3 Lessons From The Oslo Freedom Forum: Carter, Mahboob, and Volkov on Bitcoin

The Human Rights Foundation’s biggest event of the year took place last month in Norway. The Oslo Freedom Forum defines itself as a “global conference series bringing together human rights defenders from around the world to speak truth to power.” And the organization’s Chief Strategy Officer, Alex Gladstein, took the time to publish a few one-minute videos summarizing the event’s main messages and lessons. Let’s see what the activists have to say about bitcoin’s earth-shattering technology.

Oslo Freedom Forum: Nic Carter On Depolitizising The Monetary System

One of bitcoin’s biggest reason-to-be is easy to miss. When proponents of the technology say that “bitcoin is money for enemies,” they mean that ANYONE in the world can use it. Even the people you disagree with. That, in turn, guarantees that the people that you agree with can use it too. A frequent presence in Bitcoinist’s articles, Castle Island Ventures’ Nic Carter, explains to the Oslo Freedom Forum audience why all money is inherently political. At the same time, he dismantles the idea that Proof-Of-Stake systems solve the same problems as Proof-Of-Work ones.

 “Proof-of-Stake is pitched as an alternative to Proof-Of-Work, to Bitcoin’s model. I think it’s important understanding what Satoshi, the creator of Bitcoin, was trying to do. Their objective was to de-politicize monetary systems. And so, by default, monetary and payment systems are completely politicized. And we’ve heard a lot of activists telling us this week how their bank accounts have been frozen. It happens to basically everyone that deeply offends the state in which they live. It’s not just an authoritarian thing. It happens in the U.S., right? 

There’s broad based financial de-platforming for whole industries that occurs even in the most advanced Western economies. And every single layer of the payment stack and the monetary stack is politicized. Swift, the ultimate sort of messaging financial layer, we’ve seen whole countries excluded from that. A lot of people think that’s a good idea. But Satoshi proposed an alternative, a fully depoliticized system.”

That’s what bitcoin is about.

Oslo Freedom Forum: Roya Mahboob On Financial Freedom For Women

Afghan entrepreneur and humanitarian Roya Mahboob, among other things, ran a women-only publication that paid in bitcoin. That way, the women’s families couldn’t confiscate their salaries. If there’s one person who knows how useful this technology is for oppressed women in authoritarian patriarchates, it’s her.

“I grew up in a society where access to education and opportunity was limited and restricted for women. And many of the women in my country and conservative’s countries, they do not have or they have very little freedom to create a life for themselves. Their lives are actually run by men; their finances are controlled by men.”

In the Oslo Freedom Forum short clip, Mahboob also talks about the censorship-resistant and unconfiscatable nature of bitcoin. Then, she gives the world a new case study to think about. What happens with your money when the government changes overnight? But, what happens if you own bitcoin instead of fiat currency?

“I think that Bitcoin for us is a tool that allow us to bypass the physical and social barriers. And we are owner of our own money and its not going to be stopped or censored by government. And also it’s not been affected by inflation when the prices of the monies in your country, when the conflict is happening and overnight your government is changed.”

At the end of the clip, Oslo Freedom Forum producer Alex Gladstein expands on the idea and adds the network’s permissionless nature to the mix. Plus, he gives Mahboob her due credit.

“I think is one of the most powerful things about this technology is it’s open and neutral to anybody, and it’s permissionless. You don’t need an I.D. to use it and no one can stop you from using it. And no one can remotely confiscate it if you use it properly. And bravo to you for teaching so many women and girls about how to have financial freedom.”

BTC price chart 06/26/2022 on Tradestation | Source: BTC/USD on TradingView.com

Oslo Freedom Forum: Leonid Volkov On Bypassing Russia’s Sanctions

For a practical perspective, consult with Russian anti-corruption advocate Leonid Volkov. He is Alexey Navalny’s campaign manager and visited the Oslo Freedom Forum via video. His perspective is extremely interesting because Volkov doesn’t appear to be wrapped in the bitcoin ethos like most of the people reading these lines. On the other hand, he has practical experience with the wonderful things bitcoin can accomplish.

“Well, lately, after the events of April 2021 when our movement has been recognized as an extremist movement in Russia. Then we have been outlawed and then forced to relocate. When we forced to relocate abroad and when crowdfunding inside the country became impossible. That Bitcoin is also very important because we still can use it to support our friends and colleagues back there in Russia. Otherwise it would be just too dangerous for them. They cant’s accept payments from us as a terrorist because we are pretty much on the same list as like Al Qaeda and ISIS in Russia now. So, in this regard, yes, of course, Bitcoin is still a very important payment tool for us, but we don’t have any specific philosophy about it. It just like a very useful, reliable payment tool.”

And that’s it for today. Come back tomorrow for three more lessons from the Oslo Freedom Forum.

Featured Image: Oslo Freedom Forum screenshot from this video | Charts by TradingView

Human Rights Foundation, Bitcoin Development Fund