That’s what I love about the Internet. Even if it’s small-scale and you’re just posting on a forum, that’s an uncensored expression. That’s what I love. —Felicia Day
Anyone who has tried earning any online income knows the challenge of finding an uncensored platform. Many online selling venues don’t allow any form of nudity at all. Most of those that are willing to provide for material considered Not Safe For Work (NSFW) still limit exactly that kind of content can be displayed. Finding a genuinely uncensored site from which to sell has been practically impossible.
Even if one finds a way to sell NSFW material, there is still a problem with actually getting paid. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and PayPal all have rules against using their systems to pay for certain objects they deem dangerous, illegal, or inappropriate. PayPal is the most restrictive of that group and anyone with experience in any form of figure art knows the danger of using PayPal as a purchasing method. They will happily take the money from the buyer and keep it. Banks, too, such as JP Morgan Chase, refuse to provide banking services to any entity they consider adult or immoral, and their definitions for both are wide and arbitrary. Money is far from being uncensored.
All that began to change, however, with the introduction of Bitcoin. In case you’ve not been paying attention the past couple of years, Bitcoin is a digital currency that is not controlled by a central government. Bitcoin purchases are anonymous and can be used to make purchases internationally without having to worry about the local exchange rate. The concept is brilliant in that it takes both governments and banks out of the equation, allowing for a more pure market system. The biggest problem to date has been finding online stores that actually accept Bitcoin currency.
Yesterday, a solution to that problem became available with a new peer-to-peer retail system called OpenBazaar. OpenBazaar allows users to sell absolutely anything to anyone, anywhere, at any time. There are no content restrictions, making the system truly uncensored. Rather like an online bartering system, OpenBazaar connects people who have something to sell with people who are looking to buy. While the seller can set a given price, the buyer is free to negotiate with the seller so that a discount might be applied if multiples are ordered or if the buyer lives close enough to pick up the item themselves. For added security, a third-party moderator agrees that the deal is fair before Bitcoin is exchanged.
The opportunities of an uncensored marketplace are endless. As a photographer, I can sell figure work (theoretically) without having to worry about the product or the money being censored by a third party. I could also sell my services as a photographer, or a writer, or as an annoying neighbor if there happened to be an actual market for that service. The only limits are my imagination.
Of course, any system so wide open is also susceptible to dangers. Looking over the system that has only been operational a little over 24 hours, I see one person selling honey from Greece, which sounds enticing, but wouldn’t necessarily contain the contamination preventions required of domestic honey sellers. There’s also a person selling wizardry spells. I suppose it’s up to one’s own belief system as to whether or not one wishes to take that kind of risk.
OpenBazaar’s founders know that an uncensored system means that sooner or later people are going to use it for no good. Since everything is sold peer-to-peer, there is no way for anyone to tell whether what is sold is legal, moral, or even in existence. So yes, illegal drugs could be bought and sold through this market. One could sell a kidney as easily as they could sell puppies, or whale blubber, or the head of a presidential candidate. The folks at OpenMarket would have no way to stop those types of transactions.
There is a modest safeguard against illegal activity in that the open source code does not support Tor, which is an encryption language that hides IP addresses among other things. So, should one choose to engage in illegal activity, law enforcement still has the ability to track down both the buyer and the seller. However, law enforcement would not be able to confiscate funds because only the wallet holder can access and/or move Bitcoins.
Being the curious bug that I am, I downloaded the P2P software and set up an account, listing only one photograph for sale. We’ll see if that is enough to even get anyone’s attention. Setting up the site took me about 30 minutes, and that included creating a Bitcoin account so that I can actually accept payment should someone show interest in the photograph. If you want to try OpenBazaar for yourself and see what I’m selling, you’ll need to enter either my handle: 991803b5e7d0989bd6c7f829ccf39da329df6381, or search for my handle, which might be some version of @charlesiletbetter, but I’m not sure since I apparently can’t search for myself.
I’m not yet ready to put a significant amount of time into OpenBazaar. Law enforcement hasn’t taken kindly to uncensored online marketplaces because of the difficulty in stopping and tracking illegal activity. If I see a black SUV pull up in front of the house, I’ll know something’s up. Still, the world needs places where we can sell legitimate, legal products without the interference of governments, banks, or numerous middlemen. If this works, it could have a global economic impact that could change the way goods and services are bought and sold everywhere.
Are the opportunities worth the risk? We’ll find out, won’t we?