According to a report by NewsBTC, a U.S. Senate subcommittee gathered last week to examine whether or not cryptocurrencies like bitcoin could be used to unduly impact future elections. The meeting happened concurrent with primary elections which that ...
According to a report by NewsBTC, a U.S. Senate subcommittee gathered last week to examine whether or not cryptocurrencies like bitcoin could be used to unduly impact future elections. The meeting happened concurrent with primary elections which that place in several states and in the midst of ongoing investigations into the potential involvement of Russia in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
While there has been much talk about how cryptocurrency could be utilized for money laundering, fraud and other nefarious actions by criminals, the idea of digital currencies influencing elections has been less prominent up to this point.
Cryptocurrency as Tool of Influence
The Senate committee gathered to hear about how digital currencies could potentially be used by bad actors to purchase influence in a similar way that lobbyists might. Because of its decentralized and anonymous structure, cryptocurrency is almost tailor-made to such nefarious schemes. Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, cybersecurity consultant Scott Duewke explained that "foreign parties, state actors and, potentially, others interested in affecting U.S. political processes need anonymity," and that digital currencies could provide that.
Senators appeared to arrive at a general consensus that virtual currencies were not as accessible during the 2016 presidential election. Nonetheless, today, cryptocurrency "should be considered a potentially formidable weapon in the arsenal of those wishing to confuse voters or disrupt the vote."
Individual Attacks, Shell Companies
Members of the subcommittee expressed concern about both individual attackers as well as shell companies that could be created in order to gain influence and ultimately impact American elections. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, told the members of the subcommittee that "Vladimir Putin and his oligarchs can use the exact same tactics that American special interests use to spend anonymous money in our elections and secure influence."
The subcommittee meeting also takes place following a finding by University of Wisconsin journalism professor Mie Kim showing that Facebook Inc. (FB) ran roughly 5 million sponsored advertisements with political content leading up to the 2016 election. Kim studied a sample group of 50,000 ads, finding that one out of six had likely links to the Russian-based propaganda group called the Internet Research Agency. At the time, operatives running those ads used PayPal and fake IDs. Now, with cryptocurrencies, much more popular and accessible than they were even 18 months ago, it's probable that those actors would have turned to digital currency payments instead.
For the time being, it's unclear if and how the Senate subcommittee will take action to protect the autonomy of U.S. elections. Nonetheless, the meeting helps to illustrate the government may have an interest in the regulation of digital currencies beyond its efforts to prevent money laundering and securities fraud.
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