On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold an important hearing on the environmental impacts of cryptocurrency mining and related blockchain technologies. It’s great that lawmakers are asking questions about this, and we celebrate the success that environmental activists have had raising awareness about energy use concerns, pressuring blockchain projects to make significant changes, and creating demand for eco-friendly alternatives.
Lawmakers need to show the same level of concern for the ways that blockchain and other decentralized technologies could impact human rights, both positively and negatively. Earlier this month, more than 25 human rights, racial justice, privacy, and civil liberties organizations sent a letter to the US Congress urging lawmakers and regulators to center the needs of marginalized communities when considering regulations surrounding decentralized technologies, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies. The letter implores lawmakers to ensure that regulations don’t undermine the ability of software developers to create community-driven and decentralized alternatives to Big Tech companies and their surveillance-driven business models that have done enormous harm to our democracy and our planet.
We shouldn’t let the Facebooks, Googles, and Amazons of the world control and define what the next generation of the Internet will look like. Misguided policy, like the unworkable cryptocurrency reporting provisions that were included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, will do more harm than good. We urgently need lawmakers to take a more thoughtful approach to considering the impacts of decentralized tech projects. We hope today’s hearing is the start of many more conversations to come, and that the voices of human rights experts and software developers who are trying to create better alternatives to Big Tech are not ignored.