Widespread protests in Hong Kong, Lebanon, and Iran have produced what would seem like the perfect testing grounds for censorship-resistant technologies. However, protestors in these areas have discovered in real-time the sobering limitations of these technologies as useful tools. Protestors frequently face limited, if any, internet connectivity and scant liquidity for cryptocurrencies due to many of there areas having been severed from global exchange platforms. “We're locked up in a prison that the U.S. and Iranian governments have built for us…In situations where we don't have physical connection none of these f***ing technologies help us,” said a Tehran-based Bitcoiner, who requested anonymity for safety. Protestors have expressed that Bitcoin has pretty much only proven useful for receiving value from abroad to hold and privately store, while moving value in reverse (abroad) has typically been done via the existing financial system.
Why it matters:
There is an emerging narrative within the cryptocurrency industry of censorship-resistant technologies as dissident tech. However, as recounted in the above article through the accounts of people who need dissident tech the most, the technologies of today are severely limited and ineffective at solving any real world problems in hostile environments during civil unrest.
While many in the industry love to rattle off the names of trouble countries when making a case for the importance of censorship-resistant technologies like Bitcoin, the reality is that potential has not yet met reality. Perhaps the industry is realizing that there’s still a ways to go towards making these tools useful to people, and that there’s still many pieces of critical infrastructure that need to be built to fulfill the potential of freedom enabling technologies resistant to censorship from powerful authorities.