Bitcoin Messenger Explores Censorship Resistance During Coronavirus Crisis

A new bitcoin privacy technology was born this week, inspired by the politics of the “Great Lockdown.” 

On Monday, software engineer John Cantrell released a messenger application called Juggernaut. It’s built entirely on top of bitcoin’s scaling layer, the Lightning Network, and offers end-to-end encrypted, onion-routed, peer-to-peer messages.

In some ways, Juggernaut offers a more secure and primitive version of the Ethereum-based Status messaging app or the bitcoin-friendly mobile app Sphinx Chat. But everything comes with tradeoffs and Juggernaut prioritizes privacy.

While it’s now in early beta stages, Cantrell said the idea was inspired by censorship concerns, such as those we’ve already seen during the coronavirus crisis, from WeChat and Facebook deleting posts about the pandemic to Google suspending an Idaho church app for allegedly violating Google Play’s new events policies. For just one more example, bitcoin advocate Knut Svanholm said Amazon forced him to remove a brief mention of the coronavirus from his self-published book in order to distribute it through Kindle.

Read more: Europe Debates COVID-19 Contact Tracing That Respects Privacy

“It seems like maybe we’re heading toward a type of world where the government may shut down communication channels, you can’t say these things on Twitter, etc.,” Cantrell said. “If I want to use some service with an API to, say, send emails or text messages or pretty much any API, I have to create an account with that website and use my credit card or bank account.”

This messaging app doesn’t rely on a commercial server. Instead, the app runs on a Lightning node, from homemade Raspberry Pi devices to Casa models, so that bitcoiners can send messages directly between nodes by using their node public keys like usernames.

This primitive beta allows users to open channels with a small amount of bitcoin, that can be sent back and forth without actually requiring payment, or pay small routing and…

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