by Liam Kelly
A Twitter bot bearing the name Neonazi BTC Tracker tracks and monitors Bitcoin donations made to The Daily Stormer.
Following the catastrophic conclusion to the “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, has been scrounging for new media platforms. Shortly after the violent fallout, GoDaddy, CloudFlare, Scaleway halted all services to the website. After being terminated by Google shortly thereafter, the website made brief resurfacings on both Chinese and Russian domains. The website has continued to find any access to mainstream domains with little to no avail.
The difficulty for website founder, Andrew Anglin, has only worsened since a recent Twitter bot began tracking all Bitcoin donations made to the website. Neonazi BTC Tracker updates followers with donations made, current amount in the Daily Stormer’s wallet, and also reports on the date of the transaction. When asked to comment on the bot’s creation, security researcher John Bambenek, responded with:
“I want to make it difficult for them to raise it, store it, and spend it… We’re really focusing on disrupting their money flows.”
The use of the bot has also revealed cryptocurrencies as a potential medium to fund hate groups. Theoretically, miners could use this information to blacklist certain addresses from transacting on the network.
Although CoinBase has joined attempts to disrupt funding to Neo-nazi groups, such organizations simply create new Bitcoin wallets. The use of Bambenek’s bot, however, has effectively revealed the amount of funds The Daily Stormer holds, as well as put significant pressure on organizations that allow such transactions to come to pass.
There have been both positive and negative responses to the monitoring proposed by Bambenek’s bot. For one, Samurai Wallet tweeted, “NeoNazis are welcome to use Samourai to send & receive transactions that cannot be tracked by Twitter mobs & bots.”
With this, Samurai Wallet stands firmly behind Bitcoin’s capacity to be an uncensored financial freedom.
When challenged on their ‘pandering’ to Neo-nazi’s, SamouraiWallet developer TDevD responded:
*I* don't support them, but I'll be damned if they have less right to transact than antifa. It's NOT about political beliefs-It's much more
— TDevD aka "Crud", [No BC.i][No KYC] (@SamouraiDev) September 4, 2017
Despite this capacity, Coinbase ultimately closed down all cryptocurrency accounts related to the Daily Stormer. When asked to comment on the censorship, Coinbase stated, “Although we do not comment on specific individuals, Coinbase prohibits use of an account which would abuse, harass, threaten, or promote violence against others. Coinbase continues to take action to enforce this policy across our platform, including to restrict access to Coinbase services and to close accounts.”
As proponents defend against financial censorship and embrace Bitcoin’s potential as an autonomous funding platform, opponents wish to limit the currency from being used to serve certain political agendas. Bitcoin is supposed to be an apolitical currency, and the censorship of users opposes its underlying purpose. With the ability to monitor the blockchain, authorities can apply pressure to off-ramps into traditional currencies, like Coinbase, and clamp down on any racist or violent groups that may be using bitcoin this way.
Upgrades to improve the fungibility of Bitcoin (no one questions through whom their dollar bills have passed hands) will help the cryptocurrency to de-politicize and continue to build an uncensorable financial system.