Crypto's Fight Against Censorship, Surveillance, and Oppression

One of the most often touted application of crypto is its ability to empower people to fight government censorship, surveillance, and oppression - as evidenced by post-Roe reality.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week, ending the constitutional right to abortion and making legal abortions unavailable in large areas of the United States.

Within days, members of the crypto community created DAOs and NFTs to raise funds (in crypto, of course) for pro-choice organizations.

ChoiceDAO, which was created by the founder of Girls Who Code and includes former core contributors to ConstitutionDAO and Ukraine DAO, is aiming to raise $1 million for various reproductive rights organizations. LegalAbortion, an initiative by UnicornDAO, allows potential donors a wallet in which they can deposit crypto donations that will be converted into fiat money and sent to seven preselected pro-choice groups after the fact.CowgirlDAO is selling an NFT collection to fund abortion access with a goal of $3 million; it's seeking contributions from crypto enthusiasts who are interested in supporting women’s rights and social justice issues.

The crypto community's response to the crisis so far has been lackluster in comparison with other collective fundraising efforts. So far, donations to pro-choice campaigns have been a drop in the bucket compared with the outpouring of support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. (At least $20 million in crypto was donated to Ukrainian military and civilian causes within three days of that conflict's start, and that sum now stands at $135 million.)

Nadya Tolokonnikova, a member of Russian feminist activist group Pussy Riot and the leader of UnicornDAO, told CoinDesk that she thinks the crypto community should be more vocal about the loss of bodily autonomy following Roe's overturn.

"I've seen people who identify as libertarians and support the rights of people, non-invasion by governments into people's rights, and people’s bodies - they support things like Canadian truck drivers," Tolokonnikova told CoinDesk. "But now they are being silent about what's happening to women."

Tolokonnikova said, "I want to encourage people to be more empathetic, because the space still disproportionately consists of mostly men."

Is the crypto market in danger of failing to live up to its potential?

Some privacy and crypto advocates, including Lia Holland from Fight for the Future, believe that the industry's underwhelming response to the end of Roe was a missed opportunity to demonstrate how crypto can be used in real life.

"This may be the time when the rubber meets the road on all of crypto's and blockchain's promises," said Holland, who is campaigns and communications director for Fight for the Future. "We have not seen DAOs - or, frankly, crypto - in the U.S. prove themselves as tools to fight oppression directly and evade state surveillance on a scale that surveillance is about to take place."

Holland told CoinDesk that Web3 could be useful to a wide range of people, not just those seeking to raise money for abortion rights.

"Digital rights activists are worried that we'll see similar deplatforming, both in terms of financial and essential health information and support that we saw following the passage of FOSTA-SESTA," Holland said, referring to a law meant to combat sex trafficking, which led to a wave of censorship and deplatforming at Web2 businesses.

Big Tech has already begun censoring abortion information. Facebook and Instagram have deleted posts offering abortion pills and banned the transgressors. Facebook's parent company, Meta (FB), informed employees last Friday that they were not permitted to discuss the ruling on Slack openly in Slack channels,

Holland acknowledges that fundraising is important (“It's a good thing to be doing,” she said), but the real benefit could come from creating a space where information can be shared and support offered without fear of surveillance and deplatforming on Web2 platforms.

"There could have been - and I think, so far has been - a chance lost [for the crypto community] to respond to this kind of situation by saying, "Bitcoin fixes that" or whatever, which is essentially the conversation that happened when OnlyFans said they would stop hosting sex workers under pressure from payment platforms," Holland stated.

"We need the signal of crypto to be strong and responsible, to provide real utility for the people and organizations that could very well be about to need it the most in internet history," she explained.

ChoiceDAO aims to become more than just a tool for crypto fundraising.

"The DAO's spokesperson told CoinDesk that the goal is to get a flywheel of participation going that will keep the DAO growing and working on important initiatives in the future,"

"Community can be more powerful than money, so it's important to keep that in mind when you're trying to figure out how much a business is worth."