Even before Charlottesville, Richard Spencer, a prominent member of the alt-right, a movement that espouses racist, anti-Semitic and sexist views and seeks a whites-only state, had gone as far as declaring bitcoin “the currency of the alt right.” But far-right political leaders and experts on extremist movements alike say the adoption of bitcoin gained new urgency after Charlottesville as extremists looked for ways to operate beyond the reach of government control and the shifting policies of U.S. tech companies.
Those who began acquiring bitcoin in August already have reaped substantial returns, despite the recent volatility in its price. In the months since demonstrators carried flaming torches and chanted “Jews will not replace us,” bitcoin has quadrupled in value. The digital currency began trading on several mainstream financial markets this month, pushing the price of a single bitcoin at times above $19,000. It was worth $16,000 at one point Tuesday.
Extremist figures who invested in bitcoin as a bulwark against efforts to block their political activity now find themselves holding what amount to winning lottery tickets. The proceeds could be used to communicate political messages, organize events and keep websites online even as most mainstream hosting services shun them, experts say.