Mega Sidesteps US State Censorship With Bitcoin
Roughly one year ago the FBI forcibly closed Megaupload and proceeded with criminal cases against its owners. They accused Megaupload owner Kim Dotcom of a number of criminal indictments and begun a legal case.
Mega (previously Megaupload) is now accepting Bitcoin through two resellers. They are immune to economic censorship through the power of cryptocurrency.
The Megaupload case followed on from a few months of increasingly aggressive posturing and sharp words from US law enforcement towards internet services, in particular file sharing services that allow people to share files amongst each other. Seeking to make an example out of one of the biggest, they started a large scale operation to take down Megaupload.
This happened once before. Here in the UK, the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) is a censoring system for the internet. In 1996, the Metropolitan Police started requesting the banning of illegal content by ISPs in the UK. With veiled sly threats they asked that ISPs engage in ‘self-enforcement’ rather than forcing them to enforce the law on them.
Most of the ISPs complied except Demon internet. Demon was a British ISP that contributed to the Open Source community, ran several IRC servers and were pioneers of their time. They objected on the grounds of it being “unacceptable censorship”. A few days later, a tabloid expose appeared in the Observer newspaper alleging that the director of Demon was supplying paedophiles with photographs of children being sexually abused.
Then the police let it be known that during that summer, they were planning a crack-down on an unspecified ISP as a test-case (translation: making an example of them). Between the threats and pressure, the IWF was formed- a supposedly voluntary organisation but in fact a fake-charity and a quango. The IWF is a disgraceful secretive group with an awful corrupt history and no public oversight.
We saw the same tactic used against Megaupload. Using the threat of violence to coerce companies, the British police created their own laws. The SOPA legislation did not go their way, so they resulted to immoral tactics of repression.
Government agencies typically create laws through a three pronged attack of creating new legislation, setting court case precedents and putting pressure through regulatory agencies and their state department. A favourite tool of states to repress services is through applied pressure to their payment services. This was the tactic used on Megaupload, Wikileaks and other services.
Payment services are monopolised in the hands of a few companies. When these companies fail to service someone, it is an effective form of censorship. This censorship becomes particularly odious when it comes to political services like Megaupload or Wikileaks.
From ACTA which is decided behind closed European chambers, the UK’s DEA which was pushed through undemocratically at alarming speed before elections, evil La Hadopi and the failed SOPA/PIPA in the US, there is nowhere to run. The nepotists are determined to push through these legislation. At all costs. This is not about piracy- it never was and will not do a thing. It is about control.
Mega no longer sells accounts directly through their website. To protect themselves you must use one of their 12 resellers (a tactic used by gambling websites). If 11 resellers are attacked, they have one to fall back on; BitVoucher, the Bitcoin reseller. hosting.co.uk started accepting Bitcoin at the end of January but their main form of payment is credit cards and PayPal.
BitVoucher is a Mega themed site using a newly established payment services company called Zipbit. Zipbit was founded by Bitcoin investor Brian Cartmell in New Zealand, and currently only services New Zealand and Bermuda merchants.
“PayPal alone blocks access from over 60 countries, and many credit card companies have similar restrictions. Some are blocked for political reasons, some because of higher fraud rates, and some for other financial reasons. Whatever the reason, we don’t think an individual blogger from Haiti, Ethiopia, or Kenya should have diminished access to the blogosphere because of payment issues they can’t control. Our goal is to enable people, not block them.”
Bitcoin is more than drugs, sex and criminal gangsters. It is a tool for freedom and speech. To empower good citizens to participate in the economy as equals without censorship and unfair constraints that do more harm than good. Mega’s acceptance is a small but important step towards the free monetary future.