Computer science student, Krysztof Okupski, has developed software which can be used to send messages via the Bitcoin network. With his software it would approximately cost 50 cents to send an A4- text via the Bitcoin network. This highly accessible and inexpensive method to send texts could be a very attractive way for dissidents to circumvent censorship and to spread messages across state borders.
Bitcoin is a digital currency which can be used for online payments in increasingly more places. Bitcoins are actually unique pieces of computer language that are calculated by computers. The principle is that it’s a system that has no central authority or regulator which controls the currency. The current Bitcoin price is currently fluctuating around 300 euro or 375 dollar.
Okupski has developed two programmes: one to post messages, and one to read the messages. If you want to send a messages, the message is converted into a Bitcoin transaction by the first programme. The principle behind it is similar to the idea that you consecutively transfer amounts to someone and agree that one euro/dollar stands for an A and two euro/ dollar stands for a B, etc. The recipient can then, based on the amounts transferred, tell which word was transferred by the sender.
Okupski’s system is more ingenious though. The “message-posting-programme” creates a million free Bitcoin accounts, after which money is being transferred back and forth between those accounts. The number of different accounts and the fact that you can divide a certain amount into multiple pieces offers a great deal of choices.
In addition the currency is extremely small; one Bitcoin consists of one hundred million “Satoshi” and all amounts are expressed in Satoshi. The message-posting-programme converts a message into a chain of transactions and sends those transactions to the Bitcoin network.
Since all transactions in Bitcoin are public, the second programme can translate the chain of transactions back into a text. The only thing that’s needed here is an “Identifier”, which helps the programme to determine where you should start reading. This is comparable to adjusting your satellite dish to find the right frequency.
The only cost is the payment of the administrative expenses to the Bitcoin network, which you are required to pay each time; about 50 cents for an A4-text. After all the sender is transferring his money from and to his own accounts.
This method can be used to circumvent censorship, because everyone with access to the internet can also access Bitcoin. In other words, a government that allows its citizens to use Bitcoin cannot exercise censorship on the messages that came from somewhere else in the world. Only the sender is traceable, not the readers.