Child Pornography Found in Bitcoin's Blockchain? Let's Discuss Steem Witness Liability (again)!

in news •  last year  (edited)

I asked the question 12 days ago - what is the liability for witnesses running the Steem blockchain in cases where copyrighted material is posted? Are they classed as then distributing copyrighted material and potentially liable for infringement claims? Today, an ever more alarming question has arisen since child pornography is alleged to have been found in Bitcoin's blockchain!


The Guardian has today reported that:

Researchers from the RWTH Aachen University, Germany found that around 1,600 files were currently stored in bitcoin’s blockchain. Of the files least eight were of sexual content, including one thought to be an image of child abuse and two that contain 274 links to child abuse content, 142 of which link to dark web services.

“Our analysis shows that certain content, eg, illegal pornography, can render the mere possession of a blockchain illegal,” the researchers wrote. “Although court rulings do not yet exist, legislative texts from countries such as Germany, the UK, or the USA suggest that illegal content such as [child abuse imagery] can make the blockchain illegal to possess for all users.”

“This especially endangers the multi-billion dollar markets powering cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.”

While the spending of bitcoin does not necessarily require a copy of the blockchain to facilitate, some processes, such as some mining techniques, require the downloading of the full blockchain or chunks of it.

“Since all blockchain data is downloaded and persistently stored by users, they are liable for any objectionable content added to the blockchain by others. Consequently, it would be illegal to participate in a blockchain-based systems as soon as it contains illegal content,” the researchers wrote.

Since mining is essential for the function of bitcoin, as the process records the transactions into the blockchain to verify trades and generates new bitcoin in the process, having illegal content such as child abuse imagery within the blockchain could cause significant issues for the currency.

“We anticipate a high potential for illegal blockchain content to jeopardise blockchain-based systems such as bitcoin in the future,” the researchers wrote.

Source: Guardian


Given that Steem is specifically intended to transmit publicly written posts and can also include encoded images as part of that, it seems naive to think that opponents of Steem would not think of abusing the system by deliberately inserting illegal material into it and then pointing their finger at the system to demonise it. Alternatively, of course, it could possibly become a way for 'real' criminals to spread criminal material and while there may be more practical methods for them to use, from a 'legal' perspective the issue is a real one that deserves to be looked into.

I do not recall hearing any statement made by Steemit Inc, @ned or @dan on this kind of topic whatsoever. I would like to think that witnesses have more protection or backup than just "Good luck"!

I think we need an official statement on this issue that is backed up with legitimate, professional legal opinion to make clear exactly where witnesses stand on this.

I have at least been able to find in UK legislation, the provision that appears to me to ensure that in most cases, ISPs (And presumably Steem Witnesses) are not liable for prosecution in the even that users abuse the Steem blockchain as has appeared to have occurred already with Bitcoin:


  1. Where an information society service is provided which consists of the storage of information provided by a recipient of the service, the service provider (if he otherwise would) shall not be liable for damages or for any other pecuniary remedy or for any criminal sanction as a result of that storage where—

(a)the service provider—

(i)does not have actual knowledge of unlawful activity or information and, where a claim for damages is made, is not aware of facts or circumstances from which it would have been apparent to the service provider that the activity or information was unlawful; or

(ii)upon obtaining such knowledge or awareness, acts expeditiously to remove or to disable access to the information, and

(b)the recipient of the service was not acting under the authority or the control of the service provider.

Source: UK Gov

What do you think?

Wishing you well,

Ura Soul

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In most countries, TOR Exit nodes and VPN servers are not illegal (but it can be hard to find a host for them).

Those work similarly to STEEM and other blockchains, as they are often actively distributing illegal content. I would assume STEEM and other blockchains fall under a similar law, as the intent of running a STEEM server is not to view illegal content, rather it is to support an open network.

Of course I wouldn't be surprised if some countries decided to take advantage of this problem and use it as a way to ban cryptocurrencies.

