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U.S. Can’t Ban Bitcoin Because It’s Free Speech: Abra CEO

Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:37 PM
Samantha Chang
Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:37 PM

The United States government can’t ban bitcoin because the original cryptocurrency is free speech that’s protected under the Constitution. That’s the opinion of Bill Barhydt, the CEO of crypto wallet and exchange Abra.

Barhydt reasoned that bitcoin is computer code, and code is speech. And speech is a Constitutionally-protected civil right under the First Amendment.

Therefore, Barhydt says, bitcoin can’t be banned in the U.S. simply because lawmakers are afraid of the financial revolution that cryptocurrencies could usher in.

Barhydt: We need to promote bitcoin as free speech

Barhydt made the argument at the Bitcoin 2019 conference in San Francisco, as reported by Forbes . He says that while authoritarian governments in China or India could “ban” bitcoin, such a ban isn’t possible in the United States because it would raise free-speech issues.

“We don’t hear enough of a narrative around Bitcoin as free speech. And free speech needs to be a protected human right across the board. Where is the [Congressional] hearing about how we’re going to guarantee basic human rights as it relates to access to this technology?”

Abra CEO says Bitcoin is a Free Speech issue
Bill Barhydt maintains that bitcoin is Constitutionally-protected free speech. | Source: Pixabay/Twitter

Maxine Waters demands Facebook stop work on Libra

Barhydt made the remarks in reaction to the volcanic backlash that Facebook’s controversial Libra “cryptocurrency” has stirred.

As CCN.com reported, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters — the chair of the House Financial Services Committee — is demanding that Facebook immediately suspend work on Libra.

In a strongly-worded July 2 letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Waters says she’s worried about the lack of regulatory oversight and the risks that crypto could pose to “endanger U.S. and global financial stability.”

anti bitcoin maxine waters facebook libra letter
Facebook is under fire for seeking to launch a competitor to the dollar. | Source: House.gov

Waters: Libra could be used for money-laundering

Waters says Facebook should immediately suspend implementation plans until regulators and legislators have the opportunity to examine its Libra project.

In addition to Facebook’s well-documented history of data breaches, Waters expressed concern that Facebook’s digital wallet could become a platform to facilitate money-laundering.

maxine waters wants facebook libra suspended
House Democrats have Facebook’s cryptocurrency in their sights. | Source: House.gov

Crypto fans concerned about government overreach

Waters’ anti-crypto salvo irked many in the industry, who say the government is overreaching and could unfairly crush the budding ecosystem.

However, Abra CEO Bill Barhydt says “it’s not possible” for the U.S. government to implement a crypto ban.

“You can’t prevent people from holding ones and zeros on a device in their pocket. That ship has sailed. The question is: What can they do at the edge of the network — the on-ramps and off-ramps, the places where they exert control over the banking system, the exchanges, [and the] stablecoins?”

That said, Abra and other crypto evangelists have slammed Libra for not being as decentralized as bitcoin.

Congressman Brad Sherman calls for bitcoin ban

Maxine Waters’ brutal smackdown of Facebook’s Libra comes two months after fellow California Democrat, Congressman Brad Sherman, urged his colleagues to pass a law that would ban cryptocurrencies.

Sherman made the remarks in May at a meeting of the House Financial Services Committee (of which Waters is the chairwoman).

Congressman Sherman says the bitcoin ban is necessary because cryptocurrencies threaten to undermine the U.S. dollar and are only useful for criminal activities like money-laundering, drug-dealing, and tax evasion.

Sherman: Crypto fans want to supplant U.S. dollar

Moreover, Sherman notes that crypto evangelists have made no secret of their desire to replace fiat currency. And that is unacceptable to him.

“An awful lot of our international power comes from the fact that the U.S. dollar is the standard unit of international finance and transactions.

“It is the announced purpose of the supporters of cryptocurrency to take that power away from us, to put us in a position where the most significant sanctions we have against Iran, for example, would become irrelevant.”

“So whether it is to disempower our foreign policy, our tax collection enforcement or traditional law enforcement, the advantage of crypto over sovereign currency is solely to aid in the disempowerment of the United States and the rule of law.”