Bad Omen: What The Tornado Cash Case Could Mean For Code Publishing

The Ethereum-based decentralized platform, Tornado Cash, has been at the center of controversy since US authorities targeted it. The case continues to evolve without positive developments for the platform or its co-founders.

The case attracted the attention of think tanks and organizations because of its potential implications for software code development and publishing in the US and other jurisdictions. Crypto focused thinktank Coincenter addressed the former in a recent post.

New Tornado Cash Indictment Spells Troubles For Developers In The US?

Coincenter post reacts to the new indictment against Roman Semenov. Yesterday, the developer was accused of several charges, including allegedly running an unlicensed money transmitter and conspiracy to operate an unregistered money-transmitting business.

The crypto organization believes that the new indictment marks another step in the wrong direction for the nascent industry as the US government crosses a line that was respected until this point. There used to be a difference between code, technology, and individuals regarding the sanctions imposed on Semenov and Tornado Cash.

In that sense, the US government will even breach its guidelines. The post argues that the indictment fails to demonstrate “clear violations of the relevant law,” potentially threatening US citizens’ right to build and publish software. The latter could have negative implications across multiple sectors.

The US government claims that Semenov allegedly ran a money-transmitting business. These developers created the code and launched Tornado Cash on the Ethereum blockchain as an “anonymizing software provider.”

On these types of software, the US Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) clearly stated:

FinCEN regulations exempt from the definition of money transmitter those persons providing only’the delivery, communication, or network access services used by a money transmitter to support money transmission services.’ This is because suppliers of tools (communications, hardware, or software) that may be utilized in money transmission, like anonymizing software, are engaged in trade and not money transmission.

Therefore, Coincenter argues that Tornado Cash and its developer failed to meet the criteria for a money business transmitter. The US government, going against these guidelines, as stated above, only provides three facts to support their arguments.

First, they claim that the developers paid for web hosting services, paid for a software repository on Github, and had “complete control” over the crypto platform. However, these actions do not present these charges against the Tornado Cash developers.

Today, the crypto platform and the technology behind it are the target. Tomorrow, any piece of software or technology could suffer a similar fate. Coincenter argues:

(…) these activities on their own definitely do not fit the regulatory definition of money transmission, which again is “acceptance of funds and transmission from one person to another.” These activities are merely the communication and publication of software and data.

As of this writing, Ethereum trades at $1,665 with a 2% profit in the last 24 hours.

Cover image from Unsplash, chart from Tradingview

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