There are quite a few logical justifications for not molesting Steem witnesses, yes - but as you point to, there are clearly those 'actors' in society who will attempt to leverage just about any angle to turn public opinion and legislation against both cryptocurrency and actually also against real free speech.. For those reasons I think it is necessary to have the 'legal' situation clearly defined for witnesses in the event that it becomes necessary as a result of aggressive action of some kind against us. At the very least, a clear legal statement will give reassurance to investors.

  ·  last year Reveal Comment

I showed the technical side of this story, on how to save pictures to a blockchain, in my Video here

If you want your blockchain to succeed, you have to address that issue.

Now that the cat is out of the box, every pervert around the world will find ways to exploit blockchains.

  ·  last year (edited)

" illegal content such as [child abuse imagery] can make the blockchain illegal to possess for all users. ” how convenient is that @ura soul ?? Should we be surprised seeing the current anti crypto sentiment being spread through the normal outlets of media spin,lies and propoganda ! To see Blockchain users now accused of being horders of child porn ! And as you so clearly state abbsolutely nothing prevents them for opening an account and uploading this content to our blockchain to then say it must be closed down !! Yes very convenient indeed !

I don't believe that this is some kind of conspiracy theory. It was clear from the get go, that people could save anything to the steem blockchain. And since maybe 1% of all users are perverts... so that would be exploited sooner or later.

There is child porn in the world wide web and nobody is saying to shut it down. But you have to address this issue.

If you offer a WordPress Blog to the world, where everybody could post, you have to know that sooner or later some pervert will post his shit. So it's kinda naive to thing that no one will abuse it.

So if Blockchain 1.0 has a few bugs in it, fix them. Blockchain 2.0 will be better and thats it.

The point being made is that those who seek to silence dissenting voices have a track record of doing whatever they can to sour the public perception of whatever gives dissent a voice. You only need listen to Bill Gates claiming that cryptocurrency has 'killed people' because it can be used to buy prescription drugs and the various other banker cronies linking cryptocurrency to terrorism etc. - to see the point here.

Bill Gates was the man who believed the Internet would not succeed. Of course every "old tech" will dispise the "new tech", because it is threatend to be replaced. Still every new tech will survive.

But if your tech has such holes in it... you need to be more concerned about economic rivals like an alternative blockchains that is here to kick you (steem) out of business.

Thats why it should be fixed asap.

I recall reading Bill Gates' book 'the road ahead' around the year 2000 when he spoke of his plans to launch a large number of low level satellites to provide internet everywhere - so I'm not sure when he thought the internet would fail, but it must have been very early on.

Absolutely, yes. However, there is a valid issue here - moreso for Steem witnesses. Regardless of the system being deliberately targeted to discredit it, we cannot simply 'trust' that the world will not use the blockchain for such purposes.. Someone probably would do it organically at some point anyway.

So what can we feesibly do now to stop this abuse of our blockchain ?? This is a huge issue and we seriously need to find a way before we all find ourselves holding coins which are accredited to blockchain now banned by government order ??

As long as the blockchain cannot be censored/controlled then that threat is a real one. I don't have a good technological answer so it might be down to the pressure of the crowd to act politically.

Maybe there could be a separate database for old data. Say beyond two months back. That is stored not on the witness servers but on an ISP server.
This is also a problem with all the anon people on here that do not want to be identified. Who thinks they are really anon from the true spooks?

Then maybe only the Guilty parties who uploaded the content would be liable. Or they are going to have to hire a boatload of screeners to scan content for garbage.
As well it would be advisable for steemit to have some disclaimer about this issue to remove liability from witnesses and the steemit blockchain.

Did you read this article?here or another take on it here
So the NSA has all the data now and they are using it and have used it to convict people now!

The reality is that blockchain is looking more dangerous everyday for anyone and everyone.

