Guess what? You can now track neo-Nazi Bitcoin transactions.
@NeonaziWallets is a Twitter account that describes itself as “an automated feed of bitcoin transactions involving suspected neonazi or alt-right extremist wallets,” and it’s probably safe to say it’s going to have a lot more followers now that it got top billing (get it?) in a Washington Post article entitled “Bitcoin’s Boom Is A Boon For Extremist Groups.”
Digital currencies have long been maligned for the role they allegedly play in facilitating illegal transactions and one of the obstacles to mainstream acceptance is the contention that they encourage criminal activity.
“One of the main uses of Bitcoin is as a vehicle to perpetrate fraud,” Goldman’s Lloyd Blankfein told Bloomberg, during an interview last month, which is ironic considering the bank is now set to become the first blue chip firm to make markets in cryptocurrencies.
“Until now, anybody buying and selling Bitcoins and other digital currencies have been able to do so anonymously, making it attractive to criminals and tax avoiders,” The Telegraph wrote, in their piece documenting the UK Treasury’s apparent plans to crack down on virtual currencies.
Even Vladimir Putin (who wouldn’t know anything about shady financial deals, he promises), has publicly derided cryptocurrencies for the role they may play in illicit deals. “The usage of cryptocurrencies carries serious risks. I know the central bank’s position on that,” Putin said in October, adding that “cryptocurrencies are issued by an unlimited number of anonymous bodies [and] thus buyers of cryptocurrencies could be involved in unlawful activities.”
Well it’s funny he should say that, because as it turns out, the alt-Right groups that have been part and parcel of the Kremlin-sponsored campaign to upend Western democracies are benefiting handsomely from Bitcoin’s meteoric rise.
“Even before Charlottesville, Richard Spencer, a prominent member of the alt-right, a movement that espouses racist, anti-Semitic and sexist views and seeks a whites-only state, had gone as far as declaring bitcoin ‘the currency of the alt right,'” WaPo writes, in the post linked here at the outset. Here’s more:
But far-right political leaders and experts on extremist movements alike say the adoption of bitcoin gained new urgency after Charlottesville as extremists looked for ways to operate beyond the reach of government control and the shifting policies of U.S. tech companies.
Extremist figures who invested in bitcoin as a bulwark against efforts to block their political activity now find themselves holding what amount to winning lottery tickets. The proceeds could be used to communicate political messages, organize events and keep websites online even as most mainstream hosting services shun them, experts say.
“Bitcoin is allowing people in the movement to go beyond cash in an envelope or a check,” said Heidi Beirich, head of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit group that tracks extremists. “It’s really a godsend to them.”
Google, GoDaddy, PayPal and others banned some far-right activists from their services after the Charlottesville rally, saying they violated rules against hate speech.
Spencer and others who have lost access to these services — a process they call being “de-platformed” — say they are effectively being denied free-speech rights.
“We have faced enormous problems from being de-platformed,” Spencer said. “Bitcoin at least, from what I can tell, is not something from which we can be de-platformed.”
Right. And get this, according to the SPLC, Andrew Anglin, editor of the Daily Stormer, received a 14.88 bitcoin “donation” on August 20 after he was summarily booted from the internet in response to this article about the woman who was killed in Charlottesville:
Of course the amount there (14.88) isn’t a coincidence. Here’s WaPo again:
The amount of the donation carried particular significance; 1488 is a reference to a Nazi slogan — 14 words long — about the importance of protecting “a future for white children,” and 88 refers to “Heil Hitler,” both words of which start with the eighth letter of the alphabet. At the time of the donation, it was worth about $60,000. Had Anglin kept the entire amount, it would now be worth about $235,000.
So that’s fun. In an interview with the Post, Anglin said he was irritated with the Twitter account mentioned above because – and this is real – it’s not always accurate. You can’t make this shit up.
You can read the WaPo article for yourself, but one thing we would note here is that this isn’t really the fault of Bitcoin or of digital currencies more generally. All the same, it does argue for more regulation.
As far as the other criminal activity everyone swears Bitcoin is facilitating, we’re still not convinced that cryptocurrencies are preferable when it comes to buying large amounts of drugs – but we wouldn’t know.
Oh, and if you know any alt-Right portals that accept donations on their websites and also happen to blog about Bitcoin during periods of low liquidity, do like Pee Wee and “connect the dots.”