Following the European Parliament’s approval last week of amendments to strengthen oversight of the crypto market, MEPs are facing a flood of sexist, racist and offensive abuse from online trolls .
And two women in parliament are bearing the brunt of the attacks – following a pattern of cyber-bullying that has been established for years.
The onslaught has now prompted industry groups to condemn the vitriol, despite their objections to the underlying legislation.
One of them is the European Crypto Initiative (EUCI), which sent letters on Wednesday to MEPs who had been involved in developing strict due diligence checks for the crypto market to prevent money laundering.
“We deeply regret the personal attacks that have taken place,” wrote EUCI’s three co-founders, Simon Polrot, Marina Markežič and Florian Gatz, in the letter, obtained by POLITICO. “We want to lead by example on behalf of Europe’s many well-meaning crypto players, take responsibility for the behavior of this community, and set clear guidelines for how we believe constructive and respectful debate should take place. “
Blockchain for Europe too condemned online abusewriting on Twitter that there is “no excuse for verbal aggression”.
At issue are Parliament’s amendments to the so-called Transfer of Remittances Regulations (TFR), which have sparked an outcry from individuals and traditional businesses in the crypto market, even though the changes are inconclusive. . A final round of legislative talks with EU capitals could yet reject Parliament’s changes.
However, if finalized, these amendments would require companies to verify who is sending funds, regardless of the amount, in the form of crypto, and who will receive them.
MEPs say tighter controls are needed to prevent criminals from abusing the anonymity of the crypto market to move illicit funds. But crypto advocates say the changes are a blatant invasion of privacy, and the move has sparked calls for action from US exchanges like Coinbase – the world’s second largest by volume. of transactions.
While MEPs are used to political backlash, those involved were shocked by the backlash that followed. It is particularly notable that online trolls targeted the two women leading the effort: Belgian Assita Kanko of the European Conservatives and Reformists and French S&D member Aurore Lalucq.
“I was appalled by the insults, aggression and spam because I am a person,” Kanko, who was born in Burkina Faso, wrote in an email. The 41-year-old co-led the parliamentary negotiations, adding that she believed the attacks came from a small but vocal group within the crypto community. “I look forward to working with and crafting legislation that protects society and creates more space for innovation and trust.”
Lalucq said she welcomed the statements from EUCI and Blockchain for Europe, which she said were “a responsible decision.” She added that she hopes “that she will be followed by others in the crypto industry” after blocking posts on her own Twitter account to stem the tide of attacks.
EUCI and Blockchain for Europe say they don’t want online attacks to harm their relationship with lawmakers in Brussels, especially given concerns they have about Parliament’s amendments. Kanko and Lalucq, for their part, say they are eager to move forward and would be happy to sit down with responsible industry representatives.
But Dutch S&D MEP Paul Tang, branded a Nazi during the storm of online insults, was less forgiving.
“It hurts the reputation of the crypto industry, which is already in bad shape,” he said. “It is in a worse state than the financial sector in 2007 just before the crisis. It is opaque and many community members act like cult members and take no wider responsibility for society.