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The crypto industry is developing an unassailable use case in assisting human rights activists.

The discussions at the Oslo Freedom Forum, a 13-year-old convention for human rights and pro-democracy activists, were significantly led by the cryptocurrency industry. The forum organised by the Human Rights Foundation could easily be mistaken for a cryptocurrency conference. The unique signature cowboy hat of Bitcoin developer Jimmy Song had a presence at the Oslo Concert Hall, where the forum took place. Interviews on the stage of NFT artists by author and podcaster Laura Shin drew the attention of many. The well-renowned investor and entrepreneur, Nic Carter, strolled around with an umbrella cane listening to the event’s proceedings. Bitcoin and Lightning Network had workshops creating awareness of the coin’s utility. Crypto CEOs gathered to discuss hedging strategies in case of a ban on stablecoins backstage.

If it were a crypto conference, it would not ordinarily feature human rights activists recalling when they first encountered political oppression. It also had investigative journalists sharing how they fight propaganda and cybersecurity specialists examining phones for traces of spyware. In hindsight, crypto events could do with more of these elements.

How Crypto is impacting Human Rights Activism

Several individuals and institutional investors are getting into the crypto industry to create significant profits. Some have found a use case for cryptocurrency as a human rights tool. It has developed a functional way to maneuver around financial censorship and surveillance, especially in areas where they are prevailing. It is a unique use case that is prevalent globally on top of the significant potential on the impact of the cryptocurrency.

CEO of bitcoin payments startup Stripe, Jack Mallers, mentioned on stage during the event that even if people have varying views on Bitcoin, it moves value across the world and fights for freedom. An attendee at the forum raised a question to the chief strategy officer at the Human Rights Foundation and the curator of the financial freedom track at the Oslo Freedom Forum, Alex Gladstein. It involved whether the activist community is embracing crypto. He responded that he incorporates Bitcoin content into the program as several organisations use it. There are instances where some organisations use it thanks to him.

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Gladstein’s workshop

Alex Glaidstein’s workshops impacted several activist community members. Meron Estefanos, a human rights activist assisting to free victims of human traffickers in Eritrea, mentioned that her initial skepticism of Bitcoin faded as she embraced it after one of Gladsteins’s workshops. In this period, the government of Eritrea was reinforcing regulations on Hawala, an ancient remittance system relying on a network of individuals moving cash between each other across the borders. Hawala brokers are now demanding clients’ names. The Eritrean authorities are alert to Estefanos’s name for her human rights advocacy. She is based in Sweden and could not send money to her mother. Bitcoin became a reliable alternative as a remittance channel. She is now funding a team of researchers in Bitcoin to assist her.

Russian activists in exile utilise Bitcoin as a lifeline to connect with their friends and family back in the country. Leonid Volkov managed crypto donations for the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, Alexey Navalny. He stated that the Russian government outlawed their movement and they relocated abroad. Bitcoin soon became critical in supporting their colleagues in Russia. The Russian government labelled the Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation as terrorists. Without Bitcoin, the government would detain recipients of their funds for receiving money from so-called terrorists.

Bitcoin is developing into an underground payment channel in governments with abusive financial surveillance. Such governments mistreat activists who receive money from abroad. Students for Liberty, a U.S. non-governmental organization (NGO), experienced this in its mission of supporting student protests worldwide. The NGO sent funds to a student in China, and the police summoned him the next day to explain the transaction. Wolf von Laer, the NGO’s CEO, also unveiled that they sent Bitcoin to staff in Ukraine to evacuate from a threatening area during the invasion by Russia.

Gladstein’s devotion to Bitcoin through his cryptocurrency panels at the forum developed a series of practical workshops on various software and services for Bitcoin transactions. The human rights angle is amongst the strongest arguments in favour of cryptocurrencies. Crypto Lists analysis indicates that crypto coins strengthens civil liberties and challenges authoritarian power. Bitcoin, in particular, is critical for human rights. Alex Gladstein showcases two significant technological innovations that facilitate Bitcoin in assisting individuals under financial and political oppression. It is an accessible and equitable savings technology and a censorship-resistant medium of exchange. The revolutionary technology of Bitcoin creates equity by fundamentally reshaping the global financial systems.

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Is Bitcoin optimal for donations?

While Bitcoin is probably the most common method of donations related to human rights, there are also those that find that this cryptocurrency is negative for the environment. This is the reason why Wikipedia stopped accepting crypto. Others, such as The Giving Block has just started accepting crypto donations in a campaign called “caring with crypto“, while Save the Children been accepting Ether, Bitcoin and NFTs as donations for quite a while.

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