Combating Financial Repression With Bitcoin: Human Rights Activists to Gather at The 2024 Oslo Freedom Forum

The Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) is set to return to the Norwegian capital June 3-5 for its 16th installment since 2009. The conference series, hosted by the New York-based non-profit Human Rights Foundation (HRF), will bring together humanitarians, artists, tech entrepreneurs, and world leaders to highlight the state of global human rights and spark conversations on how to expand freedom amid technological and political oppression. Featured speakers include exiled Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Chamorro, Trauma Research Foundation founder Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, and Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Block.

The conference will provide high-level discussions from those on the front lines advocating for human freedom as well as workshop sessions to provide activists with tools in the pursuit of social liberation. Authoritarianism in the Global South will be a topic of particular concern, both in the context of illiberal governmental regimes as well as the complicity of globalized markets and supply chains, which, according to the HRF website, often drive exploitative forced labor and resource extraction.

In a statement to Bitcoin Magazine, Christian Keroles, HRF Director of Financial Freedom, emphasized the importance of censorship-resistant money in supporting liberty. “The Oslo Freedom Forum is an important gathering for freedom fighters from across the world to come together and plan how to expand liberty to more people. The Human Rights Foundation is committed to sharing how Bitcoin and freedom technology can empower these brave activists in their resistance to tyranny.

Bitcoin as a bulwark against digital authoritarianism

The OFF “Financial Freedom” track, slated for June 5th, will explore the imperative of open source software, namely Bitcoin, for dissidents to resist authoritarian regimes which aim to financially deplatform and censor opposition.

In partnership with HRF, Bitcoin Magazine will broadcast the exclusive livestream of the OFF Financial Freedom Track across X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Facebook.

“Bitcoin’s price, while a signal of adoption, is not what is important. At the end of the day, Bitcoin Magazine holds freedom as our North Star”, said Bitcoin Magazine President Mike Germano. “We believe in a world, enabled by Bitcoin, where individuals are empowered to express themselves financially or otherwise. We are proud to partner with HRF, a leader in this dialog, and to bring these conversations to our global audience of more than 12 million Bitcoiners.”

Today, financial repression is on the rise. The rollout of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), increasing financial surveillance, and the confiscation of wealth via outright means (and the more surreptitious inflation) has made protecting financial freedom more important than ever.

The Financial Freedom Track will feature leaders in the Bitcoin ecosystem including:

  • Jack Dorsey, CEO of Block
  • Abubakar Nur Khalil, Nigerian programmer, CEO of Recursive Capital
  • Farida Nabourema, Co-founder of the Africa Bitcoin Conference
  • Mogashni Naidoo, Co-founder of the Bitcoin Design Foundation
  • Craig Raw, Founder of Sparrow Wallet
  • Lyn Alden, Macroeconomist and Author of “Broken Money”
  • Matt Odell, Managing Partner of Ten31, Co-founder of OpenSats
  • Calle, Open source software creator, Creator of Cashu
  • Jack Mallers, Founder and CEO of Strike

The full Financial Freedom Track speaker list and agenda can be viewed at the Oslo Freedom Forum website.

Financial privacy – the final frontier

Bitcoin, as an open ledger visible to all participants, globally broadcasts all transactions. Given this inherent visibility, preserving the privacy of senders and recipients is of critical importance for those challenging oppressive regimes. The 2024 OFF Financial Freedom track logo displays a visualization of a Bitcoin coinjoin – a method for anonymously facilitating bitcoin payments, calling attention to particular attention to anonymity as a cornerstone of freedom.

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This year’s Forum will occur against a backdrop of a renewed crackdown on Bitcoin privacy tools. Keonne Rodriguez and William Lonergan Hill, founders and CEO of the privacy-focused Samourai Wallet and Whirlpool coinjoin service, were recently arrested and charged with money laundering and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.

Following the arrest, the FBI issued a statement warning Americans against the use of non-KYC (Know Your Customer) crypto money transmitting services. This stance suggests that financial surveillance is quickly becoming an explicit goal of regulators in the cryptocurrency space.

Given the non-custodial nature of Samurai’s Whirlpool software, the arrest may set a dangerous precedent for digital freedom. According to Bitcoin Magazine contributor L0LA L33TZ, this may potentially lead to “KYCing any service operating communication protocols, from Nostr to WiFi hotspots and telecommunication providers… Plans to KYC the internet have been around since as early as 2014, when the US Government attempted to introduce a ‘drivers license for the internet,’ similar to the planned introduction of digital identities around the world.”

The gravity of such a trend cannot be understated. Digital privacy, especially in the context of Bitcoin, is shaping up to be where authoritarian-minded actors have focused their attention.

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