Although the push for increased international regulation of Bitcoin continues to gain momentum, the threat of oversight and scrutiny has done little to assuage to the fascination with this anonymous online currency whose value has now reached a monumental $13 billion. Although Bitcoin remains one of the most popular “virtual currencies” in existence today, there are well over 90 of these monetary systems currently in operation, many of which have gained some measure of credibility with retailers and merchants around the world.
The call for enhanced scrutiny of virtual currencies is largely due to the stigma that they have gained due to their popularity in criminal circles. The anonymity that Bitcoin affords users has become a valuable tool for those wishing to engage in illicit activities and avoid a larger paper trail.
Although several Bitcoin operators and exchanges did suspend their operations following the initial onset of the “big brother” bureaucratic mechanisms, the majority of these organisations are now operating at full capacity yet again. Regulation, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing, some prominent Bitcoin heavyweights have argued. By allowing for an internationally mandated “rules of order,” Bitcoin users can also gain increased confidence in the currency due to the fact that the threat of catastrophic seizure or infrastructure collapse is much less likely. Regulation may also help protect virtual currency users from malicious scams and fraudulent offers that, up until this point, have been relatively invincible due to previous policies.
As virtual currencies continue to gain prominence in the contemporary economic landscape, it is inevitable that dramatic policy changes will continue to occur. Where this ultimately ends, however, remains to be seen. As many virtual currency users will attest to, the appeal of these products is not only in their monetary worth. On an idealistic level, Bitcoin represents an opportunity for “sovereignty” in a world that many believe is already too over-regulated. The community itself is largely responsible for Bitcoin’s success. Were enhanced policy-making to confine the level of operations enjoyed by current Bitcoin users, the currency may see it’s overall popularity and, thus, worth, decline.