Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 10-17-2019, 10:36 AM
Running with Scissors is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Small blue-green planet
Posts: 1,452

Blaming Bitcoin for enabling child porn


According to this PC Mag article, the Justice Department took down the dark web child porn site Welcome to Video, being run in South Korea. This is obviously good news. However, they "also called out Bitcoin for enabling the child pornography site to thrive". This seems a bit disingenuous to me. Wouldn't it be similar to "calling out US cash" for enabling the illegal arms or drug trades to thrive?
__________________
"You can't really dust for vomit." -- Nigel Tufnel
  #2  
Old 10-17-2019, 11:59 AM
Czarcasm's Avatar
Czarcasm is online now
Charter Member
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 62,886
Quote:
Originally Posted by Running with Scissors View Post
According to this PC Mag article, the Justice Department took down the dark web child porn site Welcome to Video, being run in South Korea. This is obviously good news. However, they "also called out Bitcoin for enabling the child pornography site to thrive". This seems a bit disingenuous to me. Wouldn't it be similar to "calling out US cash" for enabling the illegal arms or drug trades to thrive?
The article also explains why they singled out bitcoin(the "currency" was used because it was supposedly harder to trace than cash).
  #3  
Old 10-17-2019, 12:01 PM
Ashtura is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 2,407
Quote:
Originally Posted by Running with Scissors View Post
Wouldn't it be similar to "calling out US cash" for enabling the illegal arms or drug trades to thrive?
The $100 bill is strongly associated with criminal transactions.
  #4  
Old 10-17-2019, 12:12 PM
ITR champion is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Indiana
Posts: 10,369
Quote:
Originally Posted by Running with Scissors View Post
This seems a bit disingenuous to me. Wouldn't it be similar to "calling out US cash" for enabling the illegal arms or drug trades to thrive?
Or the same could be said about the internet. The invention of the internet gave billions of individual people a greatly increased ability to communicate with others next door and around the world, free from overt censorship by government or implicit control by large media corporations. Some people did good things with the opportunities that the internet offered. They founded businesses, created online communities for groups that had previously been marginalized, ran charitable efforts through GoFundMe and the like, organized resistance movements in totalitarian countries, created new forms of art, advanced research through Wikis and other new means of communications, etc... Some people did bad things with the opportunities that the internet offered. They became hackers, distributed child porn, wrote penis enlargement spam and Nigerian Prince email scams, created viruses, etc...

But overall, the good outweighs the bad, and the internet has lead to a massive advance in human freedom and prosperity.

What the internet did for communication, BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies will do for money. They will allow any person to interact with any person, anywhere on earth, while thwarting efforts at centralized control by government and big corporations. (At present, there are certain technological barriers that make it hard to use, so only a small portion of the world uses cryptocurrencies. But I believe that will change, as technology always goes from primitive to good to universal. 25 years ago most of us accessed the internet through dial-up modems and had phones that were attached to the wall by cords.)

Once again, some people will do good things with cryptocurrencies and some will do bad things. But overall, the good will outweigh the bad, and cryptocurrencies will lead to a massive advance in human freedom and prosperity.

