old meme is old

How does anyone censor something abstract and intangible; something that can consist of an arrangement of numbers and letters, and can be transported via any medium? What do you do? Ban pen and paper? Phone calls and the spoken word? Smoke signals? Morse code? To what end?

What about the electronic transmission of this data that can be hidden in other data, like images or music? You’re going to ban music and puppy pictures?

You’re not going to ban Bitcoin, so just give up.

Being able to effectively censor Bitcoin means monitoring and potentially jamming all means of communication in every nation and jurisdiction. A task so insurmountable, and so tyrannical to engage in, that it is unlikely to be successful. With simple tools, users can hide block hashes and transaction data within images, text documents — practically anything.

There is $1,000,000,000 in bitcoin embedded in this image

With easily accessible tools available today, it would be impossible to keep bitcoin transactions or block hashes from being transported or otherwise transmitted electronically. If you can encode block hashes and transactions into human words, there is little you can do to keep them from being communicated.

In fact, I’m working on a service where you can call 1–833-BLK-HASH and leave a voicemail of a raw transaction encoded into English words. The service will then decode the message back into hexadecimal and broadcast it to the Bitcoin network for you.

Other services can provide Bitcoin data, like the now-defunct Kryptoradio — a service that broadcasted Bitcoin data from a terrestrial radio tower.

Amateur radio also provides the means for users to broadcast transactions via open unlicensed radio frequencies.

With cheap satellite TV hardware, it is possible to discretely receive a Bitcoin transaction sent from across the globe using Blockstream Satellite. Even during internet blackouts, Ku-band radio is still being beamed down.

Broadcast transactions outbound with mesh networking hardware like a goTenna Mesh unit.

Services like Blockstream’s Satellite API service allow anyone to broadcast pieces of data to a global coverage area. The data is then also relayed to social media such as Telegram or Twitter via bots like @satnode2 or @satnode.

Initial block downloads can be done via sneakernet or flash drive airdrop if needed. Fly a drone around an area and drop USB sticks with the Bitcoin block data and other appropriate subversive software.

Illegal number evil.

How do you truly criminalize numbers? Bitcoin is intangible and isn’t physically stored anywhere. Well, technically, all bitcoins are stored on all nodes. But users only have the ability to record changes of ownership to the bitcoins they control. So what does it mean to actually enforce a ban on the possession of bitcoin? Think about it.

It’s made even more ridiculous with the advent of mnemonics / seeds. While not necessarily recommended, it is possible to memorize the seed to a wallet and leave no physical or electronic trace of bitcoin “possession”.

A ban on Bitcoin is purely symbolic, and impossible to enforce in practice.

A related example of this is the case of the first “illegal” number.

13,256,278,887,989,457,651,018,865,901,401,704,640

Yes, this is an illegal number. You’re a criminal now that you’ve seen it. And you should be ashamed of yourself. A stern letter is being written about this heinous crime and will be mailed shortly.

Back in 2001, this 128-bit number used in DVD and Bluray encryption was discovered and allowed users to decrypt and backup discs they legally purchased. Because discs suck and are easily scratched, and when they get scratched you have to buy another disc! Ridiculous.

There was a decent amount of controversy around the dissemination of this number, and it led to a few Cease and Desist letters being sent to websites and news media organizations that displayed the number. You were not allowed to see this number or write it down. Because number bad!

Ultimately, no one was charged or arrested for discovering or publishing the number. Because, well, it’s just a number. Gee whiz.

While this example is not relevant to bitcoin custody entirely, it shows that this sort of information outlawing has a certain absurdity and impracticality to it.

Maths are bad.

This one is easiest to explain. Mining cannot be banned because to ban mining is to ban mathematics itself. Not that it is quick or easy, but you can hash SHA256d by hand if you want. Miners can simply pack up and leave to relatively remote regions and live off renewable energy sources if governments are stupid enough to ban mining.

Mining can be discrete if hardware is split between different warehouses, and Blockstream Satellite can provide a downlink to keep hardware working on the latest published block. If a block is found locally it can be broadcasted by any of the technology mentioned before in this post. The only detectable things are energy usage, heat, or maybe noise.

So, that’s the gist of it. Censoring Bitcoin…no, I mean actually engaging in a sustained censorship of Bitcoin …is incredibly impractical.