The Great Tron-Steem Debate - Is A Preemptive Strike Ever Justified?

7개월 전

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

That was said by the novelist Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her biography about the French philosopher Voltaire.

I remember hearing a paraphrase of that quote in my twenties, and I thought to myself; that is a good way to live your life. Because it is often more important to defend rights, than any particular individual point of view. This is because those rights often take a long time to establish, yet can be eroded in the blink of an eye.

In my last two articles concerning the takeover of Steemit by Justin Sun, I have tried to take an objective look at what has gone on, whilst taking a look at the potential legal implications connected with the takeover. In this one I want to explore with you, whether the initial actions by the Steem witnesses was justified or not.

A (very) Brief History of Steem-Tron

19 days ago, @justinsunsteemit CEO and founder of the Tron network, announced that Tron had acquired Steemit.

Within his initial announcement on various platforms, Sun mentioned that he would like to migrate Steem over to the Tron network.

This prompted a huge backlash from the community who were afraid that they were about to be co-opted into an inferior chain.

Justin then sent out a bunch of damage control tweets saying that Steem would not be migrated unless the community wanted it, effectively climbing down from his earlier statement.

Fast forward to a few days ago, and the witnesses placed a restriction on the Steemit Incorporated Steem wallet, blocking Justin's access to it, which they called softfork 22.2.

Justin then reacted to this by somehow getting the crypto exchanges Binance and Poloniex to steal Steem funds so as to power up new witness accounts so that they could undo the original actions by the Steem witnesses.

Okay, you're all caught up now, let's move onto the moral implications of what happened.

Justin's Minority Report

The 2002 film Minority Report, taken from the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, and starring Tom Cruise, was about a futuristic society whereby crimes are caught and punished before they are committed.

In order to allow this to happen, the police department use information by "precogs" - the name given to officers with psychic abilities - to find out about crimes that are going to happen in the future, they then go and find these future criminals and arrest them in the present.

The film explores the moral question of whether a police force should be able to act without any strong evidence simply because they believe a crime is about to take place.

When the Steemit witnesses decided to block Justin Sun from getting access to the Steem ninja-mine, they acted because they believed that Justin was going to take all of that Steem and use it for his own gains, which they say, would have corrupted the Steem blockchain and put everything that has been built up over the last four years in danger. In other words, they issued a Minority Report to Sun.

Their argument is that @ned, the ex-owner of Steemit Inc. had made promises that the Steem sitting in the company account, currently around 65 million Steem, down from an initial amount of about 200 million, was not to be used for anything other than aggrandising the community.

There were even some witnesses who argued that the entire sum should be burned so that nobody could get their hands on it.

The problem is, as far as I know, there were no documents signed to this effect, therefore the witnesses were taking Ned at his word.

From Justin's point of view, he has bought a company which has 65 million Steem as part of its assets. Then, some people who don't actually work for the company, stop him getting a hold of the assets to which he legally obtained. Which is why he has referred to the witnesses as hackers.

So was the preemptive strike correct?

The Argument For Yes

A supporter of the actions taken by the witnesses might point to the fact that Justin had alluded to the fact that he was willing to move the Steem coin over to Tron, thus destroying the Steem blockchain.

Even though Justin seemingly climbed down in a later tweet, he still did not contact the witnesses to reassure them that the ninja-mined Steem was safe.

Another argument is that the ninja-mined stake was never meant to be used for personal gains, rather it was a delegated stake that was meant to act as an assurance to all token holders that it would never be sold.

You could also argue that Ned should not have sold Steemit without making Justin aware that there was a prerequisite attached to the ninja-stake of 65 million Steem.

Lastly, you might also say that Ned was being a good custodian of those funds, and Justin's sudden inclusion into the mix was confusing, and because he did nothing to rectify that confusion, they were forced to take action before any real harm was done.

In short, without these actions, you might say, that Steem and with it steemit.com, would die.

The Argument for No

Whilst you may not agree with Justin's plans for Steemit (which will probably never come to light now), does not mean you have to agree with the way he has been treated.

Ultimately the ninja-mined Steem has been there since the beginning of Steemit's life.

The vast majority of it has already been used in various ways. Some was given to initial miners, some of whom are current witnesses, and as far as I'm aware, none of them have offered to give back their ninja-mined Steem.

Some of it has been used to bail Steemit out of a financial hole they found themselves in a while back.

Some of it has been sold and the proceeds of which, have gone straight into Chairman Ned's personal bank account.

There is no legal document anywhere that says the owner of Steemit is not allowed access to these funds.

Possession, as they say, is nine tenths of the law. If you own something, it is yours, and thus you can do with it as you please.

These are all very strong arguments, and adding to those the witnesses could have frozen these funds when Ned was in charge, but they didn't.

