Cryptomonnaies, une technologie au service de l'économie.

Cryptos, a technological tool in the service of human rights?

31 October 2023

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Bitcoin is the best-known blockchain technology. As a leading cryptocurrency, it is a source of great hope, as well as great fear.

More and more NGO volunteers declare that it can be a tool of freedom in the service of human rights, while on the other side of the spectrum, crypto-anarchists evoke fears of ever-greater control of individuals, by a new totalitarianism.

On a more mundane level, crypto-currencies also serve swindlers of all kinds, who capitalize on investors' credulity and lack of knowledge. 

Bitcoin in the service of human rights

A technology of the future that is already firmly rooted in the present, bitcoin is a digital currency designed to guarantee the availability of assets while offering anonymity to its users. 

Quite the opposite of what the current banking system offers. All the more so as governments are planning to abolish cash in favor of fiat currency alone. The digitization of our purchases speaks volumes about the institutions' power to control each and every one of us. 

At that point, bitcoin, which is already one of the only tools at the service of political opponents operating in Hong Kong or elsewhere, will be the lifeline for all those who want to freely dispose of their money.

Blockchain in the wheel of humanitarian aid

Bitcoin isn't the only blockchain currency providing the means to change the world. In 2018, thanks to miners and Unicef's Game Chaingers fundraising project, Ethereum was entering the human rights arena. 

Today, Unicef is inviting all computer owners to mine cryptocurrency and donate it to their e-wallets. A donation revolution that speaks volumes about the role that cryptocurrencies and blockchain will play in the defense of human rights.

Anonymity but transparent exchanges

Thanks to blockchain technology, all financial transactions can be tracked, while guaranteeing anonymity for the donor. In this way, donors can know exactly how their donation has been used. 

Digital currencies thus guarantee a return to the trust in NGOs that has tended to wither over the years. A case in point is the use by the Red Cross, after the December 2004 tsunami in Thailand, of 5 million euros on an obscure account line called "Headquarters costs". 

Practices that are open to criticism, to say the least, and which, with the development of cryptocurrency donations, will cease thanks to the control of the donors themselves. So, effective blockchain technology, at the service of NGO action.

Cryptocurrencies and totalitarianism

Blockchain isn't so much the jewel in the crown of a new form of freedom, as a new tool of control at the service of totalitarian regimes. Three adjectives characterize financial transactions recorded via blockchain: 

  • Permanent, 
  • Public,
  • Verifiable.

To protect the identity of citizens, and thus combat the 200,000 identity frauds committed annually in France, the use of blockchain to protect identity is on everyone's lips. 

However, the identification of each Internet user paves the way for the identification of the parties to all transactions carried out via the blockchain. This is permanent, public and verifiable by everyone. An attack on freedom that will serve, as never better, the control tendencies of governments, both democratic and manifestly totalitarian.

Cryptocurrencies: the challenge of regulation

Crypto-currencies' greatest strength to date lies in their relative lack of national and international regulation. This oversight, which is beginning to materialize through tax reforms aimed at providing a better framework for the capital gains realized from the sale of cryptocurrencies, is set to grow.

Truly anonymous currencies are no longer very numerous. For example, bitcoin, the most famous of all cryptocurrencies, is not. For the simple reason that, to gain access to the exchanges, each currency must comply with KYC (Know Your Consumer) and AML (Anti-Money Laundering) regulations.

In fact, it was thanks to these regulatory obligations that the founder of The Silk Road, an e-commerce site for illegal products and services, was arrested by the FBI thanks to transactions he had carried out in Bitcoins. 

The only cryptocurrencies that are still truly anonymous are private currencies such as : 

Monero (XMR), 

Komodo (KMD),

Zcash (ZEX).

If governments get involved, these won't last long under a tightening regulatory framework that will quickly render them obsolete as unusable.

Cryptocurrencies and scams

Like all fads, crypto-currencies are a natural fit for all kinds of scams: 

Ponzi pyramid, 

Rug Pull, 

breach of trust, 

etc. 

The limits are set only by the imagination of the swindlers.

.

What is a Ponzi scheme?

A Ponzi scheme is a simple system: you get members and their money into a system that promises them a comfortable - and often too-good-to-be-true - return on investment. 

Buoyed by a pitch often based on the exceptional results of the bitcoin price, new members' money is used to pay out interest to old members. The scam works until the perpetrator walks away with the cash. 

The whole bitcoin/blockchain/crypto-currency thing only serves to attract new victims willing to invest their money.

What is Rug Pull? 

It's the technique used by the Ukrainian government to obtain funds from generous donors at the start of the Russian invasion. 

The Rug Pull consists of making an appeal for funds, with the promise of delivering crypto tokens or NFTs via airdrop to each donor's wallet. Except that, in the end, the organizer of this fundraiser leaves with the money without paying anything in return. 

This is what the Ukrainian government did, arguing that some donors had not played the game, making minimal donations in order to benefit from the gift promised by the Ukrainian government.

Breach of trust

You all know the Youtube, Instagram, Facebook influencers who create accounts to set up a business in investment advice, coaching or anything else. 

With bitcoin and blockchain technology, it's the same story. A charming content creator suggests that you entrust him with your money so that he can invest it for you, on the pretext that he'll do it better than you. 

Once he's raised enough funds, which he's been careful to invest on his portfolio rather than on the cryptocurrency markets, he leaves with the till.

 

Conclusions

Bitcoin, Ethereum and all crypto-currencies have the potential to be instruments of liberation. Tools put at the service of humanity to bypass the controls put in place by governments. 

However, the principles on which they are based can offer governmental organizations, through well thought-out regulations, even greater means of control than those they already have in their possession. 

Right now, the dangers of cryptocurrencies are being felt by the many victims of scammers, who have entrusted their money to people they don't know, because they understand neither how blockchains work, nor the conditions for investing in cryptocurrency markets

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