Solana Foundation Says It Can Filter Through the Offensive Meme Coin Problem

Panelists at a BUIDL Asia summit argue racist meme coins can be handled with a filter.

AccessTimeIconMar 29, 2024 at 12:43 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 30, 2024 at 2:33 a.m. UTC
  • In the past few months, many meme coins have appeared containing racist terms.
  • Panelists during a discussion at BUIDL Asia debated on how to best deal with this problem.

As funny and irreverent as meme coins are, the category also has a problem with an explosion of tokens with names containing the N-word and other racist themes.

During a panel discussion on meme coins at the recent BUIDL Asia summit in Seoul, panelists debated how to deal with the problem. Should wallet apps and decentralized exchanges screen out banned words? Or do the nodes have a duty to stop these tokens dead in their tracks?

"Choice means the right for a wallet developer to institute a block list," Austin Federa, the Solana Foundation's head of strategy, said during the panel. "Almost every wallet in every ecosystem filters out spam NFTs and spam tokens. Users always have the ability to reveal something if they want to, but the core network needs to remain permissionless."

Federa made an analogy to the internet: It's unreasonable to expect an internet service provider (ISP) to filter out content that some might find offensive, he said. After all, the internet, like crypto, operates on a largely permissionless basis.

"No one expects Verizon to have a legal obligation to prevent a phishing email from landing in your inbox or to prevent you from accessing something that is potentially racist material," he said. "Solana is all on the application level. It's wallets making decisions about the kind of content they want to show and display."

Marc Zeller, founder of the Aave Chan Initiative, an Aave DAO delegate and service provider, had a different perspective, pointing out that under European Union law, there's an obligation to filter content.

"In France, for instance, there are legal obligations for ISPs to block certain content," he said, giving the example of Holocaust denialism.

"I'm not saying it's a good thing, nor am I trying to be political. It's interesting to point out that different cultures have different approaches to the same issue," he said. "Focusing on the blockchain ethos, we tend to support free speech and believe that censorship resistance is more important than eliminating displeasing content."

Federa said that some validators and nodes believe they have a legal obligation to censor some content, citing the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposing sanctions on Ethereum Tornado Cash transactions and North Korean and other crypto wallets.

This wasn't without significant debate within the Ethereum community, and some proposed countermeasures to slash – or sanction – nodes that participated in "censoring" transactions in line with OFAC guidance.

Federa also mentioned that despite the attention racist meme coins have gotten, in the grand scheme of things, they are minuscule compared with crypto's scale.

"This is very much akin to in the United States, when there's a hate group that has 20 members that goes and protests in front of a church. And they're on national news, and it's a big thing. But if you look at it, there's 20 people, and all they want is attention," he said.

CORRECT (March 29, 14:59 UTC): Corrects Federa's job title. An earlier version of this story said he was head of communications, a position he previously held.

Edited by Sheldon Reback.


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