In the recent past, Chinese Internet users have seen posts referring to the country’s #MeToo movement mysteriously disappear from WeChat, Weibo, and other popular social networks in the country. In particular, posts about an alleged decades-old cover-up at Peking University, one of the most prestigious universities in China, seem to have attracted the attention of government censors. Students at the school are calling for the faculty to investigate the case of Gao Yan, a college student who committed suicide in 1998 after alleging she was sexually assaulted by a professor, who remained employed for years.
However, there is a ray of hope for the activists in blockchain. Quartz reported on Tuesday that an anonymous address on the Ethereum blockchain sent itself a transaction on April 23rd holding code that contains the content of a censored open letter; in order to permanently store the text in the public domain.
The open letter was written by a female student from Peking University named Yue Xin. The author complains of being pressured by the university after she petitioned the school to disclose information about Gao’s case. The letter says that her professors and advisors tried to coerce her into ceasing her activism. The letter was quickly pulled off the Internet and didn’t reach as many people as it could have done originally, but it is now on the Ethereum blockchain for good.
Blockchain Activism Gaining Momentum
If you are wondering how this will work, it is similar to logging into one’s bank account online, transferring $0 dollars to oneself, and then posting text in an optional “Notes” section before hitting send. On the Ethereum blockchain, all transaction records are public, therefore, those notes can be read by anyone. In this case, the letter will be read by everyone using the blockchain platform.
This is not the first time crypto enthusiasts have used this feature to advance their interests. AmeriTrade once used it to place an advertisement on Bitcoin’s blockchain. Additionally, one Ethereum owner created a tongue-in-cheek service for blockchain graffiti.
For activists evading censorship, the key advantage of this feature of the blockchain is it offers permanence. While online censors can cut access to certain websites and coerce social media companies to censor posts, it’s nearly impossible to alter a popular public blockchain like Ethereum’s or Bitcoin’s.
However, when it comes to distributing information to a wide audience, this method is far less effective compared to mainstream social media — at least for now.
While it is not clear how many people have viewed Yue’s letter on the blockchain, the incident speaks to how blockchain might eventually help Internet users evade censorship controls such as the ones implemented in China.
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Do you think blockchain platforms could be effective for activism and evading government censorship? Please let us know in the comments section.