22 August 2022
The upcoming consensus change that Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency by market cap, is planning to execute in September has worried many users about the possibility of censorship happening at a protocol level. This means that, even by interacting directly with smart contracts, blacklisted addresses would not be able to transact or operate in the base layer.
The Merge, Ethereum’s migration from a proof-of-work (PoW) to a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus algorithm has raised concerns about the future of the chain when it comes to censorship. After the addresses of the smart contracts of Tornado Cash, a privacy-centered mixing protocol, were sanctioned and blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the privacy and censorship-resistant character of Ethereum has been in the spotlight.
Gabriel Shapiro, the general counselor at Delphi Digital, believes that big validators of Ethereum will try to push for a measure that brings censorship to a protocol level. This would allow them to operate in compliance with rules, and also avoid being penalized for not including illegal transactions. About this issue, he stated these entities “can’t self-help by merely avoiding facilitation of blocks containing U.S.-sanctioned transactions, because under certain conditions they might be dramatically slashed from doing so.”
On the other hand, Discusfish, co-founder of F2pool, an ethereum and bitcoin mining pool operation, stated that proof-of-work (PoW) consensus assets were more capable to deal with regulatory pressure than their proof-of-stake-based counterparts. He explained:
In the discussion about PoS and PoW under regulatory pressure these days, there is one key point to pay attention to: Whether the block producer can remain anonymous and package some transactions that conform to the consensus on the chain (which may contain some sensitive transactions). PoW can currently do it, PoS currently has certain difficulties because of the need to stake the assets on the chain.
However, not everyone shares this train of thought. In fact, there are some that think that proof-of-stake consensus-based assets, such as Ethereum after The Merge happens, are better prepared to face a censorship attack coming from government regulators. Justin Bons, founder and CIO of Cybercapital, is one of them.
Bons argues that while an attack of this nature would be very difficult to pull off against Bitcoin and Ethereum, the complexity and the physical presence that PoW-based chains need to operate would make them easier to target than proof-of-stake assets. That’s because PoS can be operated with low-power equipment from any place in the world.
Finally, Bons believes that regulators are not out to hurt cryptocurrencies yet and that “a sane middle ground must be found which preserves the credible neutrality of blockchains, ensuring privacy for individuals and compliance for companies.”
What do you think about the possibility of censorship happening in Ethereum at a protocol level? Tell us in the comments section below.
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