Content depicting child abuse discovered on Bitcoin blockchain
Bitcoin blockchain has been used to store child abuse imagery, according to the Guardian UK. Researchers from the RWTH Aachen University have discovered files and links.
As an open-source, distributed ledger, the Bitcoin blockchain records every one of its transaction but it can also be used to store non-financial data, which can take the form of text notes, links and files. It has been reported that 1,600 files were in the ledger and that at least eight were of sexual content. This includes one image of alleged child abuse. Additionally, photos containing 274 links to child abuse content – 142 linked dark web services – were also reported to have been unearthed.
This could be disastrous for blockchain technology and Bitcoin as a whole, as the presence of this content would make the possession of a blockchain an illiegal activity. “Our analysis shows that certain content, eg, illegal pornography, can render the mere possession of a blockchain illegal,” the researchers wrote.
“Although court rulings do not yet exist, legislative texts from countries such as Germany, the UK, or the USA suggest that illegal content such as [child abuse imagery] can make the blockchain illegal to possess for all users. This especially endangers the multi-billion dollar markets powering cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin,” the research added.
This doesn’t affect the casual investor, as the ability to buy and sell Bitcoin – and by extension, make purchases and transfers using the digital currency – don’t require access to the blockchain. However, for those heavily invested in the technology, and for those running mining operations, which required downloading chunks of a blockchain, this could prove to be problematic.
“Since all blockchain data is downloaded and persistently stored by users, they are liable for any objectionable content added to the blockchain by others. Consequently, it would be illegal to participate in a blockchain-based systems as soon as it contains illegal content,” added the researchers.