How crypto is helping in the fight for human rights

The role crypto plays in supporting the fight for democracy by freeing people from oppressive governments


There is no doubt that cryptocurrencies are making a lot of people rich these days. You’ve likely heard about all these overnight millionaires and you got convinced to invest: it’s a new paradigm, euphoria is everywhere, and it’s impossible to lose money.

Go back a couple of years and all you heard in the media were stories of people who lost a lot of money or people who became victims of scams and lost their entire life savings.

This cycle of euphoria followed by fear has been repeating every four years in the world of cryptocurrencies. Every time, it’s the same: you either hear about people who got rich or people who lost everything. This is how crypto is portrayed in the mainstream media. There is no in-between.

What you won’t hear, because it doesn’t make the headlines, is how crypto is helping in the fight for human rights. I’m talking about basic rights like freedom of speech, privacy, and a free and equal society.

Our the years, our governments have implemented many measures to fight criminals and prevent money laundering, a very noble and important motivation. But this has been in exchange for our privacy, which has been almost entirely taken away, especially in the financial system we currently live in.

There should be a balance between preventing criminals from doing as they please, and giving up our most important rights, but it seems like we are going towards a world where we entirely give up our privacy in exchange for a sense of security. I don’t know how you feel, but I have the feeling that this is totally wrong, and it can lead to losing even our basic rights. A government that can observe how we spend our money can be used to control us.

The financial transactions you make say a lot about you.

Just think about the Republic of China: they have all these new technologies, such as WePay through the WeChat ecosystem, which consists of more than 1.2 billion monthly active users and removed the need to use cash, allowing money to be transferred instantly and for free, accessible to every person.

How can such an amazing technology be free? Why such low transaction fees? Who is paying for this?

I will leave these questions open for now.

In this world, the economic power is centralized in the hands of the big banks. You think you own your bank account and therefore your money, but it’s not exactly like this. In reality, banks own your money. They can freeze them at any time and for any reason. Furthermore, payment providers such as Visa and Mastercard can decide which of your transactions can go through and which ones cannot, or if you are even allowed to receive payment at all, either if you are a merchant or a non-profit organization.

Van with a ‘Free Speech’ placard and the images of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and whistleblower Chelsea Manning

Don’t believe me? Remember WikiLeaks? If not, let me remind you: WikiLeaks is a website that publishes news leaks and classified media provided by anonymous sources, and they have been behind the release of a lot of secret documents that have exposed tax evasion, corruption, war crimes, and everything that the elite doesn’t want us to know.

One day in 2010, maybe under pressure from above, the payment providers Visa and MasterCard decided that WikiLeaks couldn’t receive donations anymore, suspended payments to the organization, and froze their accounts, unilaterally. This move was clearly an attempt to stifle free speech and protect these rich and powerful people from the risk of being exposed again so they don’t have to be held accountable anymore for what they have done.

Freedom of speech is a pretty important human right and it shouldn’t be up to banks to decide who has this right and who doesn’t.

Fortunately, WikiLeaks was able to survive, cut off from the traditional banking systems, by accepting donations in bitcoin to fund their operations.

Bitcoin, a newborn cryptocurrency, saved freedom of speech by allowing them to keep doing what they were doing, ensuring that whistleblowers would still have a platform to speak out and serve the public by bringing important news and information to our attention, the type of information that many crooked politicians don’t want us to see.

Alexei Navalny

Do you know who Alexei Navalny is? The leader of the Russian opposition and anti-corruption activist has been described as “the man Vladimir Putin fears most,” so much so that Putin avoids directly referring to Navalny by name. Alexei accused Putin of concentrating power in the Kremlin, published materials about corruption in Russia, and was gaining momentum when some of his supporters were elected to local councils in Siberia.

In August of 2020, Navalny collapsed on a flight over Siberia and then was medically evacuated to Berlin by a German charity. According to the German government, Alexei had been poisoned by Novichok, a deadly nerve agent originally developed by the KGB. I will leave to make your own conclusions on this one.

When his health improved, Navalny flew back to Russia and was put directly into jail with a two-and-half-year sentence. Stuck in a Russian jail with all your bank accounts frozen, what does this modern-day dissident do? Turns out his anti-Kremlin movement has been accepting bitcoin donations since 2016, in order to make it harder for Russian intelligence services to disrupt its funding.

Similar to WikiLeaks, those with power and control over traditional financial systems can switch those systems off to try and silence their critics.

You might think you own the Euro or Dollars in your bank; however, as you can see, politicians and powerful people can restrict access to your money in an attempt to silence you. Fortunately, this is not possible with cryptocurrencies and, if it wasn’t for bitcoin, this story might have ended up differently.

I’m very relieved we’ve got crypto to help protect us against that sort of oppression and the trampling of our right to free speech.

Now, let’s go to Africa, most precisely in Nigeria, where crypto use has exploded, the main reason being that the local currency, the naira, was depreciating at quite an alarming rate, and bitcoin is seen by many as a safe store of value regardless of its volatility. But more on this in another article.

SARS: Why are tens of thousands of Nigerians protesting? Source:

In 2020, they had a police anti-corruption protest, a protest that should have been supported by any respectable government. However, the feminist coalition, which was one of the organizations accepting donations on behalf of the protest, had its bank accounts frozen. People in high places didn’t like what they had to say and wanted to silence them with the same technique we have seen before: cutting them out of the banking system.

By now you know how this story ended. Fortunately, those anti-corruption protesters switched to accepting bitcoin and they were able to keep accepting donations. The Nigerian government got even more upset and tried to ban bank transfers to bitcoin exchanges, making it difficult to exchange bitcoin into naira, the local currency. This happens when one side of the equation is in the hands of the elite who can decide who has access to the financial system.

Back in 2019, there were many demonstrations against Chinese interference in Hong Kong, demonstrations that went on for weeks and often ended in a very non-democratic way with people thrown into jail and brutally beaten down by the Chinese police.

Bitcoin Cash was very popular at the time among protest supporters as the water bottles had a QR code that allowed recipients to donate Bitcoin Cash to fund additional supplies for protestors.

Hong Kong Cryptocurrency Hub Gives Bitcoin Cash-Funded Water To Protestors. Source: forbes

The Chinese communist party actually passed a law to confiscate assets from people or organizations suspected of what are termed “national security crimes”. This led to a surge in cryptocurrency trading volume as many people were afraid to get locked out of their hard-earned money.

Once again, the government tried to use financial surveillance and censorship to silence protests and the fight for democracy.

What all these different stories from different countries revealed to us is who controls the traditional financial system and the real power that they have: the power to switch off that system and cut you out of your funds if they wanted to. And history is showing us that this happens again and again whenever those with power want to remind us of who is really in charge.

The good news is that crypto is outside of that system and can help protect us, and it seems that more and more people are seeing crypto as the path to freedom to circumvent oppression.

Freely inspired by Coin Bureau — thank you Guy. This is the type of information the world needs to know about cryptocurrencies.

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Lorenzo Primiterra, The Crypto Nomad

Bitcoin early adopter (2011). Digital nomad. Open source developer. Believe in the freedom of internet. Always looking for that brilliant idea.