When bitcoin first gained traction, and a slogan for the world’s first decentralized digital currency was discussed, “be your own bank” emerged as the most popular as it represented the anti-banking, libertarian, cypherpunk-influence of the cryptocurrency. Perhaps more importantly, it also perfects describes bitcoin’s key functionality. It allows anyone in the world to manage their own finances online without the need for an intermediary such as a bank.
Bitcoin has, therefore, become an extremely valuable technology for individuals and organizations who banks refuse to service due to political activism or the nature of their business.
WikiLeaks started to accept bitcoin donations in 2011 after its Swiss bank account was shut down, which led to the loss of over €100,000 ($110,000) of WikiLeaks funds in 2010. PayPal also stopped servicing the whistleblowing platform and several other US companies, including Visa, Mastercard, and Bank of America, followed suit.
Hence, to be able to continue its operation, WikiLeaks adopting bitcoin as a donation payment method. And it turns out, with great success. The bitcoin donation address that WikiLeaks has set up has received over 4,025 BTC in the last six years, which amounts to over $32 million at the current bitcoin rate.
The success of WikiLeaks’ bitcoin adoption was made public recently when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sent out a tongue and cheek tweet “thanking” several of WikiLeaks’ enemies for “forcing them” to adopt bitcoin, which has gone up 50,000 percent since they started accepting the digital currency.
Today, WikiLeaks accepts donations in several cryptocurrencies including litecoin (LTC), Zcash (ZEC), and the anonymous digital currency monero (XMR).
Edward Snowden gained international notoriety as a whistleblower when he exposed the NSA’s mass surveillance program and shed light on how intelligence agencies spy on their own citizens without any political or legal recourse.
While Snowden’s exposure of what goes on behind closed doors at agencies such as the NSA, CIA, and GCHQ caused public outrage in 2013, it has not managed to prevent intelligence agencies from continuing to collect data from private individuals as well as corporations without restriction.
However, Edward Snowden’s actions have sparked is an increased focus on privacy through encryption and new cybersecurity tools and has helped to make the public aware of how it can protect its privacy.
Privacy-conscious individuals are now using encrypted email services such as ProtonMail, encrypted messaging services such as Signal, the Tor browser for anonymous surfing, and are using pseudonymous cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin (BTC) to send and receive digital payments.
Edward Snowden sought asylum in Russia after he was refused asylum in several countries who were pressured by the U.S. government not to let him seek refuge. He has been living in Moscow since 2013 and is now a regular speaker on privacy matters via teleconferences.
To raise funds for the Edward Snowden Defense Fund, which is working on a case for Snowden to receive a fair trial in the U.S. if he were to return is leveraging bitcoin as one of its donation payment methods. Given that U.S. citizens have been barred by former President Barack Obama from donating to Edward Snowden, bitcoin has provided an opportunity to donate without having to go the easily traceable banking system.
Snowden’s defense fund has so far received over 202 BTC in bitcoin donations, which amounts to over $1.6 million at today’s bitcoin value.
The Pirate Bay
Regardless of whether you think The Pirate Bay is a provider of free consumable content for the those who cannot afford it or a criminal organization that steals and shares individuals’ and companies’ intellectual property, The Pirate Bay is one of the longest-standing peer-to-peer file sharing platforms in the world.
The Pirate Bay was founded in 2003 by Swedish think tank Piratbyrån (The Pirate Bureau), which was set up to build support for the free sharing of information and intellectual property. The Pirate Bay’s operators Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm were all found guilty in 2009 for assisting in copyright infringements and were sentenced to one year in Swedish prison plus a fine. The original Pirate Bay website was also taken down. However, a range of proxy sites popped up across the globe making the full shutdown of The Pirate Bay platform effectively impossible.
Unsurprisingly, given the nature of its business, ThePirateBay relies heavily on bitcoin donations to fund itself. It started accepting bitcoin donations in 2013.
The Pirate Bay’s bitcoin donation address located on the platform’s main website (it has several proxy sites as its sites are regularly shut down by law enforcement agencies) has so far managed to accumulate over 12 BTC from its users. At today’s bitcoin value this amounts to almost $100,000.
The Legal Cannabis Industry
The consumption of cannabis – either for medicinal or recreational purposes – is now legal in 32 states in America and business is booming. Canada is set to follow in summer 2018.
According to research firm New Frontier Data, states that have legalized cannabis will generate approximately $655 million in state taxes on retail sales this year. Of that figure, $559 million will come purely from taxing cannabis sales.
In Colorado, the cannabis industry generated over $1 billion in sales in 2016, creating jobs, business and welcomed tax revenues for the state.
However, as much as the legal cannabis industry is booming, it faces one major challenge; banking.
As the sale of cannabis is still illegal on a federal level banks are categorically refusing to bank cannabis business. This has led to the industry becoming a quasi cash-only business, which increases the risk of theft and robberies for business owners.
To circumvent the industry’s banking problem, many legal cannabis owners are switching to bitcoin. Today, several startups are working on bitcoin point-of-sale payment solutions tailored to the legal cannabis industry while many businesses have started to accept bitcoin as it is currently the only digital payment method that does not discriminate between its users.