OpenBazaar Accuses CNN of False Reporting on Europol Brief

Sam Patterson, a co-founder of Bitcoin marketplace OpenBazaar and its commercial unit OB1, accuses CNN of falsely covering a Europol report on cybercrime.

In the October 2nd article, titled “Police: High-tech criminals have us outmatched and outgunned,” CNN Money reports Europol’s findings that criminals are increasingly using the Bitcoin ecosystem as a means to transfer funds and hold money.

The CNN article also highlights OpenBazaar as an “underground marketplace” targeted by Europol.

Patterson completely rejects this premise. He argues that such marketplaces were built specifically for illicit goods, and rely on technology such as Tor to obscure identity online.

He notes:

OpenBazaar is entirely different. It’s a decentralized platform, not controlled by anyone, and not run for profit. It’s not being built for any subset of trade, but gives anyone in the world the power to buy and sell any type of goods and services with anyone else. It doesn’t use Tor or any tool to obfuscate identity.

Europol does compare OpenBazaar to BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol that most its users employ to trade pirated movies and music.

Patterson takes exception to this view as OpenBazaar is still in beta:

Police are not starting to see marketplaces like OpenBazaar, because OpenBazaar hasn’t launched yet. In the Europol report OpenBazaar is briefly mentioned under the “Future Threats and Developments” section. They clearly refer to OpenBazaar as “emerging technology.”

The CNN Money assertion that Patterson completely slams as an outright falsification is that there is a police war on OpenBazaar. CNN’s Pagliery wrote:

The fight against OpenBazaar is going just about as well as the fight against illegally copied media (not well).

Patterson calls the claim “a complete fabrication.” Indeed, there is no suggestion in the Europol report that law enforcement is in a “fight” with OpenBazaar. CNN Money reporter, Jose Pagliery, gives the reader the impression that the police are in a pitched battle with OpenBazaar.

Patterson points out:

There is no “fight against OpenBazaar” or any conflict between the marketplace and law enforcement at all, for several reasons. The most obvious reason is that it’s impossible, since OpenBazaar hasn’t launched yet. Equally important is the point that OpenBazaar isn’t an underground marketplace at all, and law enforcement has no more reason to “fight against OpenBazaar” as they have to fight against any other online platform.

In truth, the Europol report makes only one recommendation regarding OpenBazaar:

Law enforcement should collaborate with private sector and academia to explore investigative and research opportunities related to emerging technologies such as decentralised marketplaces like OpenBazaar.

Patterson suggests that CNN took a brief description of OpenBazaar in the Europol report and turned it into a “false narrative of law enforcement against decentralized markets.” He asserts that OpenBazaar has no conflict with the police and that the marketplace is being developed to eliminate the middleman from ecommerce, take fees down to zero and permit people to trade directly with each other online.

CNN journalist Jose Pagliery is famous for writing about bitcoin, publishing a book on the subject in 2014, “Bitcoin: And the Future of Money.” So, why the slant against OpenBazaar?

Pagliery is really just part of the bandwagon. When news of Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures $1 million investment into OpenBazaar emerged in the middle of the year, other commentators in technology and financial media suggested that the open source platform was “Silk Road 3.0” despite its founders assertions to the contrary.

Fortune described OpenBazaar as “America’s most dangerous tech startup”.

Business Insider called it “a police-proof marketplace that lets you sell literally anything.”

The Daily Dot describe it as “the black market that’s part Silk Road and part eBay.”

There is a general feeling that the marketplace will inevitably be used for illicit commerce. Some in the Bitcoin ecosystem are concerned that another Silk Road would be to damaging for Bitcoin’s public relations.

In reality, if OpenBazaar is truly decentralized and anonymous, it will never become another Silk Road.