Open letter to Congress highlights rift among technologists over blockchains

Quick Take

  • Human rights activists wrote an open letter to the US Congress advocating for the importance of crypto in combating “monetary colonialism” worldwide.
  • The letter is a direct response to a critical letter sent to Congress on June 1 urging lawmakers to take a “critical, skeptical” approach to crypto-assets.

A group of 20 international human rights activists has written an open letter to the US Congressional leadership advocating for a “responsible” crypto policy acknowledging the technology’s role in combating “monetary colonialism” worldwide.

The letter is a direct response to an earlier letter submitted to Congress on June 1 by a group of 1,500 computer scientists, software engineers, and technologists urging lawmakers to take a “critical, skeptical approach” toward the industry.

“To most in the West, the horrors of monetary colonialism, misogynist financial policy, frozen bank accounts, exploitative remittance companies, and an inability to connect to the global economy might be distant ideas,” the new letter reads.

Bitcoin, it argues, has already helped people in need of an alternative to fiat currency. “(W)hen currency catastrophes struck Cuba, Afghanistan, and Venezuela…Bitcoin helped keep the fight against authoritarianism afloat.”

The letter points to a growing rift among technologists about the role of blockchain technology. Critics, such as those that signed the June 1 letter, claim that blockchain technology is a “solution in search of a problem,” and that lofty promises about “financial inclusion” are merely used to justify its existence when “far better solutions are already in use.”

Advocates argue that blockchain technology plays a critical role in sustaining democratic resistance and filling gaps left by “legacy” financial institutions.

“The crypto industry is undoubtedly rife with scams,” the letter concedes, “but the solution is not to conflate genuinely useful fintech instruments with harmful crypto schemes.”

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