..The currency is known as Bitcoin, and relies on a series of mathematical algorithms to govern the amount of money in circulation and the future inflation rate. Each Bitcoin has a unique ID and transactions are recorded in public ledgers, making fraud far more difficult than most real-world currencies – but as Bitcoins aren't backed by a government, if they're stolen, they're gone forever, as some early adopters found out to their cost.
At the time of writing, there are more than 8.7m Bitcoins in existence, worth a total of around $42.3m (£26.2m). The combination of a stateless currency and untraceable internet use is a powerful one, as one underground site highlights.
The Silk Road is a website only accessible in the "dark" section of Tor, meaning it can't be viewed or traced on the general internet, and accepts only Bitcoins for payment. The site allows the buying and selling of illegal drugs, predominantly in the US, UK and Netherlands.
Its existence isn't a secret. In 2011 two senators wrote to the US attorney general asking for action to be taken against the site, which was described as a "one-stop shop for illegal drugs that represents the most brazen attempt to peddle drugs online that we have ever seen".
Action against the site, which operates in a similar manner to eBay, linking independent buyers and sellers, has so far proved impossible, and the publicity generated for the Silk Road only boosted its – and Bitcoin's – popularity.
Promoting such enterprises is not, though, the driving motivation for most of the people behind the development of Bitcoin.
One core member of Bitcoin's development team, Amir Taaki, explains the broad motivations of the hacktivist movement from a "hackspace" in east London – a loose members' club designed to let people build, code and tinker as they wish. Even the space's door is customised: it's tailored to open when members pass their Oyster card or similar radio-frequency ID nearby, and then plays a customised greeting (one has chosen the victory theme from Final Fantasy VII, a cult 90s videogame).
The first principle of hacker culture, Taaki says that "all authority should be questioned". He stresses this doesn't mean governments or police are necessarily corrupt, or aren't needed, but that the public should always be in a position to hold such authorities to account.
This leads to the second core principle: information should, generally speaking, be free. Copyright laws, patents, government secrecy and more are a huge target for the movement..
Pretty lengthy article as part of a series (Battle for the internet). Portrait about contemporary hacktivist groups, the pirate party and bitcoin, among others.
Pointing out the importance of free speech, but also points of concern, like drug traffic and child porn.
Overally positive towards hacktivism and bitcoin.http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/apr/20/hacktivists-battle-internet