Financial TimesFinancial Times

Using crypto for crime is not a bug — it’s an industry feature

By Jemima Kelly

27 Apr 2023 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

Despite a market downturn, 2022 was a record year for crypto-based illicit deals. That's no surprise, argues the FT's Jemima Kelly, given that crypto's raison d’être is operating outside the system.

One of the (many) times I have been heckled during a panel on crypto was when I argued that it shouldn’t be thought of as money. The only reason to use it other than for speculation, I said, was to buy drugs on the internet. This was a preposterous idea, the heckler retorted; crypto is used for so much more than that.

Crypto enthusiasts argue that it’s wrong to claim that it enables crime because the technology itself is “neutral” so cannot be blamed for any illicit activity. But this simply isn’t true: crypto was designed as a censorship-resistant payment mechanism that operates outside the traditional financial system and beyond the remit of regulators. Crypto transactions are not subjected to the same fraud detection, anti-money laundering or suspicious activity checks that traditional ones are. Operating outside the system is its very raison d’être. And one only has to look at how the crypto industry behaves to see that crime is not a bug; it’s a feature.

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