Bitcoin as a means of payment among far-right extremists is growing in popularity, according to cryptocurrency analytics firm Elliptic, which is tracking traces left on the blockchain by such groups.
A flight to censorship-resistant crypto by far-right actors has been driven in recent years by large internet platforms like PayPal blocking extremists, with deplatforming efforts starting in earnest following Charlottesvilleâ€™s bloody â€œUnite the Rightâ€ rally in August 2017.
Some prominent far-right extremists have even gone as far as declaring that bitcoin is now the currency of the alt-right. This matters because domestic terrorism in the U.S. associated with such groups is on the rise.
It turns out many right-wing extremists actually want to leave their mark on the blockchain. No doubt beguiled by the immutability of bitcoin transactions, wallets belonging to alt-right enthusiasts can often be identified by amounts including hate symbol â€œ1488â€³ â€“ 0.001488 BTC is about $50 at todayâ€™s prices.
Itâ€™s like leaving a swastika on the blockchain, explains Elliptic co-founder Tom Robinson, since the number â€œ14â€³ is numerical shorthand for the white supremacist slogan known as the â€œ14 Wordsâ€ and â€œ88â€³ maps to â€œH,â€ the eighth letter of the alphabet, signaling â€œHeil Hitler.â€
The proportion of bitcoin transactions that contain the number 1488 was about 30,000 times larger than for your average wallet, Elliptic said in a blog post published today.
â€œWe looked into whether we can use that model to proactively identify new far-right extremist wallets,â€ Robinson told CoinDesk in an interview. â€œWe were able to identify about 100 new wallets that were then found to be linked to far-right extremist activity.â€
The payments and fundraising activity that Elliptic has mapped amounts to some $8.9 million. In the case of one extremist, 47% of all payments received were for amounts containing â€œ1488,â€ Robinson said.
â€œIâ€™m not sure whether alt-right groups realized that they were allowing this activity to be monitored and identified in the blockchain, to the extent that weâ€™re now doing,â€ Robinson said of the public nature of the Bitcoin blockchain. â€œBut I do think thereâ€™s a sort of, â€˜Look at me, look what Iâ€™m doingâ€™ kind of aspect of this that they like.â€