Bitcoin’s Greatest Feature Is Also Its Existential Threat

Bitcoin’s Greatest Feature Is Also Its Existential Threat

Wired, 2021

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No one controls bitcoin; trust in the cryptocurrency comes from its decentralized architecture, universal access and unalterable documentation. But these pluses also let users deposit text and images in the bitcoin blockchain, including illegal or objectionable material. In this eye-opening analysis, tech experts Barath Raghavan and Bruce Schneier describe how corporate or government entities could degrade the blockchain – and thus bitcoin’s security and value – by contesting such content. Technologists and bitcoin users will find this report worth its weight in crypto.


The bitcoin blockchain contains financial as well as nonfinancial content.

The bitcoin blockchain allows users to access the digital ecosystem and verify its contents and authenticity. Stakeholders store information, records and transactions in the blockchain code, and the footprint of all entries, from their inception to the present, is unchangeable and secure. The key to the entire system is the transparency and verification that ensures a protected infrastructure.

However, not everything in the bitcoin blockchain is financial. Participants have started adding nonmonetary text and images...

About the Authors

Barath Raghavan teaches computer science at the University of Southern California. Bruce Schneier is a security technologist who lectures at the Harvard Kennedy School. 

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