Last edited by ITR champion; 10-17-2019 at 12:15 PM.
  #5  
Old 10-17-2019, 12:51 PM
Shalmanese is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Shenzhen, China
Posts: 7,305
Quote:
Originally Posted by Running with Scissors View Post
According to this PC Mag article, the Justice Department took down the dark web child porn site Welcome to Video, being run in South Korea. This is obviously good news. However, they "also called out Bitcoin for enabling the child pornography site to thrive". This seems a bit disingenuous to me. Wouldn't it be similar to "calling out US cash" for enabling the illegal arms or drug trades to thrive?
You can't send cash over the internet and conventional digital payments are regulated and difficult to move money through anonymously. Cryptocurrencies don't have any central point of regulation so there's nothing governments can do to block illicit transactions from occurring on them.
  #6  
Old 10-17-2019, 12:56 PM
Czarcasm's Avatar
Czarcasm is online now
Charter Member
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 62,886
I have to ask if the OP: Did you read the article you linked to? It provides the answer to the question you asked.
  #7  
Old 10-17-2019, 01:12 PM
Omar Little's Avatar
Omar Little is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Within
Posts: 13,231
I would hardly say that cryptocurrency is blamed for enabling child pornography. I would call it a fact.
  #8  
Old 10-17-2019, 01:38 PM
Running with Scissors is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Small blue-green planet
Posts: 1,452
Quote:
Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
I have to ask if the OP: Did you read the article you linked to? It provides the answer to the question you asked.
I did, and not really. There are other ways to facilitate anonymous payments. One example is to use prepaid debit cards funded with cash.
__________________
"You can't really dust for vomit." -- Nigel Tufnel
  #9  
Old 10-17-2019, 01:39 PM
Running with Scissors is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Small blue-green planet
Posts: 1,452
Quote:
Originally Posted by Omar Little View Post
I would hardly say that cryptocurrency is blamed for enabling child pornography. I would call it a fact.
So your saying child porn didn't exist before bitcoin? Come on. It may have made it a little easier to pay for, but child porn websites were around long before crypto.
__________________
"You can't really dust for vomit." -- Nigel Tufnel
  #10  
Old 10-17-2019, 01:51 PM
Czarcasm's Avatar
Czarcasm is online now
Charter Member
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 62,886
Quote:
Originally Posted by Running with Scissors View Post
So your saying child porn didn't exist before bitcoin? Come on. It may have made it a little easier to pay for, but child porn websites were around long before crypto.
"Enabling" does not mean "Solely Enabled".
  #11  
Old 10-17-2019, 01:58 PM
TriPolar is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: rhode island
Posts: 41,124
Quote:
Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
"Enabling" does not mean "Solely Enabled".
So we have cash and bitcoin enabling child porn. Oh, and the internet too. And cameras. Let's see if we can put together the whole list.
  #12  
Old 10-17-2019, 02:10 PM
Omar Little's Avatar
Omar Little is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Within
Posts: 13,231
Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
So we have cash and bitcoin enabling child porn. Oh, and the internet too. And cameras. Let's see if we can put together the whole list.
I'm sure the FBI has a profile on your typical consumer of child porn...so creepy guys that meet that profile.
  #13  
Old 10-17-2019, 02:31 PM
DinoR is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 3,728
Quote:
Originally Posted by Running with Scissors View Post
I did, and not really. There are other ways to facilitate anonymous payments. One example is to use prepaid debit cards funded with cash.
Those aren't anonymous for the person receiving the payment. Crypto-currencies provide significant anonymity to both the seller and purchaser.
  #14  
Old 10-17-2019, 03:33 PM
Shalmanese is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Shenzhen, China
Posts: 7,305
Quote:
Originally Posted by Running with Scissors View Post
I did, and not really. There are other ways to facilitate anonymous payments. One example is to use prepaid debit cards funded with cash.
You can only use prepaid debit cards to pay at registered merchants, not for person to person transactions for precisely this reason:

Quote:
The last drawback of non-reloadable prepaid debit cards is that they can't be used to make anonymous person-to-person payments. As far as I know, there is no technical reason that I shouldn't be able to use my Vanilla debit card to anonymously send $100 to anyone else with a Visa card, just by inputting their card number and clicking send on a website. In theory, this payment should get pushed across the Visa network.

But there are regulatory reasons that I can't do so. In the U.S., the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) prohibits anonymous debit cards from offering person-to-person capabilities, and I believe the same rule applies in Canada. Meanwhile, cash and privacy-friendly cryptocurrencies do allow for anonymous person-to-person payments.
cite

Because the Visa/Mastercard payment rails are regulated by the government, they can introduce regulation to make it hard for them to use for criminal purposes. They can't do the same for crypto.
  #15  
Old 10-17-2019, 04:18 PM
Bryan Ekers's Avatar
Bryan Ekers is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Montreal, QC
Posts: 59,350
Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
So we have cash and bitcoin enabling child porn. Oh, and the internet too. And cameras. Let's see if we can put together the whole list.
You're gong to have to blame the children too, at some point, allowing light to reflect off of them and such.

And light itself, of course.
__________________
Don't worry about the end of Inception. We have top men working on it right now. Top. Men.
  #16  
Old 10-20-2019, 08:24 AM
BigT's Avatar
BigT is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: "Hicksville", Ark.
Posts: 36,682
Quote:
Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
I have to ask if the OP: Did you read the article you linked to? It provides the answer to the question you asked.
No. It very much doesn't. The article actually contradicts the idea of the DOJ in the very next paragraph.
In today's announcement, federal investigators also called out Bitcoin for enabling the child pornography site to thrive. By using the cryptocurrency, buyers on the site could effectively make anonymous transactions. Over a three-year period, Welcome to Video took in at least 420 bitcoins worth over $370,000 at the time of the transactions.

