Blockchain technology has been utilised again for new purposes, with Chinese students turning to a distributed ledger to defy government censors.
In a rare act of disobedience, student activists in the fledgling Chinese #MeToo movement at Peking University have made use of the Ethereum Blockchain to circumvent government internet censorship and bring to light an incident of sexual harassment.
Student Yue Xin accused the university of trying to silence her efforts to publicise an incident alleged to have happened in 1998. Xin – although not involved in the incident herself, claimed in an open letter on April 23rd that the university tried to intimidate her into silence, forced her to delete information about the case, and asked her parents to confine her to their home.
The letter was quickly deleted from popular social media sites Weibo and WeChat leading other Chinese supporters of Xin’s cause to attempt inventive means of avoiding the watchdogs such as flipping images of the letter upside down or distorting the images.
One anonymous user however, has made use of Ethereum’s distributed ledger to get around the problem. Attaching the letter to a small ether transaction costing only 0.0008 Ether or 55 cents, and adding it to the Blockchain, the user ensured that anyone with access to an ethereum node can now see the letter. While public users in China will still have difficulty in accessing the message, the user ensured a permanent record of the letter exists.
The university, a prestigious institution attended by many senior Communist Party Officials, published a statement on its School of Foreign Languages site, saying that it has:
“always respected the basic rights of every student and strives to protect the legitimate rights and interests of every student.”
One response posted on the Blockchain comments section, in reference to the common error code that appears for deleted web pages, lauded the lasting nature of the post: “There’s no 404, it’s permanent”
While the Ethereum Blockchain alone may not prove to be a truly effective foil to Chinese web censorship, this new adoption of the protocol attests to the diverse and growing number of uses for distributed ledger technology.