If there is a such a thing as solutionist aesthetics, this is it.
Blockchains primarily enable credible accounting of digital events,
e.g., money transfers in cryptocurrencies. However, beyond this original
purpose, blockchains also irrevocably record arbitrary
data, ranging from short messages to pictures. This does not come
without risk for users as each participant has to locally replicate the
complete blockchain, particularly including potentially harmful content.
We provide the first systematic analysis of the benefits and
threats of arbitrary blockchain
content. Our analysis shows that certain content, e.g., illegal
pornography, can render the mere possession of a blockchain
illegal. Based on these insights, we conduct a thorough quantitative
and qualitative analysis of unintended content on Bitcoin’s blockchain.
Although most data originates from benign extensions to Bitcoin’s
protocol, our analysis reveals more than 1600 files on the blockchain,
over 99 % of which are texts or images. Among these files there is
clearly objectionable content such as links to child pornography, which
is distributed to all Bitcoin participants. With our analysis, we thus
highlight the importance for future blockchain designs to address the
possibility of unintended data insertion
and protect blockchain users accordingly.