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Study Finds Links To Child Pornography Within Blockchain

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German researchers have found illegal content, including hundreds of links to child pornography within the blockchain, which is required to participate in Bitcoin.

The report, published by RWTH Aachen University, Germany, noted that the findings especially endangers the multi-billion dollar markets powering cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, making it illegal in at least 112 countries in which possessing content such as child pornography is unlawful.

The researchers wrote, "Our analysis shows that certain content, eg, illegal pornography, can render the mere possession of a blockchain illegal. Although court rulings do not yet exist, legislative texts from countries such as Germany, the UK, or the USA suggest that illegal content such as child pornography can make the blockchain illegal to possess for all users."

Blockchain is the open-source, distributed ledger that primarily enables credible accounting of digital events, including money transfers in cryptocurrencies. However, the technology allows users to record arbitrary data, ranging from short messages to pictures.

The analysis revealed more than 1600 files on the blockchain, over 99 percent of which are texts or images, while new content is being added infrequently. Of these, at least eight files were with sexual content, including one thought to be a child abuse image and two contain 274 links to child abuse websites, 142 of which link to dark web services.

These objectionable content is distributed to all Bitcoin participants, putting all users at risk, the study noted.

"Since all blockchain data is downloaded and persistently stored by users, they are liable for any objectionable content added to the blockchain by others. Consequently, it would be illegal to participate in a blockchain-based systems as soon as it contains illegal content," as per the researchers.

The report said it expects a high potential for illegal blockchain content to jeopardize blockchain-based systems such as bitcoin in the future.

In 2015, Interpol had warned of the possibility of malware being injected in the blockchain, making it a safe haven for hosting data including child sexual abuse images. The agency also had warned that no methods were available to wipe those data.

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