MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA - MAY 19: Alex Gladstein speaks on stage during Bitcoin Conference 2023 at ... [+]Getty Images for Bitcoin Magazine
Human rights activism is one of the most dangerous and necessary ways of building political movements worldwide. Still, these activists face incredible persecution by their local governments, sometimes leading to financial exclusion or worst. Activists could improve their actions and agendas through Bitcoin BTC 0.0% and cryptocurrencies, due to its decentralized nature.
There are some cases of people using Bitcoin to resist authoritarian regime persecution. And an international organization is trying to gather all these efforts and teach more activists how to improve their activities and resistance through decentralized technologies.
The Human Rights Foundation is a nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, founded in 2005 by Venezuelan human rights advocate Thor Halvorssen Mendoza. It has been openly promoting and working around Bitcoin since 2013, when it helped a group of Ukranian activists understand how to use bitcoin for their financial goals.
"We started receiving bitcoin donations in 2014, and it's something that I continue to see pop up in the human rights field over the next few years. In 2017, we started actually having a Bitcoin Human Rights Foundation program. Then three years later, we launched the Bitcoin Development Fund, which gives money for open source projects focusing on Bitcoin", HRF Chief Strategy Officer Alex Gladstein told me in an interview.
For Gladstein, the link between bitcoin and human rights activism is clear: You need a way to keep your activities alive, even if your local government doesn't want them.
"If you are a human rights activist, you need a way to receive donations and make payroll and pay people without the government being able to stop that. That's extremely important. This idea of decentralized censorship-resistant money is very important if you want to do stuff that the government doesn't want you to do", Gladstein argued.
A Fund To Develop Freedom Through Bitcoin
The Bitcoin Development Fund has been active since 2020, and there are several developers and activists who received a financial impulse to keep building their tools. This fund focuses on improving Bitcoin's decentralization, privacy, and resilience, but it even grants resources beyond technical goals.
The first fund grant was received by developer Chris Belcher to implement his CoinSwap protocol, conceived to improve Bitcoin's privacy. But besides backing developers like Belcher, HRF's fund openend to other kind of efforts. For instance, researcher and privacy advocate Janine Roem received a grant for her privacy-focused newsletter, and even some translation efforts like Arabic_HODL's project received part of these grants.
But it didn't stop there. This year, in late July, the HRF announced a 20-bitcoin bounty program, with several specific challenges like building a mobile wallet integration of privacy-focused Bitcoin technology like Silent Payments, more self-custodial Lightning Network wallets or even some decentralized communications products based on Nostr, a popular protocol among bitcoiners. These challenges will be open until the end of 2024.