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Sunday, August 23, 2020 Leer en Español

How Bitcoin Can Resolve COVID-19 Controversies

We need information accountability more than ever. Thankfully, there's an app for that.

Image by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

In these crazy times, truth and accountability are sorely lacking, especially when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We may never know the true number of patients who were afflicted with or died from COVID-19, because too many of those involved see too much opportunity in manipulating and/or lying about the numbers for selfish gain.

A corporation may want to downplay the pandemic to assure its employees that it is safe to come to work.

A hospital may want to leverage the ‘2nd wave’ as justification for more funding.

A politician may exaggerate the death toll to push a certain policy to get re-elected in office.

Thankfully, there’s an app for that. And it’s called Bitcoin.

Bitcoin, which is widely known as a speculative cryptocurrency, was actually designed with accountability in mind and innate properties that can help mitigate these issues.

The transfer of Bitcoins is executed on a public ledger, called a blockchain, which means that anyone can verify the transactions and data for themselves.

Each transaction is stored with a timestamp, which means one can prove the existence of the data at a certain time with an irreversible record of what took place in the past. That stated, this feature does not prove the data is accurate or its truth, but it can be leveraged to hold its publisher accountable.

The public nature of the entry is key, since anyone can view what occurred in the past.

The original whitepaper for Bitcoin states: ‘The timestamp proves the data must have existed at the time, obviously, in order to get into the hash.’

An example of a ‘hash’ is as follows:


This seemingly meaningless jumble of characters represents a Bitcoin transaction ID, which is a unique reference to a payment on the Bitcoin SV ledger. Bitcoin SV is the version of Bitcoin that adheres’ closest to the original protocol, with no limits on block size or placing data (ex. statistics or medical data) inside of a transaction. Thus, only this version is capable of the solutions proposed here.

The hash is important because all the data in a transaction is ‘hashed’ to the value above. Any change to any of the transaction’s values (timestamp, amount transferred, etc.) would yield a completely different hash or transaction ID.

This is why the public nature is so important, because records cannot be tampered with once they are placed onto the ledger. These traits are only possible if the transaction is ‘timestamped and widely’ published per the whitepaper.

To be clear, a single source of truth does not solve these issues as publishers can still lie or make mistakes. What the ledger does provide is an immutable record of who has done what in the past.

For example, if death certificates were issued on the Bitcoin ledger, when doctors add COVID-19 as the cause of death to a patient who had three other deadly pre-existing conditions and end up being wrong—everyone could see the mistake.

This doctor would then be held accountable and can only fix their mistake by appending a correction or standing by it; they cannot delete the mistake. How this incident affects their reputation going forward is up to the public, rather than the mainstream media whose narrative changes like the weather.

Through continued use of the public ledger, reputation is the true value obtained, not the ‘truth’ source. As more data is published from an entity, the interpreters of the data determine its usefulness, validity, and value.

If that publisher is known to provide valuable, referenceable data in the past, they would likely not sully their reputation suddenly just to push a certain agenda. They would find more value in remaining honest, apolitical, and a trusted source of data.

Incentives play a huge role in the market—if a greater financial incentive exists to lie, fear-monger and sow dissent, then doctors, politicians, and the mainstream media will engage in those tactics with impunity.

With Bitcoin, we can have an indisputable record of occurrences in the past, countering the incentives to be dishonest. In the face of a pandemic the question of ‘What are the true numbers?’ would compete in the free market on the public ledger, not based on who can shout the most sensationalist statistics on TV screens or social media sites.

  • Joshua Henslee is an experienced software consultant/developer based in Atlanta, GA, who has been obsessed with Bitcoin since early 2018.