist in tracking down perpetrators of this or any future crime. 

Furthermore, Bitcoin’s properties as a permanent and unchangeable record of events provide immutable and mathematically provable evidence whenever criminal activity takes place on the blockchain – the digital equivalent of DNA evidence.  This cryptographic proof makes the blockchain different from other platforms like TOR and IPFS that are designed for anonymity and are attractive to criminals for posting illegal content.  In contrast, Bitcoin SV is not designed for anonymity; the use of digital signatures to authorise Bitcoin transactions creates a public and undeletable evidence trail with every data transaction. 

On behalf of the bComm Association (the leading industry association for Bitcoin SV) and the entire BSV ecosystem, we want to send a very clear message:  the Bitcoin SV blockchain is a not a place for criminal activity, and if you use it for illegal purposes, you will leave a digitally signed evidence trail that cannot be erased.  This evidence is fully admissible in a court of law, and you will likely be caught and prosecuted.  Think twice and be prepared for legal action before you try adding illegal content to the blockchain.  We stand ready to work with global law enforcement authorities to stamp out this and any other illegal misuse of Bitcoin.

Almost four years ago, in March 2015 well before the BSV chain emerged, INTERPOL cyber threat researchers identified the threat of using blockchain transactions to embed illegal data, including child abuse images.  At the time, INTERPOL encouraged spreading awareness and cooperation amongst the public, law enforcement, and the blockchain communities.  We agree that Bitcoin businesses should work with law enforcement to find solutions for blockchain abuse, and that is exactly how BSV participants are so quickly responding. 

As a former digital technology lawyer since the 1990s, I witnessed a similar evolution on the Internet.  With balanced laws (such as the Communications Decency Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the U.S.) and cooperation with government agencies, online service providers now regularly address content that constitutes illegal pornography, that sells prohibited products, infringes intellectual property rights, that defames, or that is unlawful for other reasons.  I expect the blockchain industry will progress similarly, as we harness the technological power of Bitcoin while taking responsible action to foster safe environments.