Sticks and stones may break my bones, blockchains will never hurt me.
As CoinDesk’s David Pan reported Wednesday, anonymous blockchain developers recently built decentralized apps (dapps) with inflammatory themes on Binance Smart Chain (BSC). Their apparent goal was to taunt Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ), and see if he’d try to censor the apps (and perhaps make a broader political statement).
One of the two dapps is called Tanks of Tiananmen, a reference to the 1989 protests in Beijing which, as David diplomatically puts it, “the Chinese government considers a very sensitive topic.”
For American readers, it’s as if someone created a role-playing game called Rifles of Kent State, and cast Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong as the hippie girl with the flower. Or if that reference is too old to sting, picture Hoods of Abu Ghraib, Waterboards of Guantanamo, Drones of Yemen, or – trigger warning, grab your puppies – Op-Eds of Cotton. I’ll stop before some degen out there gets some smart ideas.
The difference, of course, is the United States has a robust if imperfect tradition of free speech, constitutionally and culturally. Washington may try to regulate cryptocurrency to discourage money laundering or fraud, but it’s hard to imagine the government trying to squelch even the most tasteless reminders of dark chapters in our nation’s history. (At least until there are millennials on the U.S. Supreme Court, Lord help us.)
The same cannot be said today for the People’s Republic of China. While Binance’s headquarters location remains a perennial mystery, the Tank devs seem to think the PRC has sufficient leverage over CZ that he would remove the app to avoid its wrath.
The other dapp testing the limits of what’s permissible on BSC is called Slave. At first, I thought this was a reference to the detention facilities in China where reportedly more than 1 million Uighurs are being held, which would have put the app in the same topical-if-crude bucket as Tanks.
Then I saw a screenshot of a deleted web page for the app, which I will not reproduce here. You will have to take my word for it that the imagery was appalling, and unrelated in any discernible way to Chinese politics, though after Voltaire, I would defend to the death the devs’ right to publish it. Just not on CoinDesk.
But Enlightenment values, which may not be long for this world, are not what make blockchains censorship-resistant.
From the article:
The developers apparently hope the offensive and sensitive nature of the dapps would force Binance to get rid of them, proving BSC, unlike Ethereum, is not decentralized and can be controlled by a centralized institution, said Jason Wu, CEO and founder of decentralized crypto lending platform DeFiner. He noted that BSC has far fewer nodes than Ethereum.
And that, of course, is the anonymous devs’ point. A dapp that can be censored ain’t a dapp.
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