EtherScan, the most widely used block explorer for the Ethereum blockchain, has been flagged and banned by China’s “great firewall”. CoinDesk reported that Greatfire.org, a complication of all websites banned by China’s firewall, had EtherScan added almost a month ago, December 3, 2019. This is most definitely a signal for the future as governments looks to weaken public ledgers.
Censoring On-Ramps to Uncensorable Networks
Ethereum itself cannot be banned by the Great Firewall, but access to the blockchain through simple URL based interfaces can be limited to make interaction much more cumbersome. This, however, is not a major impediment as users have already found a way around with cn.etherscan.com.
Matthew Tan, CEO of EtherScan, is unsure of why China blocked the website. He stated that the company was able to narrow down the ban to sometime in the last 3 months, but couldn’t quite put their finger on the reasoning for such a move.
Rumor has it that certain articles censored by the Chinese government were sent as a messaged in transactions on the Ethereum blockchain. This is one source of speculation that rationalizes the ban.
Fighting the Big Man
Decentralized block explorers are now the need of the hour. Luckily for Ethereans, Graph Protocol identified this weak spot and is building a way to access queries over the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS).
There is no doubt that as cryptocurrencies with censorship-resistant properties gain value and traction, state actors will be incentivized to break down these networks by cutting the on-ramps for regular users. As the movement grows, all the on-ramps will need to be made censorship-resistant as well considering the arsenal of resources states have at their disposal.
Cryptocurrency is very aptly described as a political revolution wrapped in a veneer of technology. The true value of these networks is their inability to be influenced and controlled. Taking that benefit away erodes the entire value proposition of the networks.
EtherScan’s ban from China may just the start of a wider move to suppress the growth of public ledgers. Although if the rumors are true, the only reason it may have happened was because of censored links showing up on Ethereum, which also shows us that this technology is working as it should bypassing state-enforced restrictions.