John Oliver, the host of the political comedy show “Last Week Tonight,” recently poked fun at privacy-based coin Monero, in a short aside while covering the growing threat of ransomware attacks in the United States.
Cryptocurrency and Ransomware Attacks
In the latter half of his segment, Oliver retells the story of a woman who was targeted by hackers on her home computer and forced to pay them through Bitcoin to release her files. He states the cryptocurrencies “have made it much easier to make money from ransomware, and much more difficult for law enforcement to recover payments.”
He follows by taking a stab at Monero in particular, which is designed to be especially anonymous compared to Bitcoin. After playing one of their ads extolling their privacy features such as “keeping their suppliers in secret,” Oliver accuses it of being a deliberate dog whistle to criminals:
“There’s a pretty clear subtext to what they’re selling there. It’s like seeing a cheerful ad for plastic tubs, the size, and shape of a human body. ‘This isn’t for anything, in particular, there are all sorts of human body-sized things you could put into one of these sturdy tubs. Also, they’re scream-proof. No matter how much sound something makes inside, you’ll never hear it!’”
Crypto, Criminals, and Politics
Though Monero was not the primary focus of his 22-minute segment, Oliver’s comments are yet another example of cryptocurrency being framed as a vehicle for illicit activity in mainstream political discourse. Last week, Jordan Peterson matter-of-factly stated on his podcast that the criminal element of Bitcoin is an “immediately relevant” social danger, if any, regarding the cryptocurrency.
Other examples abound as well, such as Steve Mnuchin’s attempts to make sure Bitcoin enters the ‘regulated world’ or Biden’s Treasury secretary claiming that Bitcoin is used “mainly for illicit activity.”
Despite many hacks and scams occurring across the crypto space as of late, Bitcoin, in particular, may be taking more heat on this front than it deserves. According to Blockchain Intelligence, Bitcoin transactions were already less than 0.5% comprised of criminal activities as of 2020 – a declining number.
Featured image courtesy of Vanity Fair