Cryptocurrency – A major infrastructure package approved by the Senate last week makes serious investments in improving the US’s road and bridge system. Nearly every powerful lobbying shop in Washington worked for months to shape the bill’s language since it was the biggest domestic spending bill in almost a decade.
Unsurprisingly, one industry was added last minute: cryptocurrency. A key provision in the Senate’s bill text, published earlier this month, could impose new tax requirements that could have devastating effects on wallet developers and miners. One of the largest regulatory threats to cryptocurrency and its few lobbying shops appeared overnight. To rally senators and fix the problematic language, they needed all the digital foot soldiers they could get.
In response, they reached out to their vocal and vast online community of investors and posters.
Congress is witnessing a first-ever big battle for cryptocurrency supporters
Coin Center’s national director of communications Neeraj Agrawal told The Verge that the community has an advantage for grassroots organizing because it is structurally networked. For the most part, people in the cryptocurrency community know each other so information spreads quickly across social media.
Several advocacy groups and blockchain groups turned the grassroots energy of their digital communities toward the fight. Before the bill’s final floor vote, more than 40,000 calls were made to senators by Fight for the Future and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Aston Kutcher and Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, also posted tweets showing their opposition to the bill, urging their followers to contact their senators. Many members of the community were inspired by these tweets and participated by making calls and tweeting with Fight for the Future information. It was Twitter that made this even a topic of discussion in Washington, continued Reitman.
EFF’s chief program officer Rainey Reitman explains: “Several senators who were probably not paying much attention to this section of the infrastructure bill found their Twitter feeds flooded with constituent messages.”
Reitman said Twitter played a large role in this conversation in Washington.
Several crypto-focused YouTubers and TikTok accounts shifted their focus toward advocacy, educating their followers about the bill and its implications. Users posted videos of dance performances tied to the words ‘Dance if you’re an 87 year old senator ruining the economy over $50 billion in military disputes,’ satirizing the objection of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) to an amendment to fix it.
It’s a surprising shift for an industry that has historically been an outsider in Washington, often directly opposing well-established players like law enforcement and the banking industry.
Companies involved in digital assets have had to deal with the process to defend themselves, whether against regulators seeking more authority over the industry or growing concerns about ransomware attacks.
Infrastructure from prior online organizing drives was heavily incorporated into the new push. The 2017 net neutrality battle was fought largely online, with groups such as Fight for the Future and EFF using social media to encourage internet users to get involved in a policy battle that affected their favorite websites. These groups used the tactics they honed in the net neutrality battle to fight back when the controversial language was added to the infrastructure bill.
In addition, Reitman says the shift to digital organizing has played a role, as cryptocurrency fans “are using online platforms like Twitter and Hacker News to learn, educate others, and then start speaking out about regulation.”
The new cryptocurrency rules may be adopted for a while even with increased political pressure. Despite efforts by encryption groups in the Senate, the Senate had failed to block the provisions, and all hopes now rest on the House for stripping the language from the bill. Whether the bill will receive one last opportunity to be amended before it reaches a final vote is unclear at the time of publication.
It will be a hard battle for Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to pass any infrastructure package. According to progressive members, they will not support the Senate’s $1 trillion package unless it is passed along with a broader social services package worth $3.5 trillion. Democratic moderates argued that they would not support the larger package until the infrastructure package is passed first. It could be more difficult for lawmakers to amend the cryptocurrency language if the two bills are tied together.
The ICO community has grown into a powerful political force in Washington, as was demonstrated by last week’s organizing.
The Blockchain Association’s executive director Kristin Smith praised the rapidity with which the industry’s latest technology was activated and how widely applied it was. The industry has definitely reached a turning point, and hopefully better policies will be developed later.”