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I Used Tornado Cash to Donate to Ukraine: Vitalik Buterin


Key Takeaways

  • Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin has publicly acknowledged using Tornado Cash’s privacy protocol to donate to Ukraine’s war efforts.
  • Buterin’s admission comes a day after the U.S. Treasury added Tornado Cash’s website and smart contracts to its sanctions list.
  • The move marks the first time the Treasury has sanctioned a piece of code or technology instead of natural or legal persons, raising questions about the action’s constitutional legality.

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Vitalik Buterin clarified that he used Tornado Cash to protect the recipients of the funds, not himself.

Buterin Talks Tornado Cash

Vitalik Buterin, the creator of Ethereum and a long-running advocate for privacy and decentralization, has admitted that he used Tornado Cash to donate to Ukraine’s ongoing war efforts. 

Commenting on a Twitter discussion outlining legitimate Tornado Cash use cases and benefits of financial privacy, including donating to Ukraine without alerting the Russian government, Buterin said that he had used the protocol to make a private donation to Ukraine. “I’ll out myself as someone who has used TC to donate to this exact cause,” he wrote. When asked whether he hid his transaction for fear of government repercussions, the Russian-born programmer said he used Tornado Cash to protect the recipients of the funds rather than himself.

“My intent was protecting the recipients, not myself. The RU government knows my positions on the Ukraine issue anyway,” he said, linking to an older tweet in which he told the Editor-in-Chief of state-sponsored media company Russia Today, Margarita Simonyan, to “go fuck yourself.”

Buterin’s comments come a day after the U.S. Treasury put Tornado Cash’s website and smart contracts on its sanctions list, effectively banning all American residents and U.S.-based companies from interacting with the protocol. In response, the U.S.-based stablecoin issuer Circle immediately blacklisted all addresses on the sanctions list, effectively freezing approximately 75,000 USDC belonging to Tornado users. Today, key blockchain infrastructure providers Infura and Alchemy, relied upon by many Web3 applications and users, also blocked access to Tornado Cash. GitHub has also complied with the ban. 

The Treasury’s move to sanction Tornado Cash has rallied many in cryptocurrency, including some of the most prominent and influential industry leaders and lobby groups. Coin Center, a leading U.S.-based crypto lobbying organization, wrote in a statement yesterday that “sanctioning a tool that is not an alias of any person meriting sanction is substantially different from typical usage of the SDN list.” It then added that the Treasury’s move was an example of “a ban on a technology” rather than a sanction against a person, suggesting the sanctions may be illegal and go against the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author of this article owned ETH and several other cryptocurrencies.

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