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If you own Bitcoin, you also own links to child porn

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Bitcoin, the world’s most popular digital currency, is controversial for many reasons, including its reputation as a way to buy drugs and other contraband online, but now Bitcoin has been tied to something even worse: child pornography.

A loophole in the code that powers Bitcoin, which heretofore has mostly been used to post jokes, was discovered this week to contain repellent links to sex sites, including child porn, according to CNN Money.

The code was uncovered in Bitcoin’s blockchain, the distributed digital ledger that keeps track of all Bitcoin transactions.

Although the code modifications are not dangerous in terms of malware, they do pose a potential danger to anyone who owns Bitcoin. The problem with this rubbish—well, one of the many problems—is that these messages become part of the blockchain for the life of the ledger. The ability to communicate information, and to immortalize it, was built into the currency from the get-go, as Vinay Prashar pointed out in his entry on the pedophiliac pornography code on BTCpedia.

“Apparently, earlier this month someone uploaded load of links to ch1ld p0rn websites in bitcoinblockchain, now it stays forever,” he added.

And because every single person who owns even a sliver of a bitcoin possesses the blockchain—including yours truly, who owns about a half dollar’s worth—all Bitcoin owners now technically possess links to child porn, which, it goes without saying, is illegal.

Whoever did this poisoned the well.

As Bitcointalk member scintill pointed out, “BE AWARE that viewing the transaction is, in a way, viewing this stuff, just in an encoded form,” and that could compound your legal culpability.

Fortunately for Bitcoin owners, though, federal statutes only prohibit the knowing viewing or distribution of child porn material. No actual images are hidden in Bitcoin’s blockchain, so they’re likely in the clear unless they decide to decode and follow the links. It’s a very different story for whoever added the depraved links to the transaction register in the first place.

There is hope that the poisoned transactions will someday be erased, though. As Steve Hargreaves and Stacy Cowley pointed out on CNN Money, “Already, new versions of Bitcoin's core software are being developed that allow historical transactions to eventually be deleted.”

When those go online, forever might not be so long as it used to be.

H/T CNN Money | Photo by Rhys Moult/Flickr