US government is concerned with the involvement of Social media and Cryptocurrency in funneling of funds into domestic terror groups activities.
In a hearing held by the FSC Subcommittee on National security on Jan 15th 2020, International development and monetary policy featured 5 witnesses from various departments to address how US based monetary institutions could tackle the rising role of technology adopted by domestic terrorist groups.
Various overseas terrorist groups such as Hamas had successfully collected cryptocurrencies to fund and run their day to day activities noted Rep Brad Sherman (D-Calif) what would prevent domestic groups like neo-Nazi from trying to take up same technology.
The first witness, a Jared Maples who is the director of Director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness emphasized on importance of the government to look at major platforms that the domestic terrorist could use to solicit for funds (Facebook, Telegram). Most of the groups turn to social media to sell counterfeit products, drugs and weapons. For which they are mostly paid in cryptocurrency (BTC) due to the encryption and the traceability difficulties.
This was despite US government officials successfully uncovering the world’s largest operating child pornography ring whose transactions involved Bitcoin in October 2019. This success was credited to the use of the Internal Revenue System Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). The analysis system tracked several Bitcoin transactions to assist in apprehending all those involved.
While George Selim, senior vice president of programs at the Anti-Defamation League explained that in as much as Bitcoin is anonymous, it is still transparent and won’t affect traceability of transactions. He cited an example of neo-Nazi BTC tracker, which is a twitter bot that posts news regarding various BTC wallets. Particularly a donation of close to half a million US dollars made to a known neo-Nazi troll Andrew “weev” Auernheimer. There were also mentions of a $30,000 donation in BTC made to a popular neo-Nazi website Stormfront.
Supremacy groups will lean towards BTC as they cannot use the traditional payment methods claimed Rena Miller who is the specialist in financial economics at the Congressional Research Service. This would pose new challenges for the US government in their efforts of trying to cut off monetary access for financing the domestic terror groups. This is because the groups would have to come up with newer channels of funneling cash to the operations.
There were however privacy concerns as raised by Rep Juan Vargas whose concern was how best the government’s efforts in regulation wouldn’t turn to overreach as he engaged Jared Maples.
“Do it in such a way that we’re able to track this money but at the same time not be so involved in their lives?”
Jared’s answer stressed the importance of the US government to respect the constitutional rights in the regulatory process.