Can Blockchain Fuel Activism Under Dictatorial Regimes?

Social activism. A very important concept in the times we live in. Today anybody with a smartphone and a social media account can start a movement, and the call for justice can reach far and wide and garner global attention.

Technology’s contribution is massively important in today’s age of digital activism. Information sharing is the key for a movement to gain momentum. If people don’t know that a fight is being fought against a wrongdoer, then how can they send their support or join in?

Blockchain is one such technology in the recent times that has facilitated social activism, under dictatorial regimes, where raising your voice against social injustice can result in severe consequences.

To illustrate my argument, let me provide the example of what happened in China last year. As we know, China is a country of strict laws where no outside social media platforms are allowed. The government has cultivated a culture of constant surveillance and data of citizens is strictly controlled by the government.

Last year in April, eight students at China’s prestigious Peking University tried to dig up a case that was brushed off and supressed. They filed a freedom of information request for the school’s official records on Gao Yan, a student who had been sexually assaulted by her professor two decades ago, and who had subsequently committed suicide in 1998.

When Yan’s case came out in the open and people realized that the university had played a part in covering it up, there was a public outcry, and hundreds across the country called on the university and government to do more to prevent sexual assault and harassment.

However, as is the norm in China, censors cracked down on online discussions of the issue. An open letter penned by Yue Xin, one of the students who had submitted the freedom of information request was also removed from online platforms. Xin’s letter outlined the intimidation and threats she had faced from the school and authorities following the submission of the request and highlighted the restrictive nature of speech in China both online and offline.

Something brilliant happened next. A user in China used the Ethereum blockchain to embed Xin’s letter into the metadata of a transaction of zero Ether, that he made to himself/herself anonymously. It was now open for all to see and could not be removed from the platform. Xin’s letter became permanently documented and accessible in the public domain. This started similar movements all across the country.

This is just one of the examples that demonstrate how Blockchain can bring about social change and circumvent unfair, dictatorial laws that clamp down on freedom of speech. People need to be made more aware of what this technology is capable of.