However, the same Bitcoin transactions also helped investigators identify users on the site. This involved sourcing the Bitcoin payments from Welcome to Video back to the third-party cryptocurrency exchanges, which then revealed information on the account holders.
So, rather than Bitcoin helping them stay anonymous, it actually helped the investigators track them down. They were not, in fact, anonymous.


I also note it specifically uses the term "call out," which means they are accusing Bitcoin as having done something wrong simply because some people chose to use it to commit a crime. This is very dubious logic, like blaming a car manufacturer for making a fast car because it was used in a getaway.

Fortunately, the bulk of the article does not seem to agree with that assessment. Heck, my initial skim of the article missed the "call out" entirely.

Last edited by BigT; 10-20-2019 at 08:26 AM.
  #17  
Old 10-20-2019, 08:42 AM
Riemann's Avatar
Riemann is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Santa Fe, NM, USA
Posts: 7,783
Quote:
Originally Posted by ITR champion View Post
...But overall, the good outweighs the bad, and the internet has lead to a massive advance in human freedom and prosperity.

What the internet did for communication, BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies will do for money. They will allow any person to interact with any person, anywhere on earth, while thwarting efforts at centralized control by government and big corporations...
Information and commerce are not the same thing. How is anonymity and freedom from government control a virtue for commerce? Would you buy something from an anonymous internet vendor if there were no recourse when he failed to deliver? Would you trade with or invest in a business located somewhere without a stable government and legal system to enforce contracts and property rights?
  #18  
Old 10-20-2019, 09:18 AM
Ravenman is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 26,922
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashtura View Post
The $100 bill is strongly associated with criminal transactions.
This is true. And larger denominations of bills have been removed from circulation to make illicit cash transfers more burdensome. Plus if you make a large deposit of cash to your bank, the bank will file a report that you did so. This doesn't eliminate the anonymity of using cash, but it limits it, which addresses the implication that the government criticzes bitcoin but does nothing about cash.

It's a fact of life that many modern technologies make crime somewhat easier: the Internet, encryption, bitcoin, etc. This doesn't mean it's a good idea to ban those things, but we also can't close our eyes and plug our ears and pretend there is no connection whatsoever. It's part of the cost of having those technologies around that they will be used toward evil ends as well as good ones.
  #19  
Old 10-20-2019, 12:09 PM
SmartAleq's Avatar
SmartAleq is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: PDXLNT
Posts: 5,412
Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
So we have cash and bitcoin enabling child porn. Oh, and the internet too. And cameras. Let's see if we can put together the whole list.
Don't forget all those enabling parents who keep on having more and more children--they're the true source and need to be controlled!

Any time you might wonder what it is that the PTB are paranoid about because it gives more freedom to us peasants without a way for them to gank it away from us, look to see what's being blamed for harming children. That's a sure sign.
  #20  
Old 10-20-2019, 12:55 PM
Riemann's Avatar
Riemann is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Santa Fe, NM, USA
Posts: 7,783
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ravenman View Post
It's a fact of life that many modern technologies make crime somewhat easier: the Internet, encryption, bitcoin, etc. This doesn't mean it's a good idea to ban those things...
But it might. It raises the burden for advocates to demonstrate that there are significant benefits that outweigh the negatives. Unlike the internet, I don't think that's self-evident for Bitcoin.
  #21  
Old 10-20-2019, 05:32 PM
Ravenman is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 26,922
Quote:
Originally Posted by Riemann View Post
But it might. It raises the burden for advocates to demonstrate that there are significant benefits that outweigh the negatives. Unlike the internet, I don't think that's self-evident for Bitcoin.
Well, if someone wants to say bitcoin enables child pornography, I think they should show some correlation of such sites before and after crypto currencies.