Thanks for the links about Bitcoin surveillance, that was new to me - though in no way a surprise.
I don't think that having servers for old data is either beneficial or even possible since the blockchain is built by node/witness servers every so often for different reasons and that requires all the previous blocks to be available, plus the new posts would still be running through witness servers and so there wouldn't really be much in the way of protection for them.

I have known that we are all under surveillance since even before 911. It started long before that about the time cell phones came out.
Have you ever watched the TV show "Person of Interest". It is where we are in surveillance today. Just no benevolent guy behind it, that is fighting the "machine" for us.

If you are outside the grid with no cell phone, web service and don't venture into town, you are not covered.
Otherwise you are being watched and moved by what they send to you. It makes you think you discovered something (or stumbled onto it) but in reality they sent it to you.

"They"... such a debilitating delusion.

There is but One; Eye! 🙏

Please explain your comment?

What part? 👾

"They"... such a debilitating delusion.

There is but One; Eye! 🙏

Well, it's English, so the meaning should be apparent, all but the homophonetic play at least.

Eye is the same as to say I, and there is but the One central Eye that is so important in life, and it is likewise to say Aye(Ai), which in the west proclaims "agreeance" et al and in the east "love".
So, there is but one I - Solipsism, one Eye - the Parietal Eye and one "Aye/Ai" - the Force of Love.


Well this really sucks. To enter and exit the crypto currency market many of us use BTC. I run the Armory Wallet which requires a copy of Bitcoin core on my hard drive and it's bad enough that it occupies some 150 to 160 GB of space as it is. Now I have to worry about smut being included? What are we supposed to do every time we want to cash out some steem? Download the block chain before a transaction, which can take some 22 hrs, and completely wipe the drive after? How are we supposed to know what is included anyway if the info is encrypted?

I don't think the idea of downloading the entire blockchain just to have a wallet is very practical anyway - future solutions will not require this, I am sure. In short, the legislation is lacking - as usual.. However, Steem wasn't exactly created with legislation in mind!

Nor did they consider copyright law. There is still a guy out there who is uploading Hollywood film productions on a regular basis, without an explanation why he is not getting hit with a lawsuit nor getting flagged for plagiarizing what is clearly not his work. I just wonder when Hollywood will take action.

There are no original ideas in a species of mimics. Intellectual property, patents etc et al is a farce at best, and a tool of civilisational enslavement at worst.
Plagiarism is summarily the highest form of affection.

That may or may not be true, but won't help us when a Court issues a cease and desist order and sends the boys in blue to confiscate server hard drives. Greetings.

Such banal fear-mongering.
Do you remember when you signed your sovereignity away? Salutations.

Saying "Pot kills you" is banal fear mongering; stating that a flying Bullet could kill you is not.

You stated no such thing.
You spoke of monkey-terms such as "courts" and "blue-clad boys" as if such precarious notions mean anything beyond the terrorism they're meant to wield over the inoculated herds' witless head.

for steem you don't have to download the blockchain you can rely on third party API servers to provide you with a connection to the blockchain and push your signed transaction for Steem sending into the chain.

You are ignoring the fact that there is no exchange that trades SBD/Steem to Euro directly.
The problem: Steem - exchange - BTC - exchange - Dollar - exchange - bank - Dollar - bankexch. - Euro.
Who is getting paid here?

My solution: Steem - exchange - BTC hardware wallet.
Now I have to worry about illegal smut ending up in Bitcoin Core 15.1? How would I know??
So where can I buy EOS with SBD/Steem?? Greetings!

Although I think it is mostly news meant to cause fud. This is a good debate to have and I wish Steemit would attempt to clarify this. I think Steem can remove posts if the majority of witnesses vote on it can't they?

The developers and ned are too busy turning the social media blockchain into a smart contract blockchain via SMT's to give any attention to the good questions and necessary debates we nee to have such as this.

The idea of Bitcoin is so great, the idea of crypto is so great. People are not all so great. Some of them always try to find a way to ruin it for all of us.

