The recent decision by the United States Treasury to prohibit the use of the infamous virtual currency mixer Tornado Cash has sparked a heated debate within the cryptocurrency community. The majority of cryptocurrency users, particularly software developers, have voiced their disapproval of the decision.
At the beginning of this month, the United States Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on a system that is based on Ethereum and added Ethereum addresses that are tied to it to the OFAC SDN list. The taking down of its Github repository and the subsequent arrest of a software developer who is suspected of helping build the protocol are what caused an outburst in the developer community. While this did cause some jitters in the developer community, the outburst was caused by the taking down of its Github repository.
Charles Hoskinson, the founder of Cardano, is the most recent high-ranking member of the cryptocurrency community to speak out against the issue. He accused the United States Treasury of attempting to spook software developers and attacking their freedom of expression through code. Hoskinson was the latest high-ranking member of the cryptocurrency community to speak out against the issue. Hoskinson believes that it was completely unacceptable for the United States agency to be unable to differentiate between the process of writing code and the process of operating it.
“The consensus is that when we write code, what we’re really doing is expressing ourselves; as long as we don’t interfere with how the code is really used and run, this is acceptable.”
“you’re not actually telling people to go do this,…you’re simply writing things down,” Hoskinson remarked in a recent “surprise AMA” when asked about his thoughts on the Tornado Cash prohibition. Hoskinson was responding to a question about the Tornado Cash ban. According to him, it was incorrect to presume that the developers of Tornado Cash directly controlled the protocol or benefited in any way from transactions done using it when they were not in control of the same. Furthermore, he believed that such an assumption was misleading.
Therefore, the supposed prohibition on an open source code that did not have any particular governing entity was a direct assault on the ethos of a free society, notably the freedom of expression. Charles continued by saying, “The problem here is that they went further back to an area that seems to be unconstitutional and said that just by participating and writing that code and being involved in that somehow means there was an intent and an operation of that system.” This is problematic because, as Charles explained, “they went further back to an area that seems to be unconstitutional.”
The way he sees it, if one were to take that statement literally, it would mean that the United States Treasury is asserting that software developers are accountable for how their software is used, regardless of whether or not the developers can control that use; he calls this “an extremely dangerous precedent.”
As a result of the court’s decision that code constitutes free speech, Charles Hoskinson is optimistic that future efforts by regulators and law enforcement agencies to restrict the freedom of expression through code will be unsuccessful. Hoskinson emphasized his confidence in this outcome.