Comment: Child abuse images on the blockchain and the hounding of a grieving widow

In an extraordinary week in cryptocurrency and blockchain news, there's been the terrible story of a grieving widow being hounded on social media and child abuse images added on the blockchain

The news that images of child sexual abuse have been found embedded into the core ledger of Bitcoin Satoshi Vision by a payment processor is just horrific.

And it has emerged that abuse of blockchain tech is becoming a growing issue.

A key feature of the blockchain is information cannot be changed without significant effort – it is designed to be immutable. But last month, the amount of data that could be added to the BSV blockchain was significantly increased.

Before that, people could generally only add short bits of text or web links to the blockchain. It then became possible to add full images in an encoded format – which is where the problems began.

Payment system Money Button said its service had been used to post the illegal images on the BSV blockchain early in February.

Lengthy prison sentence

UK law, rightly, states that the possession of indecent photographs of children is an offence and any distribution of such material can warrant a lengthy prison sentence.

Jimmy Nguyen, the founder of nChain, which oversees the BSV cryptocurrency, told BBC News it has a ‘zero-tolerance’ for the illegal use of the system.

“The Bitcoin SV blockchain is not a place for criminal activity – and if you use it for illegal purposes you will leave a digitally signed evidence trail that cannot be erased,” he told the BBC. “We stand ready to work with global law enforcement authorities to stamp out this and any other illegal misuse of Bitcoin.”

Push the limits

The Money Button founder, Ryan Charles, told the corporation that “since most businesses increased the size of allowed data recently, making it possible to post large files, criminals are trying to push the limits.”

The abuse images embedded in the BSV blockchain were spotted when they appeared on Bitcoinfiles.org – prompting police to investigate. Bitcoinfiles.org has since closed the blockchain browsing service.

The user who uploaded the material to Money Button has also been banned and filtering systems have been put in place to prevent similar content being uploaded.

Eric Erstu, who runs Cryptograffiti, says there is nothing that could have prevented this from happening in other blockchains. This is a depressing thought.

Tracking the criminals

But the best news is that since everything on the blockchain is immutable it makes tracking down the criminals “not too difficult.”

Another story that was equally startling involved the death of Gerald Cotten, the CEO of Canadian exchange QuadrigaCX. This story was covered extensively last week by my colleague, Darren Parkin.

When Cotten died in December, he took the keys to various cold wallets holding crypto assets in excess of $250 Canadian Dollars belonging to 115,000 customers. The company’s administration is now before the Novia Scotia Supreme Court.

Conspiracy theorists

What’s troubling is conspiracy theorists claim he “faked” his own death and his widow Jennifer Robertson has been hounded by the vile accusations on social media, which are inevitably taking their toll on the grieving widow.

In a statement, she said Gerry’s death was a “shock to us all and we are deeply saddened by his passing. “One of Gerry’s many accomplishments was his ability to build a highly capable and successful management team which will continue with his legacy.”

Conspiracy theorists demanded to see official documents regarded Mr Cotton’s death in India. The death certificate had his name misspelt, adding fuel to the rumours that it was somehow faked.

Despicable

Clearly, it is a despicable way to treat a grieving widow by adding to her torment in pointing the finger of blame at her for something that’s evidently not her fault. It’s bad enough that she has to deal with the premature death of her husband at the age of 30 without facing online hate.

Keyboard warriors need to think before they spout their vile abuse on social media accounts – as it doesn’t reflect well on them at all and shows a complete lack of humanity and self-awareness.

 

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