When people ask me what I do I often say I see my role as convincing others there are things that can be done to make the internet a safer and better place. We need to learn from each other, pay attention to the research, refuse to be dazzled by the headlights and speak truth to power. You don’t have to know what a TCP/IP stack is to know something is good or bad, right or wrong. Whatever humans have made can be unmade or altered. Our job, as advocates, is to find ways to mobilise the necessary forces to bring about progressive change.
However, if I did have a little, perplexed wobble of late it concerned the emergence of cryptocurrencies and the blockchain. I can see their potential to do many good things but how on Earth would we address them when deployed on the dark side? Thankfully the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children has rescued me and brought me towards the light.
…..this report is meant to provide….. a primer on cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Monero, as well as their underlying technologies, and the implications of these technologies for commercial child sexual exploitation. It is intentionally written in informal and non-technical terms in order to provide a basic background in this rapidly-advancing and technical field, and assumes that most readers have limited or no familiarity with the inner workings, risks, benefits and implications of cryptocurrency.
For which we are all truly grateful.
And here is the good news
.…. the utility of Bitcoin and its even-less-widely-used cousins is still quite limited outside the borders of the Bitcoin universe. This means that, sooner or later, many users will attempt to spend their bitcoins with a mainstream online or brick-and-mortar merchant that accepts them, or convert them into more easily-spent (currencies) such as dollars or euros. At these connection points between the Bitcoin universe and the “real world,” there is an informational and investigative choke point that can reveal or point the way toward the one key datum not available from the blockchain: the user’s identity. These chokepoints should be seen as a key opportunity for the investigation and prosecution of child exploitation that involves the use of Bitcoin and the blockchain.
With this reassuring ending
Cryptocurrencies do make the job of battling commercial child sexual exploitation a bit different and a bit more challenging than in the past, but the same was true of e-Gold, PayPal and a dozen other payment systems when they first emerged. Some, like e-Gold, fought the law, and the law won. Some, like PayPal, aggressively took the fight to offenders and are now recognized as world leaders in this effort. If leading organisations continue to engage with the industry…. there is absolutely a body of data, tools, expertise, goodwill and willing volunteers that can continue to bring the fight to abusers.