On March 20, 2018 The Guardian reported that two German researchers from different universities uncovered Bitcoin data that contains content which may be illegal, and whoever downloads it might face criminal charges. Journalists from The Guardian were able to stumble onto a paper that was published by two research groups (one from Frankfurt University and the other from Aachen University) which claimed that Bitcoin transactions contains images and links to child pornography. This could not only potentially stain the promising Blockchain industry, but also criminalize some of their online activities.
According to the authors of the research paper on the Bitcoin Blockchain they found that each swathe of Bitcoin transaction has at least eight files that contains sexual content. Specifically about five files have pornographic content or link to or describe them; however, the other three files are genuinely objectionable content in almost all jurisdictions. They also found two files that are backups of links to child pornography that has 274 links to child porn sites and 142 links that can only be accessed in the deep web or TOR host servers.
Although this can just be passed up as harmless content, illegal content that’s explicitly sexual in nature is being inserted into the files frequently. This includes privacy violations and/or links to some alleged child porn.
At any given moment Bitcoin transactions can only allow for a small amount of additional data. In fact, the venerated blockchain can only hold 1,600 files in storage. The rationale behind this is to prevent people from hacking the system and make illegal transactions that will increment their digital financial reserve without actually performing the “mining” or data encryption. With that being said, any additional content would only constitute up to about 0.5% of the entire Bitcoin data. Yes this may be enough to perform illegal transactions in some countries for Bitcoin patrons whether willingly or unwillingly.
The troubling thing is that despite their hard work, the researchers were unable to trace where the files came from.
While running their scans the researchers barely detected the files that contain explicit images by using their suspicious transaction detector software. According to them these two files were inserted into the Bitcoin block by unknown individuals or services.
In conclusion the paper noted that governments should create laws and agencies to monitor, track down illegal content, cut off and/or prosecute those individuals who do these kinds of stuff. Introducing hard-and-fast regulations for the burgeoning Blockchain phenomenon is obviously enough. The researchers also hope that blockchain companies will proactively put into place rules and regulations that will filter objectionable content automatically or scan the entire hash data so they could spot such content and isolate them.
Still they advocate the user’s privacy as this was the reason why blockchain technology was invented.