Bitcoin as a Nonviolent Tool Against State Financial Censorship
Aim: This study investigates the use of bitcoin by nonviolent resistance campaigns to counter state financial censorship, a topic underrepresented in academic literature.
Method: This study is designed as descriptive basic research with its methodological approach as case studies. The study presents a global dataset of 93 financial censorship events by government authorities from 1981 to 2023, encompassing the first global dataset of nonviolent campaigns that have employed bitcoin. Two nonviolent campaigns that utilised bitcoin are examined in detail: the Feminist Coalition’s EndSARS protest and the Freedom Convoy’s Covid-19 mandate protest. Additionally, the study explores the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice’s use of bitcoin despite not facing financial censorship.
Results: Both the Feminist Coalition and the Freedom Convoy adopted bitcoin immediately following financial censorship events, allowing them to add significant contributions to their funds. Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice experienced limited impact from using bitcoin. The results suggest that bitcoin has supported nonviolent campaigns, particularly in response to financial censorship.
Conclusion: This study shows how (1) nonviolent campaigns have used bitcoin against financial censorship, for private donations, and for alternative means for funding; (2) bitcoin is a nonviolent tool with many features and functions similar to previous nonviolent tools and tactics involving money; (3) bitcoin can be of great interest for human rights activists and NGOs, illustrating how misconceptions regarding its association with illegal activities should be reconsidered. On the contrary, this study illustrates how bitcoin enhances personal autonomy and serves as a form of resistance against financial censorship by enabling borderless, censorship-resistant, and permissionless transactions.
Key words: Bitcoin, Cryptoasset, Financial Censorship, Nonviolent Action, Nonviolence, Feminist Coalition, Freedom Convoy, Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, Protest.