In China, students use blockchain to report sexual harassment

To get around Beijing’s censorship, which protects some men accused of sexual assault by deleting complainants’ posts on the internet, students are using these encrypted database strings.

Chinese students want to be able to report sexual harassment at their universities. In the wake of the Weinstein affair, the hashtag #metoo (#balancetonporc in France) had allowed women from all over the world to denounce acts of sexual assault of which they say they are victims. In China too, the movement has been emulated. As evidenced in January by the eviction of a renowned professor from Beihang University in Beijing after testimonies from former students.

But since then, the government has removed many posts related to these harassments on Chinese networks (Weibo and Wechat in particular). So to counter the censorship, students from Peking University have written a petition directly on the Ethereum blockchain, a database considered inviolable since its servers are spread all over the world.

The purpose of this letter is to reopen the case of Gao Yan, a student who committed suicide in 1998 after writing that she had been sexually assaulted by a professor for years. It was Yue Xin, a student at this prestigious Beijing university, who encoded her message into the blockchain. Indeed, when she started to ask for the reopening of the investigation, professors and administrators had strongly encouraged her to back out. And her letter had been immediately deleted from Chinese social networks.

No 404 error in Blockchain

So on April 27, Yue Xin made a transaction of 0 Ethereum, a virtual currency, to herself. Transaction that cost him 53 cents in fees. The objective was to attach to the chain his petition. The American site Quartz compares this technique to an individual who would make a transfer to himself of 0 dollars while adding, in the optional note proposed for each transfer, the letter. Except that unlike the bank account, the blockchain is accessible to all. And that where a website can always be blocked, especially in China, the chains like Ethereum or Bitcoin, are almost untouchable.

If the method seems very useful to set in stone such a petition and not to see it systematically deleted, it does not facilitate the visibility of this message on the web. Indeed, it is necessary to go through search engines specific to blockchains and not adapted to the uninitiated to find it. But at least, as a user pointed out in a comment on the website, “the blockchain does not have a 404 error”.