And besides, for a currency that is supposed to be anonymous, seems like a lot of people got busted precisely because they used bitcoin. Emperorís new coins, I guess.
  #22  
Old 10-26-2019, 11:37 PM
Bryan Ekers's Avatar
Bryan Ekers is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Montreal, QC
Posts: 59,350
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ravenman View Post
And besides, for a currency that is supposed to be anonymous, seems like a lot of people got busted precisely because they used bitcoin. Emperorís new coins, I guess.
Were the creeps, for example, buying exactly $49.95 in bitcoin on the exchanges and then immediately spending that precise amount on the porn? Now I'm curious to actually research this and normally I find the topic in general sufficiently distasteful to steer clear of it.
  #23  
Old 10-27-2019, 02:08 PM
Pantastic is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 4,341
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ravenman View Post
And besides, for a currency that is supposed to be anonymous, seems like a lot of people got busted precisely because they used bitcoin. Emperorís new coins, I guess.
Bitcoin is only anonymous if you do your transactions entirely in bitcoin. Once you start converting bitcoin to and from actual money and actual products, it's not actually anonymous anymore, as there's a tie to a real person where you converting to and from regular currency of some sort. Since Bitcoin explicitly keeps a public record of every transaction, once you have an endpoint tied to a point, you can track the flow of money. Dong things like shuffling money around through different wallets mildly obfuscates the flow of money for a person looking at it, but it's really easy for a forensic investigator to write a program that sorts all of that out with little effort.
  #24  
Old 10-27-2019, 02:14 PM
Pantastic is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 4,341
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan Ekers View Post
Were the creeps, for example, buying exactly $49.95 in bitcoin on the exchanges and then immediately spending that precise amount on the porn? Now I'm curious to actually research this and normally I find the topic in general sufficiently distasteful to steer clear of it.
The flow is something like: buy some money on the exchange to get bitcoins, maybe move your bitcoins to another bitcoin wallet (or several wallets) you control, then transfer 49.95 from a wallet or wallets that you control to the wallet where you pay for the porn, then collect the porn. The thing is that it's easy to track the flow of money from where you buy it to the porn site, as a feature of Bitcoin is that it records and shares all transactions ever. The theoretical anonymity of Bitcoin gets broken pretty easy in the practical implementation.
  #25  
Old 10-28-2019, 07:19 AM
psychonaut is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Europe
Posts: 5,999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
The article also explains why they singled out bitcoin(the "currency" was used because it was supposedly harder to trace than cash).
I didn't read the article, but if that's what it says, then it's wrong. Compared to cash, Bitcoin is very, very easy to trace. Traceability is baked into the underlying blockchain technology, which maintains a permanent, widely distributed record of every transaction that has ever been carried out. If police can tie any one transaction to illegal activity, then they can examine all past and future transactions with the associated Bitcoin wallet. At some point the owner may have converted (or may one day convert) their Bitcoins to cash (and these days most exchanges have strict ID policies), or they may have made (or may one day make) a transaction with someone whose identity is already known or easily discoverable and who can therefore ID the owner.
  #26  
Old 10-28-2019, 08:16 AM
Jasmine's Avatar
Jasmine is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Chicagoland
Posts: 2,326
The world was flooded with child porn, adult porn, and human sex trafficking long before Bit Coin was ever even thought of.
__________________
"The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance -- it is the illusion of knowledge."
--Daniel J Boorstin
  #27  
Old 10-28-2019, 03:41 PM
Buck Godot's Avatar
Buck Godot is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: MD outside DC
Posts: 6,056
Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
I didn't read the article, but if that's what it says, then it's wrong. Compared to cash, Bitcoin is very, very easy to trace.
Everything's more easy to trace than cash, but you can't send cash over the internet. Although not impossible to trace bitcoin is harder to trace than the more standard ways of paying electronically, which simply involve looking up who the credit card is registered to, and always involve a third party directly facilitating the transaction.
  #28  
Old 10-29-2019, 02:18 PM
Pantastic is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 4,341
Quote:
Originally Posted by Buck Godot View Post
Everything's more easy to trace than cash, but you can't send cash over the internet. Although not impossible to trace bitcoin is harder to trace than the more standard ways of paying electronically, which simply involve looking up who the credit card is registered to, and always involve a third party directly facilitating the transaction.
It's actually easier in a lot of ways in the easier to use practical implementation. While wallets aren't registered to a person in the system, it's easy to track money going from wallet to wallet, and at points where real money enters and leaves the system there is a third party directly facilitating the transaction who are easy to subpoena for records. It's possible to use bitcoin in a more anonymous way, especially if you don't mind having significant cash tied up in bitcoin instead of real-world currency and are willing to take some risks of getting screwed over to have more shadowy people putting money in and out, but it's also a major amount of work to do so. For people who just convert some USD into bitcoins at an exchange and then later buy illict stuff, there really isn't the level of anonymity people think there is.
  #29  
Old 10-29-2019, 07:31 PM
Shalmanese is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Shenzhen, China
Posts: 7,305
I feel like too much is being made of the anonymity whereas the unblockability is equally as important. Wikileaks, for example, was banned from taking Visa and Mastercard donations. For Wikileaks donors, the anonymity wasn't important as it's not illegal to donate to Wikileaks. But Bitcoin was still useful because it was a payment rail that wasn't under the control of any state.

