Dapps Don't Care About Your Feelings

By testing the limits of what's permissible on Binance Smart Chain, anonymous developers are testing whether it's really a blockchain.

AccessTimeIconMar 4, 2021 at 8:35 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 3, 2023 at 2:17 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconMar 4, 2021 at 8:35 p.m. UTCUpdated Apr 3, 2023 at 2:17 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconMar 4, 2021 at 8:35 p.m. UTCUpdated Apr 3, 2023 at 2:17 p.m. UTC

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.” 

The developers described the app as a sort of twisted game in which the user plays the role of the Communist Party and faces off against “the pro democracy movement lead [sic] by the great CZ,” presumably a non-player character.

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. 

Marc Hochstein is CoinDesk's executive editor. The views expressed are his own, so please don't blame his colleagues. This article is excerpted from The Node (formerly Blockchain Bites), CoinDesk's daily roundup of the most pivotal stories in blockchain and crypto news. You can subscribe to get the full newsletter here

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.

Nasty stuff

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.

As of press time, Tanks and Slave were still running on BSC. If the network is a worthy competitor to Ethereum, CZ couldn’t remove the dapps if he wanted to.

And that, of course, is the anonymous devs’ point. A dapp that can be censored ain’t a dapp. 

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