Friday, January 31, 2014

Who's Willing to Go to Jail for Bitcoin?


On Monday, the morning after he was arrested by IRS and DEA agents at the airport on accusations of money laundering, Bitcoin evangelist Charlie Shrem appeared in Manhattan criminal court, where a US attorney told a judge that the 24-year-old shouldn't be released on bail. And to make his case, the attorney played a YouTube video.

In a video interview posted on the site on October 18, 2012, and played on a big screen in the courtroom, Shrem told the libertarian activist Adam Kokesh that that he was prepared to leave the US if his company were "taken down," and that he and other core Bitcoiners were "ready to go to jail for Bitcoin."

Bitcoin "works the same way file sharing works," he explained. "They can shut down Napster, they can shutdown Kazaa, they can shut down Bittorrent clients, but they can never shut down file sharing." He continued:

    What the government can also do is try to arrest or take down companies that try to push Bitcoin ahead. If our company which acts as a bridge between bitcoins and dollars were taken out, Bitcoin would take a hit. We have contingency plans, I have a plane ticket ready to take me to Singapore with another corporation already set up. And you know a lot of us core Bitcoiners are ready to go to jail for Bitcoin.

"We have someone from the Department of Homeland Security trying to come to our office and speak to us," he said with a grin. "We don't wanna let 'em in."

It looked like the old days of Bitcoin: the rush of a financial frontier and the proud free-wheeling of the Silk Road—days that many proponents of Bitcoin today wish could stay buried online, as they propose new ideas for self-regulation and wash themselves of more extreme libertarian hues in a continuing reach for mainstream adoption. Happily for Bitcoin's boosters, a Google search for the term no longer starts with entries about the Silk Road. But like email records or Tor-based transactions, sometimes thought to be secret, old improprieties aren't invisible. And they're especially visible when they're part of the mainstream narrative, where Shrem was sometimes front and center, cheering the ideals of a decentralized currency model.

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