Once again, Dr. Puffnstuff is on point. Leave it to a couple jerks to ruin it for everyone.

  ·  last year (edited)

The steem blockchain is beginning to remind me of usenet which was a part of my internet experience in the 90's.

With the 'group' scheme expected in the next fork my thought is that we may be heading for a configurable blockchain feed not unlike usenet.

On condensor noded one can run 'badactor' lists. In this way illegal content could be scrubbed by blacklisting the poster.

There is no way to scrub anything at the blockchain level and that is the point here really.

  ·  last year (edited)

Do the condensor sites still import the blockchain content of users on the banned list or simply do not display such content which would still exist on the server's copy of the blockchain?

It will be interesting to see how this gets handled in the Bitcoin world. Obviously a lot of people there with a whole lot to potentially lose due to something undesirable/unwanted infiltrating into the block-chain and leading to the block-chain being banned/outlawed/whatever. As you said, this is an obvious way for those who don't like the technology to try to sabotage it. And there are obviously lots and lots of those players, with lots and lots of money, and lots to lose by the successes of particular block-chain uses and users.

I'm kinda interested to see what types of measures and safeguards we as witnesses will put in place to thwart would be child pornographers from hiding heinous images in the steemit blockchain. It's already hard enough to keep people from posting (and getting upvoted) music and videos of Mariah Carey's "Hero" , let alone having to stage an effort to stop criminals who are already fashioned in remaining undetected off the blockchain

This might be a viable solution to the problem. Why do we save text in the blockchain at all. Why dont we just save a hash, pointing/validating a textfile on an IPFS-Server. So if the content in question would be in violation, just delete the textfile.

Thats the same as a Hollywood Blockbust on D.Tube. The movie itself is saved onto a IPFS-Node. So to delete it, the Cops/Copyright-Holder would have to adress the IPFS-Node owner, but not the Blockchain itself. The Blockchain only holds the Link to the file.

Kinda creating an extra layer between the blockchain and the content.

I think this is the way forward as it provides scaleability advantages as well. It would be a huge architectural change for the Steem ecosystem though.

Yes, it probably would be a huge change. But it is better to do such changes in the beginning of a blockchain (we are in year two when my calculation is correct) than in a few years.

While this is possible it removes the selling point of 'cannot be censored' - which is really the issue here for me.

This 'cannot be censored' idea is quite nuanced, and perhaps ephemeral.

If our governance processes cannot 'protect people' from the availability of illegal content, I think governments will do it, so we may need to compromise here.

As I understand it, front-ends already censor content when issued with dmca takedown notices, and most image content is not subject to the protection of consensus, and is not even stored on IPFS, so is fairly easy to have removed anyway.

  ·  last year (edited)

The whole point here, from my perspective, as a witness - is that since images can be encoded as text and put inside posts, the witness servers ARE going to be forced to potentially process 'illegal' material if someone posts it to Steem. If the uncensored aspect is only 'temporary' then we should make that clear because I am fairly sure that if that is removed then fairly large numbers of people will power down and leave and at the very least many are misleading the world by holding up Steem as something that it is not (going to be for long).

To get to the core of this we have to address the point of what is really 'protecting people'. Do I need or want someone else to decide what I should be protected from? Or can I decide myself? Sure, I, like most people, don't want or need to see child pornography and I will take whatever steps I can to stop it being produced in the first place.. However, that is part of the issue here - that the biggest problem is that the children are being exploited and hurt in the first place; while the distribution of that material is actually a symptom of that deeper, root cause. By censoring the material, we:

a) set up an imbalance that can be exploited, whereby 'someone' can decide what is and is not seen on the blockchain - on behalf of others (which is exactly the problem that has caused such suffering on earth due to the deliberate and malicious hiding of important information for political gain.)

