India Today, a prominent Indian news outlet, has published an investigative report on bitcoin that clearly attempts to tarnish its reputation, perhaps due to a lack of understanding, perhaps due to propaganda.
In the report, India today essentially connects bitcoin with illegal activities such as money laundering, as if the currency was created with the purpose of allowing criminals to hide from the long arm of the law. To a certain extent, bitcoin is painted as a centralized organization harboring criminals.
According to the news outlet, the cryptocurrency is “notoriously used by money launderers and criminals”. The report seems to neglect that criminals also use fiat money, gold and admittedly anything with value.
India Today suggests bitcoin is a “cash mafia”, reportedly trading outlawed 500 and 1.000 rupee notes for bitcoin on India’s leading cryptocurrency exchange Zebpay through a middleman who tells the outlet:
It will be done through Zebpay at a 20 percent premium. If the current rate is 64 to 65,000 (rupees per bitcoin), assume it will be at least Rs 75,000 (for this deal)
At one point, the reporter asks a bitcoin trader what kind of people buy bitcoins, to which he responds “All kinds of. I can’t disclose”. Apparently, according to the news outlet, this means the trader is “helping all kinds of black marketeers” as they store their “dirty wealth” using the cryptocurrency.
Near the end, India Today claims bitcoin is an escape route into the digital world, that serves as a sanctuary for unaccounted wealth. The financial revolution, in which bitcoin helps millions of people with poor access to banking services and revolutionizes the financial world as we know it, has been completely left out of the report.
In the comments section of their YouTube video, India Today is heavily criticized for the poor journalism displayed in the report, and the propaganda being forced upon its users. That, however, is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the community’s reaction to the report.
The co-founder of Zebpay, has responded to the news report. On Zebpay, users’ credit card details are required to trade, and transactions go through banking channels so coins and notes aren’t accepted or even mentioned. Furthermore, the company is KYC-compliant, requiring all registered users to submit state-recognized IDs before trading bitcoin.
On Reddit, users make it clear they believe this is merely propaganda attempting to delegitimize bitcoin after its value surged, partly due to India’s demonetization.
Some even rightfully quoted Mahatma Gandhi, perhaps the most celebrated Indian ever, who stated:
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win
As it seems, we’ve entered the fighting stage for the cryptocurrency. This media outlet attempted to bring the cryptocurrency down, but it seems it’ll only make bitcoin grow stronger as, according to Gandhi, the next step may mean bitcoin’s mainstream adoption.
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