Censorship or Moderation? Roger Ver Speaks Out Against /r/Bitcoin

Roger Ver, a well-known Bitcoin Cash evangelist, has published an open letter in conjunction with his company Bitcoin.com. According to the letter, the /r/Bitcoin subreddit is systematically removing content related to Bitcoin Cash and other Bitcoin forks:

“Virtually any mention of Bitcoin Cash on the subreddit is removed. Discussions of other forks, such as Bitcoin Unlimited, Bitcoin Gold, and Bitcoin Private, and topics like bigger blocks and criticism of Blockstream or Lightning Network, are removed.”

This letter follows Ver’s previous attempts to criticize the subreddit: in June he called for /r/Bitcoin to appoint new mods, and in March 2017 he condemned Bitcoin Core and Blockstream supporters for supporting the alleged censorship.

Censorship or Moderation?

The phenomenon the letter describes certainly exists. Mentions of Bitcoin Cash on /r/Bitcoin are often met with a response from an automod that flags a post for removal:

“Your submission has been flagged for removal because it pertains primarily to altcoin discussion and/or promotion. Altcoins are off topic for the Bitcoin subreddit. Please post in /r/CryptoCurrency or the relevant altcoin subreddit instead. Thank you.”

On one hand, Bitcoin Cash is closely related to Bitcoin and it is arguable that it ought to be discussed on Bitcoin forums. The press release refers to /r/Bitcoin as a “subreddit frequented by community newbies and curious outsiders.” This would make the Bitcoin subreddit a potentially vital gateway through which new users might become aware of Bitcoin Cash.

On the other hand, such a popular subreddit clearly has a need to curate its excess content and strictly limit its content to Bitcoin proper—not its countless forks. There are, after all, other subreddits specifically devoted to Bitcoin Cash and nearly every other cryptocurrency, meaning that the controversy is partly due to the Bitcoin name being hot property.

Suggested Reading Click here to learn more about Bitcoin Cash and how it differs from Bitcoin.

Deeper Conflicts

The conflict goes deeper than Ver’s fight for a presence on the Bitcoin subreddit: Bitcoin Cash was originally forked by the community over technological disagreements pertaining to Bitcoin’s block size—and, by extension, its efficiency and mass appeal.

This conflict, which existed even before Bitcoin Cash was forked, has allegedly led to a shutting down of debate on the Bitcoin subreddit:

“In recent years discussion of increasing the [block size] limit has been censored from some of Bitcoin’s largest discussion forums…the moderators of /r/bitcoin attempt to classify discussion of Bitcoin code changes as off-topic on the basis of being ‘altcoins.’

It’s undeniable that many in the community have long felt the same way as Ver does about censorship. This has driven many away from /r/Bitcoin and toward /r/btc, which has an anti-censorship focus. Yesterday’s letter echoes the sentiments of the dissatisfied users and makes an appeal to the freedom and anti-censorship ideals of the Bitcoin community as a whole:

“Since its inception, Bitcoin has been all about personal freedom and anti-censorship values. Messaging that is controlled for many by a select few undermines the underlying philosophy of Bitcoin, as outlined in Satoshi Nakamoto’s original vision of peer-to-peer electronic cash.”

It’s worth noting that the Bitcoin vs. Bitcoin Cash war extends beyond public platforms and has even reached Ver’s own property. Ver’s use of Bitcoin.com, which he owns, was recently targeted by a failed lawsuit in which complainants claimed they were misled into buying Bitcoin Cash instead of Bitcoin.

It seems that the fight over the Bitcoin brand—and its accompanying spaces on the web—may be an endless series of battles, with Reddit censorship being just one aspect.

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