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Is Bitcoin the Currency of the Far-Right? Data Indicates Otherwise

If a rising bitcoin price is symptomatic of rising adoption among the wider public, then Bitcoin’s demographic has become more diverse over the past year or so, with retail investors now joining mainstream institutions in the growing enthusiasm for crypto. However, the perception still exists that bitcoin is ‘the currency’ of the alt-right and far-right, not least because this perception has been given further weight by events leading up to the Washington D.C. protests of January 6, in which five people were killed after a crowd of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building.

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A new report from Chainalysis has found that, prior to January 6, figures involved in the demo and/or who are linked to the far-right received just over $500,000 in bitcoin donations from a French computer programmer. These figures include podcaster Nick Fuentes (who took part in a rally outside the U.S. Capitol building) and the Daily Stormer website, among others.

This association obviously doesn’t look great for Bitcoin, which will need to continue cleaning up its image if it’s to enjoy truly widespread mainstream adoption. However, data shows that the amount and proportion of crypto actually donated to far-right individuals is very small, while it’s worth pointing out that a wide variety of charities and NGOs (mostly on the center and left of the political spectrum) also receive bitcoin donations. As such, the idea that bitcoin is inherently a right-wing or far-right currency is largely misleading.

Bitcoin Donated to the Far-Right

Chainalysis’ data shows that a donor shared 28.15 bitcoin among 22 separate addresses, with the BTC worth around $524,850 at the time, and worth $1.18 million when bitcoin reached its ATH of $41,940 on January 8.

A small number of these addresses are unknown, yet the vast majority are linked with a variety of alt-right/far-right figures and sites. As the table below shows, Nick Fuentes received the lion’s share of the donation (nearly 48%), at 13.5 bitcoins. Meanwhile, the Daily Stomer — which live-streamed the D.C. protests — and social media site Gab — which reportedly was used to coordinate the attack on the U.S. Capitol building — received a bitcoin apiece.

Extremist donations

Source: Chainalysis

In other words, bitcoin effectively funded (in part) the attack on the Capitol building, a fact which may or may not be used in the future by critics of the cryptocurrency.

Other notable recipients of the donation include Patrick Casey — the leader of white nationalist group Identity Evropa/American Identity Movement — and the Holocaust denier Vincent Reynouard.

No less alarmingly, Chainalysis notes that the donation of 28.15 bitcoins meant that December 2020 became “the single biggest month we’ve ever observed in terms of cryptocurrency received by addresses associated with domestic extremism.”

Some Perspective

Helpfully, Chainalysis also published a chart showing month-by-month bitcoin donations to “domestic extremists” since December 2016.

Value received

Source: Chainalysis

While it may be troubling that extremists have been funded through crypto for so long, the data above helps put things in some perspective.

First of all, the above represent donations in all cryptocurrencies. This means that, in December 2020, around 0.000077% of the overall crypto market cap (which was $772 billion on December 31) was donated to extremists. This is a tiny percentage, while totals for pretty much every other month are even more insignificant by comparison, barely lifting themselves to $50,000 in value.

It seems like bitcoin donations to political extremists is a big problem, but while it’s certainly something most of us would rather didn’t happen, other sources of data show that the vast majority of extreme right-wing figures are receiving very little money in bitcoin.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, for example, maintains a page on bitcoin donations to alt-right figures, including links to their public bitcoin addresses. With the exception of Andrew Anglin/The Daily Stormer (who appears to have raised around 200 BTC over the years) and Mike Peinovich/The Right Stuff (who has received 37.5 BTC), the sums received in bitcoin are almost pitifully small.

For example, the SPLC’s listed address for notorious alt-right troll Anthime Gionet (who was arrested following the U.S. Capitol riot) has only over received 0.07968881 BTC, while the two addresses for Richard Spencer have raised less than 1 BTC. Certain other addresses (e.g. American Renaissance and Cybernazi/Atomwaffen Division) have received nothing.

This isn’t to say that bitcoin donations to far-right figures aren’t a problem. They clearly are. However, it’s apparent from the available data that only the most prominent figures are raising significant sums, while far-right individuals taken as a whole aren’t receiving all that much overall.

Charities and NGOS

At the same time, it isn’t only people on the (far) right of the political spectrum that are using or have used bitcoin to raise funds.

For example, a wide range of charities and NGOs now accept donations in bitcoin, including Save the Children, Wikileaks, Greenpeace, American Red Cross, and UNICEF. Needless to say, none of these organizations are especially right-wing, while Greenpeace and Wikileaks are arguably pretty left-wing, it has to be said.

Impressively, Wikileaks has raised over 4,000 BTC with one address, while it’s raised over 24 BTC with its most recent one. This is an organization which, most notably, has challenged U.S. (and other varieties of) imperialism and authoritarianism for numerous years, so it’s reasonable to say that it’s not especially right-wing.

This illustrates how Bitcoin is neither inherently right-wing and left-wing, and how it isn’t favored only by right-leaning individuals and groups. Yes, Bitcoin may have an in-built bias against centralized control of the money supply, but its use is consistent with any number of other positions along the political spectrum. It has been designed only to be a reliable store of value, leaving it massively open as to how nations and societies organize everything else that isn’t Bitcoin.

So the next time someone says Bitcoin is the ‘currency of the alt-right’, you now know what to tell them.

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CryptoVantage Author Simon Chandler

About the Author

Simon Chandler

Simon Chandler is a journalist based in London. He writes about technology, markets and politics, and has bylines for Forbes, Digital Trends, CCN, Wired, TechCrunch, the Verge, the Sun, the New Internationalist, and TruthOut, among many others. His Twitter handle is @_simonchandler_

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