b) prevent the wider public from seeing exactly the problems we are facing and thus prevent them from correctly being guided emotionally towards making changes in their own lives that truly protect children from being harmed in the first place. in britain there are countless examples of children being harmed and even murdered in government run institutions that have been taken over by sexual abusers... one of the common threads is that the children did not feel safe telling others about the abuse, partially because there is a culture of silence about it and that they feel 'wrong' for having been made a victim. at least by having the material visible to some extent, we will all know something of the extent of the evils involved and maybe the children will feel more accepted by society when they are abused in this way.

the vehicle of government has provably been used to abuse large numbers of children and so we must be very careful when using 'governance' to attempt to 'help' the problem, that we do not actually just end up sweeping things under a rug and claiming to be acting responsibly, while in reality we are actually helping make the problem worse. the governments may claim to be 'protecting' people, but in reality they have a very long track record of doing exactly the opposite, under a vale of 'good intentions'. what if the children themselves post the abuse as evidence to support the prosecution of their abusers, when the government systems have been twisted by abusers from inside so that they no longer do their job?

we cannot help to correct 'bad programming' when we prevent others from even knowing the extent to which it exists.

this is a very challenging subject and i don't mean to sound like i am advocating for 'law breaking' as such.. I am really just pointing to the original intention of @dan when creating Steem in the first place - whereby he wants to 'make governments irrelevant'. i suppose what i am saying is that in light of the bad press and potential government attacks that a totally free speech system might receive due to the current nightmarish situation regarding child abuse, we need to at least be promoting a wider discussion of the problem and finding new solutions, rather than just blindly bowing down to 'voices of authority' as if they know best, when in reality they are provable, often, part of the problem.

  ·  last year (edited)

My point was more of a pragmatic assessment of the 'on the ground' reality. Except on my very optimistic days, I think too few people have eyes to see what we're facing.

I think our best hope is that through technology like blockchains and IPFS, governments are subjected to a kind of information arbitrage whereby they risk becoming irrelevent if they do not gradually shift towards radical transparency that @dan embraces. I think there is some danger in allowing arbitrary content on the blockchain at this stage though.

Agree with you.

not even stored on IPFS, so is fairly easy to have removed anyway.

Steepshot is using IPFS already and I came across a new product which is also planning to use IPFS. With the partnership between stellar and keybase, I think thats going to be another possibility made available very soon.

upon obtaining such knowledge or awareness, acts expeditiously to remove or to disable access to the information

Good luck removing the material or disabling access to parts of the blockchain. My encoded image is forever part of the blockchain.

The Steem blockchain would have to do a so called "Hardfork" to "delete" your post.

Yes, though that clause you quoted is one of two possible ways that operators are excused from liability.

The ISP doesn't store it.
As witness, we would have the pictures on our server.
RPC nodes would deliver them to anyone. Even non steem users could access them

ISPs such as internet delivery corporations do store the data in caches, however, from what I can see they are not liable since they don't monitor the caches and thus don't know that the 'illegal' material is in there.

Hmm.. But as a witness, we "know" the content. Otherwise we couldn't hash it.
Also the blockchain is no cache. It is permanent. Well, that is even one of the basic principles, to be an eternal ledger.
And I don't want to be the witness, that builds that block, where that kind of data is stored..

The wording of the legislation I quoted is, I think, intended to mean that the operator has to have had human eyes on the offending material at some point and so consciously knows the material is present.

Ah, that would clear at least the first part of the question. But it would also get interesting afterwards. Here we have to wait how the bitcoin case will play.
Because now there are human eyes on that datablock.
And now.. What?
You know now that there is this kind of data.. But cannot delete it, without deleting everything from that point to onward.

Absolutely, this could at the very least cause a crash in the price of many coins! Time to invest in pitchforks!

Though blockchain is secure, it totally depends upon us how we use it, it's not meant for such causes, lets join hands together to make it use in a better possible way.

