Human rights advocates say bitcoin is critical in authoritarian countries – Reuters News in France and abroad

WASHINGTON — A week after prominent technologists publicly slammed crypto for being too risky and unproven in a letter to Congresshuman rights defenders around the world have sent a rebuttal to U.S. lawmakers defending digital assets for the access they provide people in countries where “local currencies are collapsing, breaking up, or being cut off from the outside world.”

Some 21 human rights advocates from 20 different countries said in the letter that they relied on bitcoin and stablecoins, which allow in-and-out crypto trading without going through a bank, “as do tens of millions of others living under authoritarian regimes or unstable economies. »

The lobbying by US lawmakers comes as Congress considers laws that would regulate digital assets, which have been particularly volatile this year. The senses. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, introduced legislation on Tuesday to create a regulatory framework for crypto markets. Because US lawmakers effectively set policy and standards for the world, a draconian response in Washington, DC, could have major repercussions across the world.

Beyond their use in trading and speculative investing, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have seen their usefulness increase in recent months as people from many different countries have sent tens of millions of dollars to the world. Ukraine via crypto payment rails to support the war effort and defense against Russia.

Meanwhile, Ukrainians fleeing the country were able to take their money with them in the form of cryptocurrency stored on a USB drive. A similar story unfolded in Afghanistan in August, when the Taliban took control of the country and banks there closed.

“Bitcoin provides financial inclusion and empowerment because it is open and permissionless,” the latest letter reads. “We are not industry financiers or professional lobbyists, but humanitarians and democracy advocates who have used bitcoin to help those at risk when other options have failed. »

The letter cites Nigeria, Turkey and Argentina as places where local currencies no longer function properly and where people need the relative stability of decentralized digital currency to protect themselves.

Last week, a group of prominent technologists presented Congress with the opposite side of the story. They said the world was witnessing an increasing number of disasters “related to blockchain technologies and investments in crypto-assets”, and described these events as “the inevitable results of technology that is not designed for this purpose and will forever remain unsuitable as a foundation”. for large-scale economic activity.

Alex Gladstein, director of strategy at the Human Rights Foundation and one of the signatories of Tuesday’s letter, noted that 23 of the 25 people who wrote the anti-crypto letter are from the United States or Europe, ” where they profit from dollars and euros”.

Gladstein said bitcoin and stablecoins actually help save people from real humanitarian disasters in places like Lebanon and Venezuela.

“One could almost excuse the 25 technologists who wrote the anti-crypto letter for not understanding bitcoin’s global impact,” Gladstein said in an interview.

One of the 25 crypto reviewers was Tim Bray, who previously worked as a senior engineer at Amazon. He told CNBC that crypto has two major problems: “The technology isn’t very good,” and there’s a “culture of sleaze and rug draws and NFTs and ponzis” proliferating. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are digital collectibles that have skyrocketed in value and crashed at various times over the past year.

But Gladstein and his allies say that perspective comes from Westerners, who have never known “the horrors of monetary colonialism, misogynistic financial policy, frozen bank accounts, exploitative money transfer companies and the inability to connect to the global economy”.

“If Congress intends to restrict Americans’ ability to use bitcoin, they should be aware that doing so will have significant negative effects on the millions of people who rely on it around the world,” Gladstein said.

LOOK: Senator Lummis on the Crypto Oversight Bill and why stablecoins need to be backed by hard assets

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Human rights advocates say bitcoin is critical in authoritarian countries – Reuters News in France and abroad

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