Get Your Hardfork Away from My Subreddit: Bitcoin and Censorship
One of the more interesting storylines that has been simmering since the inception of Bitcoin has been the multifaceted infighting. But as 2017 inducted hundreds of thousands of newcomers to the space, political features of the digital money’s community are sure to be amplified. With an expanded network, arrive more voices and opinions; something that has been handled indelicately thus far.
Voting Manipulation and Motivations
Reddit has been a bastion of information for many users, and this is especially true for Bitcoin. /r/Bitcoin, naturally became the cryptocurrency’s home for expression, discussion, and, in the best case, provided a greater comprehension of a profoundly revolutionary technology. Initially, these objectives were more than achieved. Yet, this changed over time.
The primary controversy that circulates the community, particularly Bitcoin’s, is scalability and increasing the block size. Scaling bitcoin has been the reason for the myriad of different forks, each attempting their own solution to Satoshi’s vision. Ironically, each attempt claims to be more perfectly attending the creator’s genius than the last.
The difficulty, especially for the uninitiated, is in determining which solution has achieved peer-to-peer, free, borderless, and instant transactions.
These differing philosophies came with both technical explanations in the forms of bifurcating strings of code, but also in the form of manipulating information. The first instance of this manipulation became apparent in 2014 when Gavin Andresen proposed a 20MB block size.
The proposal also came with a blogging campaign, much like an ICO might perform in 2017. Although the suggestion was a flop, Andresen dropped the block size to 8MB and initiated one of the first voting manipulations on /r/Bitcoin ever in order to revamp his initiative.
The way in which the moderators of the subreddit observed Andresen’s attack was through very suggestive data. BashCo, an administrator of /r/Bitcoin, followed his suspicions by effecting a script that bypassed Reddit’s “vote fuzzing.” This feature of the website prevents third parties from effectively tracking voting scores.
In the graph above, there is an inhuman spike in the number of votes cast in a relatively short window of time. It should be noted that the moderator conducted similar experiments with other popular subreddit’s and found votes to be cast in scales measuring into the minutes, rather than seconds. But, with anything, this data is not conclusive, only strongly suggestive of voter manipulation.
Sound familiar? Campaigns that simulate consensus, especially in the way of increasing Bitcoin’s pesky block limit have been going on for a few years.
More importantly, the mess created by Andresen’s fork, Bitcoin XT, provided the groundwork for a new set of rules in the subreddit. The post by moderator /u/theymos, behaved much like a supreme court ruling as the guidelines were enforced on other bitcoin forks, most notably, Bitcoin Cash.
Criticism flooded in via other subreddits and Medium articles discussion how theymos’ policing of /r/Bitcoin was in fact censorship. Others, like nopara73, explained that the moderator’s firmness comes from their attempt to keep “their child [from turning] into a shithole.”
Bitcoin Cash is the best example in so far as it is the most influential and recent fork. Moreover, a near perfect divide between /r/Bitcoin and /r/btc has formed and better illustrates the article’s thematic focus; censorship.
Two Parties, Two Subreddits
This neat split between the two subreddits could best be understood by the fact that many employees of Bitcoin.com, a site belonging to Roger Ver, also moderate the /r/btc. Thus, in much the same way that theymos and BashCo have ousted the discussion surrounding non-bitcoin subjects, it’s counterpart forum has done much the same to critical opinions of Bitcoin Cash.
The difficulty is that these activities would be nearly unrecognizable to visitors and newcomers to the sector. Without details into the history of these currencies, readers are subject to deeply biased views, on both sides, of how the cryptocurrency is advancing.
A good rule of thumb? Follow the technology, not the money.