Markers Left On Blockchain Shows Fast Adoption Of Bitcoin As Payment Method By Far-Right Extremists

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There is the growing popularity of bitcoin being used to make payments among far-right extremists, found a research report prepared and released by cryptocurrency analytics firm Elliptic. This conclusion was arrived at by the firm’s researchers by tracking the traces left by such groups on the blockchain after using bitcoin for transactions.

In recent years, with large internet platforms such as PayPal blocking far-right actors, the extremists have shifted to using cryptocurrencies for payments because of almost no censorship by regulators in this area, the report noted. This new trend among far-right actors had begun after Charlottesville’s bloody “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017.

Some notable far-right radicals have even gone to the extent of saying that bitcoin is now the alt-right currency. This trend is significant because domestic terrorism linked to such groups is increasing in the United States.

It turns out that many right-wing fanatics want to leave their imprint on the blockchain. Beguiled by the immutability of bitcoin transactions, alt-right wallets are frequently identifiable by transaction amounts featuring the hate sign “1488”.

Currently, the price of 0.001488 bitcoin is around $50.

Elliptic co-founder Tom Robinson compares this trend of some far-right activists leaving a mark on the blockchain to leaving behind a swastika. He noted that “14” is numerical shorthand for the white supremacist slogan known as the “14 Words,” and “88” maps to “H”, which is the eighth letter of the alphabet and a signal for “Heil Hitler.”

In a blog post published recently, Elliptic said that compared to the average bitcoin wallet, the percentage of bitcoin transactions that had the number 1488 imprinted on them was about 30,000 times more. 

“We looked into whether we can use that model to proactively identify new far-right extremist wallets,” Robinson said in an interview.

“We were able to identify about 100 new wallets that were then found to be linked to far-right extremist activity,” he added.

The total worth of the payments and fundraising activity examined and identified for this report by Elliptic was about $8.9 million.

47% of all the payments received by one of the far-right activists, whose digital transactions were examined by Elliptic, were from accounts that contained the “1488” number. Robinson said.

“I’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 we’re now doing,” Robinson said of the public nature of the Bitcoin blockchain.

“But I do think there’s a sort of, ‘Look at me, look what I’m doing kind of aspect of this that they like.”

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