Bitcoin And The Four Horsemen Of The Infocalypse

is a decentralized open protocol for peer-to-peer electronic cash transactions and this does not limit who can use it nor where it is used. In addition, the protocol does not limit the purposes of its use. As a result of this feature, it has been largely criticized due to the potential of bad players using it to commit crimes.

Team of Professional Cyber Security Data Science Engineers Work on Surveillance Tracking Shot of … [+] People Walking on City Streets. Big Dark Control and Monitoring Room with Computer Displays.


The four horsemen of the infocalypse is a term that is largely attributed to Timothy May, the cypherpunk writer on the Cyphernomicon paper in 1994. It is a play of the phrase; the four horsemen of the apocalypse. He used it to refer to terrorists, pedophiles, drug dealers, and money launderers when asking the question, how will privacy and anonymity be attacked?

The conversation has grown beyond the four horsemen and today that list has grown to bad hackers, intellectual property pirates, among many other groups. This has led to an ever green debate about whether people should trade their liberty for increased protection from the horsemen of the infocalypse. Would you be okay if your government and corporations had the power to invade your privacy, anonymity, rights, and freedoms for your protection? If the governments and corporations had all that power, what would stop them from abusing it?

For instance, according to an article published on TechCrunch in October 2020, WhatsApp was processing over 100 billion encrypted messages per day. This involves all manner of private conversations like the ones with friends, family, business, your doctor, your banking relationship manager, and so on. A small percentage of the 100 billion messages could potentially involve terorists, money launderers, and many other horsemen of the infocalypse. So, should governments and corporations have a backdoor to every message that is sent over this protocol to address the smaller number of bad players?

The four horsemen of the infocalypse are evil and their actions cause immesurable pain on their victims and society at large. I acknowledge that they should be addressed. So, the ethos of this article is not to question whether they should be addressed, but rather to shed light on the methods used or being considered versus the tradeoffs.

With Bitcoin acting as an open protocol for all, this conversation leads to the question about governance and regulation of bitcoin users. Remember when major media stations published content saying that Bitcoin is only used by criminals? Remember the Bitcoin donations to people fleeing the war in Ukraine? Remember the Bitcoin donations to the Freedom Concoy in Canada protesting vaccine mandates? Clearly, Bitcoin is only the platform, not the player.

Before the invention of Bitcoin, the four horsemen still existed and they used, and are still using, other monetary platforms. According to The 2023 Chainalysis Crypto Crime report, cryptocurrency transactions used for criminal activity represented 0.24% of all crypto transactions. This implies that a majority of the cryptocurrency users are not criminals and the small minority using cryptocurrency protocols for crime are criminals capable of using other platforms for their criminal activities.

Bitcoin is not entirely anonymous and forensic investigation teams can easily query the Bitcoin blockchain to track down criminals in a similar approach to the way they investigate transaction on traditional finance systems. Recent investigations have shown that criminals who use Bitcoin can be easily tracked and charged legally. For instance, in February 2022, the US Department of Justice successfully completed a six-year forensic investigation on criminals who had stolen 119,754 bitcoins from Bitfinex exchange.

Governments around the world have been using the four horsemen of the infocalypse to attack their citizens’ rights and liberties when applied to open protocols like email, Bitcoin, and instant messaging apps using regulations that outright censor, limit, and ban users. In addition, some governments and corporations have used the four horsemen to justify their systems that surveil people’s private information.

Governments and corporations are not very efficient and can be easily exloited by criminals who target the honeypot they create when they establish surveillance systems. There’s no telling that, if your government tracks all Bitcoin transactions of the country’s citizens that criminals wouldn’t eventually access that information. Authoritarian regimes may also exploit such systems to track dissidents, human rights activists, investigative journalists, and whistleblowers.

Clearly, there are other inventive ways to fight the four horsemen of the infocalypse without attacking open protocols like Bitcoin. Passing regulations such as requirements on exchanges to implement strict know-your-customer (KYC) and limiting banking rails only creates more honeypots for criminals to exploit.

While addressing governance in the digital asset space, I acknowledge that it is important to protect investors from bad players and that all digital assets that pass the Howey Test should be duly registered and regulated under securities regulations. Alternatively, Bitcoin is not a security and bitcoin holders are not investors. Bitcoin bears features of money and a digital commodity that one can only speculate on but not invest in.

So, what should bitcoiners do to protect their liberties from governments and corporations that would seek to limit or abuse them using the four horsemen of the infocalypse as a deceptive ground to pass harsh laws, regulations, terms, and conditions?

Disclosure: I own a small amount of bitcoin.