When Will Bitcoin Shed its Bad Boy Image?

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  • Bitcoin has been looked down by those most of those outside the crypto space for years
  • For many, the only use case for Bitcoin remains illegal use
  • How and when will these viewpoints be changed?

Bitcoin came in for yet another episode of credibility bashing on Monday when Janet Yellen shared her concern that it was “often [used] for illicit finance”. Her comments echoed those from European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde who warned last month of the “totally reprehensible money laundering activity” that she said Bitcoin had been and continues to be used for. These arguments regurgitate viewpoints that have been propounded by anti-Bitcoin mainstream media outlets for the past decade or so, despite a growing amount of research that illustrates that, in fact, illicit use of Bitcoin represents a tiny fraction of its use. The question is, why does the stigma of illegal Bitcoin use still persist and when will it be eradicated?

Negative Image Stems From Silk Road

Bitcoin’s bad boy image has its roots in Silk Road, the dark web marketplace that ran from 2011 to 2013 and sold all manner of contraband for bitcoin. The first that the wider world ever got to hear about Bitcoin was through the rise and fall of Silk Road, and with very little else to negate the bad publicity, the connection between Bitcoin and illegal activity was made.

The intervening years have seen a large number of dark web marketplaces come and go, with each one that makes the news reinforcing the idea that Bitcoin is only used for illegal means. It doesn’t matter than the wider community doesn’t use bitcoin for buying drugs or guns or anything like that – as far as the masses are concerned, its only use case is still illegal transactions, tax avoidance, and money laundering.

Narrative Change Only Just Surfacing

Thankfully in the past year we have seen a partial shift in narrative. The sudden rush to Bitcoin by institutions has seen the press begrudgingly replace the tired old use case as a means of anonymously buying drugs online with this new narrative, although the reader replies to these stories are much more illustrative of sentiment – people still compare Bitcoin to various famous financial bubbles and echo the sentiment all it is only used for illegal activity.

It’s clear then that there is still a long way to go to convince the masses of Bitcoin’s value proposition, but this isn’t surprising – a few headlines do not a shift in sentiment make. What Bitcoin needs is years of positive headlines to replace the negative ones and reset the mindsets of those readers who refuse to do their own research and get all their opinions from the media outlets they consume.

Bitcoin Needs a Use Case For Everyday People

The problem is that for regular people Bitcoin still has no use case. Its first use case was to facilitate the buying of illicit substances and its second use case is to help institutions hedge their balance sheet against a depreciating dollar. What use is that to the average man or woman on the street? The arguments about its scarcity, deflationary mechanics, and government agnosticism fall on deaf ears if it isn’t of any use to these people, and currently it isn’t.

For Bitcoin to undergo a sentiment shift among the general public it is going to have to find a way to be relevant to them, and at the moment it simply isn’t. Once it finds a use case among the average person then the negatives will be quickly brushed aside as a necessary evil, but this time could be years or even decades away, if it ever arrives. Until then the ecosystem is going to have to put up with the same tired and factually incorrect opinions from those who simply don’t want to educate themselves.