May 14, 2022

New York Times Feature: Crypto Joins the Abortion Conversation

Crypto donations for charitable causes and activism are on the rise, but the limited adoption and technical challenges of cryptocurrencies remain obstacles for wider use, according to a New York Times article.

This is an excerpt from the New York Times article, Crypto Joins the Abortion Conversation. Written by Anna P. Kambhampaty, Alisha Haridsani Gupta, and Valeriya Safronova. Published on May 14, 2022.

Last year, thousands of people raised more than $40 million in Ether, a top cryptocurrency, through a DAO in just a week with the hope of buying a first printing of the United States Constitution. Then the DAO lost the auction to Ken Griffin, the billionaire founder of the hedge fund Citadel, and the group began to dissolve.

Jonah Erlich, a core contributor, still thinks ConstitutionDAO was a valuable experiment. “The speed at which we were able to move, as well as how many people were able to contribute, was a big success,” he said. (Refunding contributors has been much harder; the group had to cover the high transaction fees associated with the Ethereum blockchain, so it’s working with less money than it raised. “That is a problem that’s still being worked on,” Mr. Erlich said.)

Separately, UkraineDAO, organized in part by Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot, raised more than $7 million in a few days by selling an NFT of a Ukrainian flag. In March, President Volodymyr Zelensky signed into law a bill legalizing cryptocurrency exchanges in the country. As of that month, according to Alex Bornyakov, Ukraine’s deputy minister of digital transformation, the country had received nearly $100 million in crypto donations.

But these are isolated examples in what remains for many an impenetrable sphere of finance. Only 16 percent of Americans have experience with cryptocurrencies — through investing, trading or paying for things — according to a recent Pew survey, and more than half of them are men. Affluent men. Those demographics can mean that the fanciful projects some crypto entrepreneurs have proposed don’t always reflect public interests, and can seem driven by impulse.

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"Anytime there’s a problem, people say that crypto or web3 is going to be the solution without putting much thought into it,” said Molly White, a software developer who has been archiving crypto crashes and missteps on a website called Web3 Is Going Just Great.

Ms. White pointed to the crypto project Nemus, which aims to raise funds for the Amazon rainforest. “People are talking about protecting portions of the Amazon rainforest, but they’re using blockchains that are very damaging to the environment,” she said, referring to the energy-intensive process of putting cryptocurrencies into circulation. “It’s like they don’t see the damage they’re doing with the solutions that they’re proposing.”

There have been attempts to make crypto donations more accessible to charitable organizations. Change, a company that sells an interface for web donations, recently created a nonprofit arm that manages crypto wallets for charitable organizations. The point is to avoid “putting the daunting security, technical and accounting burden on them,” said Sonia Nigam, the chief executive of Change. Donations are paid out to those organizations — including Girls Who Code, Make-a-Wish Foundation and One Tree Planted — in the form of grants.

Most national abortion nonprofits and health care providers still do not accept cryptocurrency. Elliott Kozuch, a senior communications strategist at the nonprofit NARAL Pro-Choice America, wrote in an email that “crypto has not come up in conversation at NARAL, including in relation to the SCOTUS leak.”

But there could be a shift coming. Elissa Maercklein, the chief executive of Crypto Chicks, an NFT collective, said that the organization made a donation of 5 Ether (worth more than $15,000 at the time, and around $10,000 as of Friday) to the International Planned Parenthood Federation in February; it was the first crypto donation the organization accepted.

“When I contacted them, they were a bit surprised, but excited to learn more,” Ms. Maercklein said. She has worked with I.P.P.F. to ensure the organization will accept crypto donations moving forward through a platform called the Giving Block. The platform also enables several anti-abortion groups, including Alliance Defending Freedom, National Right to Life and Students for Life of America, to accept donations in cryptocurrencies.

“We offer nonprofits the ability to protect donor privacy by allowing anonymous donations,” Alex Wilson, a founder of the Giving Block, wrote in an email. “This has become popular for human rights organizations where donors might not otherwise give for fear of retaliation or targeting based on a cause they support.”

Source: New York Times

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