1

Strictly as an example, let's say some businessman owns a lot of Bitcoin, and he makes a disparaging comment online about a certain country that happens to have the majority of Bitcoin miners.

Could this country's leadership force its miners to freeze his assets by never accepting blockchains that contain transactions involving them?

0

2 Answers 2

2

In the short term, yes. If a government, or other entity, could convince 51% of mining power to ignore blocks with particular transactions in them, the rest of the miners would quickly learn that they do not get paid for blocks that include those transactions or that are built on top of blocks that include those transaction.

One wrinkle is that many miners participate through mining pools that do not tell them what transactions they are mining. Any pools whose blocks didn't "stick" would soon be unable to pay those with the mining hardware. But miners are free to switch pools. A government could press on both mining pools and individual miners.

However, what happens in the long term is a bigger question. If the economic majority of the users of the bitcoin blockchain believe that this happening destroys bitcoin's value proposition, they could (at least in theory) decide to change the mining algorithm or even switch to some other technology like proof of stake. Another possibility is that bitcoin would just gradually start shrinking and soon be eclipsed by other blockchains that displayed more censorship resistance.

It's also possible that many might agree with the particular instance of censorship and decide that, whether or not they like it, it's not worth making radical changes or leaving bitcoin. So it's possible that, in effect, bitcoin could wind up tolerating censorship.

For people who are concerned about it, there are actions non-miners could take. For example, there could be gradual adoption of node software that refuses to accept censorship. If miners who build on the branch with censorship don't get paid for their blocks because nodes don't accept them, they become irrelevant.

Each node individually decides when to consider a block confirmed enough to rely on it. If demonstrated censorship is deemed by enough economically important nodes to deem a block unreliable, then miners would be in a stand-off with participants like exchanges.

So it's unclear exactly what the consequences of such a situation would be. Because miners are heavily invested in mining hardware, they would likely try as hard as they could to avoid situations whose outcomes are unclear.

3

Miners generally have no clue about which person owns which Bitcoin.

Miners in other countries also mine blocks successfully from time to time and so your hypothetical snarky businessman would probably not experience an actual freeze.

I have the impression most miners are in it for the money and don't really care that much about the attitudes of the people they take money from in the form of offered transaction fees. They might even relish taking money from someone who disparaged their country -- Assuming the disparager was foolish enough to make their Bitcoin addresses public.


Related

3
  • "foolish enough to make their Bitcoin addresses public" -- I guess the question comes down to whether someone can keep that info private
    – MWB
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 23:33
  • "Miners in other countries also mine blocks successfully from time to time" - but does this matter if the majority will refuse to accept blockchains that have some "blacklisted" numbers in them? I'm basically talking about a 51% attack against a particular individual.
    – MWB
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 23:51
  • See links appended to answer. Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 23:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.