Early adopters of new, unregulated technologies are often nefarious. The same thing is happening with bitcoin. One can start with the silliness in its valuation. When an asset has no underlying value, or when that value is incapable of being accurately calculated, eventually the asset's value collapses.
According to the Dec. 27 front-page article "Bitcoin boom is a boon for far-right extremists," the silliness has morphed into nefariousness. The article documented the use of bitcoin as an important source of funding for alt-right groups: "Extremist figures who invested in bitcoin as a bulwark against efforts to block their political activity now find themselves holding what amount to winning lottery tickets. The proceeds could be used to communicate political messages, organize events and keep websites online even as most mainstream hosting services shun them, experts say."
Government will always be late to and inefficient in regulating any technological innovation, if, indeed, it regulates it at all. But government is the only part of society that has responsibility to regulate precisely such technological change to enforce the positive and constrain the negative uses for the particular technology.
We are not in an auspicious moment for the U.S. government to do much of anything around this issue. Fortunately, the European Union, Japan, Britain or Switzerland could take up this challenge. Let's hope someone does before we find a new funding source for the latest global terrorist threat — right-wing 21st-century fascism.
Steven Koltai, Washington