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Mythbuster: Bitcoin can and will be shut down by governments.

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2 months ago

As Bitcoin is decentralised, the network as such cannot be shut down by one government.

However, governments have attempted to ban cryptocurrencies before, or at least to restrict their use in their respective jurisdiction. Governments could still try to jointly ban Bitcoin.

Yet in the long term, it is much more likely that governments will impose regulations to protect individual investors and to collect taxes.

Truth be told, there have been proposals to attempt and shut down Bitcoin. These proposals were put forward when the Bitcoin network was fairly new and posed little threat to the financial system. Even then, there was never any real support for the idea whatsoever. Governments and banks cannot influence the Bitcoin network in any capacity, no matter how hard they lobby.

What can happen, however, is governments curbing the use of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Again, this is not the same as shutting down the actual network. It is possible governments will prevent domestic companies from dealing with Bitcoin. Even so, those changes are never popular, and often reversed eventually.

The concept of Bitcoin often seems to cause some confusion. People still believe it is possible for governments to shut down the Bitcoin network. They will never be able to, as long as the internet exists.

Governments Can’t Control Bitcoin

Unlike traditional financial systems, Bitcoin is not controlled by middlemen such as banks, governments, politicians, or technology companies. Instead, it is a decentralized and globally distributed network powered by individual users. These users can be quantified as node operators, miners, service providers, and regular enthusiasts. It is simply impossible for any government, politician, or bank to shut down the network.

More importantly, Bitcoin has never been hacked before, nor will that ever be the case. It is true there have been hacks affecting companies who deal with Bitcoin. That is very different, as every company presents a single point of failure in the technology industry. The Bitcoin network itself, called the blockchain, has never been tampered with by nefarious individuals.

As long as the internet persists, Bitcoin will be alive and well. All it needs is the internet, which is – by default – global and unlimited. Even if individual Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were to block access to the Bitcoin network, there will always be alternatives.

To make any lasting impact on the network, all ISPs around the world will need to block access to Bitcoin at the same time. Even then, there is mobile internet, or even internet via satellite to explore. In the future, we may very well get an internet connection from space, adding another interesting layer to the Bitcoin network.

Can Bitcoin get shut down / turned off?

Just as Bitcoin has never been successfully 51% attacked, it has also never been shut down, even for a short amount of time. Many actors such as government institutions and banking officials have proposed shut-downs of the Bitcoin network before but Bitcoin has run with virtually 100%-uptime for almost ten years.

Under really extreme circumstances, there are few scenarios that could spell the end of Bitcoin as we know it. For instance, a massive global power outage shutting down all communications and the internet around the globe could prevent nodes in the network from contacting each other, causing the system to fail.

Scenario two: a Bitcoin update contains a critical bug which remains undetected despite intensive testing and peer-review inherent in the Bitcoin protocol. Such a situation would most likely result in a temporary impairment of the network, and consequently, a steep drop in Bitcoin price and a fork of the blockchain.

In all honesty, the Bitcoin is an experiment. We have no idea what will happen and who will oppose it.

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