Censorship in the Bitcoin community has been highly damaging towards efforts to bridge the gap between the various parties of Bitcoin’s block size debate. Roger Ver recently published a post asking users what they find more upsetting: the scalability roadblock or censorship on r/Bitcoin, after which he called for users to use other forums to express their ideas freely.
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Ver ‘Upset’ by r/Bitcoin Censorship
Roger Ver, dubbed the “Bitcoin Jesus” for his enthusiastic speeches on Bitcoin’s uses and benefits, stated today that he was “highly upset” by the censorship in r/Bitcoin and even more upset by the refusal of “the side benefiting from [the censorship] to stand up against it.” He wrote in the forum post:
It could come to an end instantly if the Core team would clearly say that they don’t support the censorship, and because of that, they will no longer be posting in /r/Bitcoin until it changes.
— Bitcoin News (@BTCTN) April 4, 2016
Censorship was used for the first time in Bitcoin’s community by Theymos, the top moderator of r/Bitcoin, on August the 15th, 2015. He initiated a policy of disallowing submissions related to Bitcoin XT, a proposal to increase Bitcoin’s transaction capacity which has currently hit a ceiling.
“I know how moderation affects people. Long-term, banning XT from /r/Bitcoin will hurt XT’s chances to hijack Bitcoin. There’s still a chance, but it’s smaller. (This is improved by the simultaneous action on bitcointalk.org, bitcoin.it, and bitcoin.org),” Theymos stated in a leaked private conversation, which he then confirmed.
The actions caused an outrage leading to thousands of active and power users leaving the subreddit and forums controlled by Theymos in favor of censorship-free alternatives such as r/btc, bitco.in/forum, and forum.bitcoin.com. Meanwhile, the censorship on r/bitcoin became more evident. At times, discussions about scalability were not allowed at all. Individuals state that they were banned for posting in other subreddits and at one point even Coinbase, one of the most prominent Bitcoin companies, was threatened with banishment.
Currently, the subreddit enjoys far less activity with only 200-300 online users on average as opposed to the previous 700-1,000. However, some Bitcoiners, with the most prominent being Adam Back and Gregory Maxwell, continue to post on the censored sub.
Since then, censorship has been used in other key communication channels, including IRC and the Bitcoin development mailing list. In a Reddit post, Bitcoin developer, Thomas Zander, stated after one of his posts was denied:
The moderator isn’t moderating on rudeness or being off-topic or anything you’d expect. Instead, they moderated based on me proposing that their view may be wrong.
Adam Back, the President of Blockstream, a company which employs a number of Bitcoin developers, stated in a Twitter post in January 2016 that “censorship is BAD.” He quoted an article, which states that it is “critical that the Bitcoin community be able to freely discuss & critique every aspect of Bitcoin.” Nevertheless, Back has not yet responded to our requests for specific comments on r/Bitcoin’s censorship or on calls to use other alternative communication platforms.
Justifications Provided for Censorship
One justification for the censorship provided by supporters of maintaining a low transaction capacity is due to what they alleged to be sockpuppets and bots. No evidence has been shown in regards to sockpuppets – although individuals often use different accounts or change accounts for privacy or other reasons. There is evidence, however, that voting bots have infested r/Bitcoin.
For example, what was a seemingly ordinary complain about Coinbase’s support not responding to a fiat transfer delay was upvoted by what seems to be an army of bots to more than 3,500 points. The next upvoted article barely had a hundred and game changing announcements such as Microsoft or Dell accepting bitcoin have fewer upvotes.
Another justification is the suggestion that supporters of maintaining a low transaction limit are downvoted to hidden, which in itself amounts, to censorship in their view. Such deceptive methods as sorting comments by controversial in certain threads have thus been employed by r/Bitcoin moderators.
Many would agree that active censorship is never justified. Roger Ver, for example, urged for merit-based communication in a tweet last month, saying:
All currencies should attract users based on their merits, not by censorship, suppression, or the laws of politicians.
What’s your opinion on the censorship employed in r/bitcoin and other communication channels of bitcoin’s ecosystem? Do let us know in comments below.
Images courtesy of Twitter, Blockstream