Bitcoin “Assassination Market” Targets Ben Bernanke, President Obama

An extreme test of an encrypted currency: crowdsourcing bounties on the heads of public figures.

Bitcoin “Assassination Market” Targets Ben Bernanke, President Obama
[Image: Flickr user Dushan and Miae]

This is slightly concerning. There’s now a website dedicated to crowdfunding the deaths of political figures using Bitcoin, the anonymous peer-to-peer encrypted virtual currency.

Using the “Assassination Market” site, anyone can contribute to a bounty on the head of each official listed. To claim the bounty, potential assassins submit in advance a donation with the date of the assassination attached. The names currently listed on the site, which include President Obama; Keith Alexander, head of the NSA; and James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, reflect the anti-authoritarian leanings of many Bitcoin enthusiasts. Ben Bernanke, the chair of the Federal Reserve, currently carries the highest price of 124 Bitcoins (over $65,000 at today’s exchange rates). The idea was originally proposed in an online essay by “crypto-anarchist” Jim Bell in the early ’90s; he subsequently spent time in federal prison.

This grisly thought experiment comes to light at an awkward time. Today the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission plan to tell a U.S. Senate committee that Bitcoin offers “legitimate financial services” with a balance of benefits and risks. Bernanke himself is expected to weigh in, saying the Federal Reserve doesn’t want to regulate the exchange. Maybe he’ll feel differently when he sees what it’s being used for.

About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.