It's quite unfortunate . This is not good for the image of Crypto

in my opinion, even so the currency continues to be in hurry, although for the time categorized according to, but we remain unyielding spirit.

I don't think it would be fair to block certain blockchains just because it had some illegal documents.

It will be much better to delete those files someway, and raise awareness that this technology can be used by evil people for purposes like that one, but that is not enough reason to block the technology.

Looks like you did not quite get it. Quoting you "It will be much better to delete those files someway".

There are no files. The picture is textencoded within the blockchain. You would have to delete a part of the blockchain to delete the picture.

A friend of mine save an entire image of Windows 7 onto the blockchain. So technically he has a Windows 7 Backup-DVD on the Blockchain for all times.

Oh I see! thanks for explaining it like that!

The problem (as I read it) is that the way the blockchain is created and operated prevents editing without massive headaches. All transactions after that block in the chain would be null and void. Reverting that much would be a wee bit daunting, you know?

Then again, I know very little about this stuff.

With regards to links Steemit Inc already remove copyrighted material from the front-end website in certain instances so it's feasible that any app developers may have to comply with similar requests relating to child pornography.

Because pictures are not actually stored on the blockchain (just links) I think the best course of action for governments and authorities would be go after where the images are stored, i.e. the image servers, and require the content to be taken down or isps to block access to them. You would then just be left with broken links.

If it got to the stage where witnesses were required to obscure blocks that contained illicit links I think it would be game over.

The point here is really that images can be stored as text in the blockchain already - you can see this demonstrated in sempervideo's comment at the top of this list of comments (currently). So basically, as it stands, there is no way to prevent illicit material being included into the blockchain.

There isn't and i doubt there will ever be wrt decentralised blockchains.

there are people who are trying to supress crypto growth by using every possible option
these type of issues are created to highlight its drawbacks

Really great point raised and we have to understand this because these type of child abusing and any form of abusing content should not be encouraged and we should stand strongly against it because it's our duty to make this world pure and great place to live so in my opinion an team should be formed where the content verification should be done. Thanks for sharing and wishing you an great day. Stay blessed.

  ·  last year (edited)

This is a possible scenario as what STEEM is already acting "EXACTLY" like in many scenarios. Technically TPB also doesn't host any content but just host "pointers" to content. Even if we consider that the blockchain is not storing images converted to a ascii or so, its already pointing to S3 buckets, IPFS (dmania, steepshot) etc. So the STEEM blockchain and thus the witness servers are acting exactly like TPB. Now Personally I think storing torrent files to "pirated" content is an offense, from the experience of numerous issues related to Torrents, Tor nodes, i2p nodes, weird case of PureVPN [2], Lavabit [3] etc we have seen that the technical details are interpreted as required by the pressure put by the lobbying groups.

Even if we try to resit with Tor or other means its not going to easy to resist a take down. Its going to be cake walk to take down the entire witness servers with the existing lawful interception capabilities.

Given that Steem is specifically intended to transmit publicly written posts and can also include encoded images as part of that

Because of the points mentioned above as well detailed in a link below, We don't necessarily have to store images or content in the chain to be liable IMHO.

I think we just have one more threat apart from the already existing possibility of DMCA take down as discussed here : scenario : DMCA takedown of STEEM blockchain


  1. TPB raids

PS: I worked in the network domain and unfortunately familiar with "lawful" interception :-(

very interesting article - I had never looked at it from that perspective. Your idea on making witnesses not liable is dead on - how can people be held responsible for millions of other people - hard to believe there's only 1600 files on the blockchain

Very good post addressing an important issue that will need to be solved soon. Decentralised or not, there will have to be some ground rules, defense mechanisms and punishment for violators... blockchain is starting to evolve and merging more and more with real life, with all the threats and unpleasantness that comes with it. If it wants to succeed ground rules will need to be set before the offchain society does it for us.

be creative, be adaptable.....
excellent post !! Congratulations

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