Similarly for child porn, bitcoin remains anonymous as long as opsec on both sides isn't broken and there's a risk of getting caught that's commensurate with all the other risks that opsec needs to mitigate. But what was truly revolutionary is that the combo of Crypto + TOR allowed digital marketplaces that were uncensorable.
  #30  
Old 10-29-2019, 07:59 PM
Chronos's Avatar
Chronos is online now
Charter Member
Moderator
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 85,427
Bitcoin is the most traceable currency in history, and probably played a significant part in how the authorities were able to shut down that site. In fact, my pet hypothesis is that bitcoin was actually created by the NSA, FBI, or other authorities specifically to make it easier to track criminal activity. But they can't come right out and say that, or criminals would stop using it, and so they couldn't catch criminals that way any more. So when they make a big bitcoin-enabled bust, they have to blame bitcoin for all of the world's ills, to keep the operation going.
  #31  
Old 10-30-2019, 10:27 AM
Pantastic is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 4,341
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Bitcoin is the most traceable currency in history, and probably played a significant part in how the authorities were able to shut down that site. In fact, my pet hypothesis is that bitcoin was actually created by the NSA, FBI, or other authorities specifically to make it easier to track criminal activity. But they can't come right out and say that, or criminals would stop using it, and so they couldn't catch criminals that way any more. So when they make a big bitcoin-enabled bust, they have to blame bitcoin for all of the world's ills, to keep the operation going.
I don't think so. Reading the basic implementation information it looks like a 'proof of concept' type of program - something that you come up with to show that it could work, but that doesn't cover all of the real world cases. The biggest one, I think that if a three letter agency made up a cryptocurrency to trace people more easily, they wouldn't have included the tight limit on transactions per second (the max is between 7 and 30 while VISA handles something like 1700 on average). I think if they actually created it as a honeypot, they would have made it more attractive to use.

I don't doubt that they like criminals using bitcoin and are happy to reverse-psychology encourage people to use it because it is so easy to trace, but I doubt the theory that they created it and tried to get people to use it as a massive sting operation.
  #32  
Old 10-30-2019, 11:14 AM
Czarcasm's Avatar
Czarcasm is online now
Charter Member
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 62,886
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Bitcoin is the most traceable currency in history, and probably played a significant part in how the authorities were able to shut down that site. In fact, my pet hypothesis is that bitcoin was actually created by the NSA, FBI, or other authorities specifically to make it easier to track criminal activity. But they can't come right out and say that, or criminals would stop using it, and so they couldn't catch criminals that way any more. So when they make a big bitcoin-enabled bust, they have to blame bitcoin for all of the world's ills, to keep the operation going.
How are doing getting those millions back from QuadrigaCX?
  #33  
Old 10-30-2019, 11:30 AM
Czarcasm's Avatar
Czarcasm is online now
Charter Member
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 62,886
Quote:
Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
How are doing getting those millions back from QuadrigaCX?
"How are they doing" I meant to say.

Last edited by Czarcasm; 10-30-2019 at 11:30 AM.
  #34  
Old 10-30-2019, 12:22 PM
Pantastic is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 4,341
Quote:
Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
How are doing getting those millions back from QuadrigaCX?
The comment you're replying to was about traceability, and they're having no problem at all tracking where the millions from QuadrigaCX went. The big problem for QuadrigaCX is a completely different issue, that they don't have the private keys to get access to large chunks of money because the CEO was the only one who knew them and he is now dead. The fact that money in bitcoin can become inaccessible without private keys doesn't mean that you can't trace it, just that no one can move it to anywhere else.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 06:33 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2019 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017