Bill Gates, principal founder of the Microsoft Corporation, has caused a furor among Reddit users, stating that cryptocurrencies are “a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way”, during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit on Feb. 27.
“The main feature of crypto currencies is their anonymity. I don’t think this is a good thing. The Government’s ability to find money laundering and tax evasion and terrorist funding is a good thing. Right now crypto currencies are used for buying fentanyl and other drugs so it is a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way. I think the speculative wave around ICOs and crypto currencies is super risky for those who go long,” wrote Gates.
While drug purchases online have been increasing, the vast majority of drug users still purchase illicit substances via more ‘traditional’ methods. According to a 2017 Global Drug Survey, regardless of country, less than half of drug users purchase substances via the dark web in any one country. The global median for percentage of drug users who use the dark net is 10.1 percent.
Gates’ remarks resulted in harsh criticism from Redditors participating in the discussion. While some advised Gates to re-read the Bitcoin white paper, others reproached him for what was perceived to be an attempt to influence the cryptomarket with his celebrity status:
“… [I]f Bill Gates says he doesn’t like crypto because of how well shaded the flow of money is…a lot of ears are perking up,” said a user calling themself Hoticewater.
When one of the users pointed out that fiat currencies can also be used for illegal activities such as money laundering, tax evasion, terrorist funding, and drug purchases, Gates said that the necessity of a physical presence makes illicit activities and transfers more difficult:
“Yes – anonymous cash is used for these kinds of things but you have to be physically present to transfer it which makes things like kidnapping payments more difficult.”
Back in 2015, the Microsoft founder’s position towards cryptocurrencies was far more optimistic. In an interview with Erik Schatzker on Bloomberg TV’s Smart Street show, Gates put it baldly that, “bitcoin is better than currency…”.
Moreover, as part of the “Financial Services for the Poor” initiative, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has sponsored the development of Blockchain infrastructure for merchants in Kenya to accept cryptocurrencies.
While Gates remains skeptical of cryptocurrencies, the underlying blockchain technology also remains an area of interest of the Microsoft Corporation, which has gone ahead without his direction as CEO. Over the past year, Microsoft participated in several business initiatives related to blockchain technology, like Microsoft Azure or Coco Framework.
The company recently announced it was looking to integrate Blockchain-based decentralized IDs into its Microsoft Authenticator app. Microsoft decided that Blockchain technology and protocols were well suited to the task of their project; creating a secure and decentralized form of digital identity.