Speculation

Perhaps not all, but definitely some of the witnesses are motivated by the power they had under Ned. There was an unwritten rule between the ex-chairman and the witnesses, and that agreement was;

If you don't mess with anything I want to do, you will remain a top witness. Cross me, and I will use the @freedom vote to get you out of the club.

The witnesses were very happy with this situation, some of them even enjoyed the fruits of a ninja-mined stake. However as soon as the shouts of the King is dead! Long live the King! were ringing out in the streets, they quickly moved to protect their power, as now there were no guarantees that they would remain in the top witness club with a new owner who has enough Steem to create his own witnesses and get them out.

I do believe that their fears over the "community" being damaged were real, however I think they are less altruistic than they are letting on. Because of the facts I've laid out above, it would seem their reasons are a lot more selfish than appeared at first glance.

Conclusion

Regardless of what Justin had planned for Steemit, the witnesses were wrong to freeze the stake.

I believe if you support this, then you are also supporting future preemptive strikes.

What if the witnesses deem that I might be about to do something against their interests?

What if you are one day considered a potential bad actor because of something you may or may not do in the future? Will you support a minority report then?

Like I said at the top, I don't necessarily support Justin, initially I thought his purchase of Steemit would be a good thing for the community, however he has lost the moral high ground by stealing people's funds on the exchanges, and I don't see how he can continue as owner of Steemit.

However this does not detract from the initial action against him being totally and utterly wrong.

He has bought something legally, and now he has the right to do with it what he sees fit. I may not like what he does, but I will vociferously defend his right to do it.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS? ARE THE WITNESSES RIGHT TO BLOCK ACCESS TO STEEMIT'S NINJA-STAKE, OR HAVE THEY COMPLETELY OVERSTEPPED THE MARK ON THIS ONE?

AS EVER, LET ME KNOW BELOW!

Cryptogee

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Possession, as they say, is nine tenths of the law. If you own something, it is yours, and thus you can do with it as you please.

Here's where a lot of the legal analysis about the Binance coup goes wrong. You don't have possession of money in a bank account. It can be frozen, seized or given a 'haircut' for a number of reasons, often without a warrant or court order.

How does this translate to magic internet money? Ownership is determined by consensus. I was opposed to Ethereum invalidating the DAO hacker's balance, because the founding principle was 'code is law'. The same goes for Bitcoin. Both have validating nodes that limit the power of miners (how much is a topic of debate).

On the other hand, Steem is not based on 'code is law'. Witnesses have the full power to accept or reject transactions. That's exactly why it's so dangerous to have one party run all the witness nodes. And limits on Steemit's stake were already in the code without being implemented. It was a danger, but on balance, it was used to develop and promote Steem rather than to end it. And it was a protection against the kind of collusion we've seen on Lisk and EOS.

Anyway, Sun didn't file a court case, he retaliated. And by doing that, he proved our fears were well-founded. Remember that he recently used his founder's stake to vote for Tron validators.

The witnesses said that the change did not have to be permanent. I think it was to try and preempt what Justin tried to do anyway. If he has enough witnesses he can do what he likes. He could take all their Steem and shut them out. There is no indication the witnesses would have expanded this action to anyone else, but he and Ned imply otherwise.

I see this as a battle between businessmen and idealists. The business guys want complete control by any means possible. That would make the blockchain pointless.

I'm not saying the witnesses were totally in the right, but the portrayal of them as money grabbers is disingenuous. Many don't even cover their costs.

It's a precarious situation as any of several big players could tip the balance in witness votes. I would hope the parties can keep talking and find some way to make Steem viable to continue.

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I would hope the parties can keep talking

Did you not listen to the last conversation and the attitude of our top witnesses? It was pathetic

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pathetic is a great way to explain it! Those top witnesses are fucking idiots who have no business being in a meeting determining the future of steem. I have never been so ashamed to call myself a steemian after listening to that shit show! I immediately unvoted all the witnesses I could identify after they made ridiculous remarks (or demands lol). Which was most of the old top 20 LoL..

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yeah, i did. i even made a few comments on the comments.. I have never been so ashamed to call myself a steemian :(

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Exactly. I did the same a week ago.

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I'm glad to see some people understand what I am trying to say ;) !BEER

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Hey @oldtimer, here is a little bit of BEER from @moderndayhippie for you. Enjoy it!

Learn how to earn FREE BEER each day by staking.

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It was a shitshow. Embarrassing to say the least.
They lacked the wit to hold a negotiation. Some asshole even left the meeting for apparently no reason because Justin refused to do what he commanded, even though Justin had earlier stated he was willing to remove that tweet.

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I've not had time to listen. The witnesses need to prove themselves now.

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I've not had time to
Listen. The witnesses need
To prove themselves now.

                 - steevc


I'm a bot. I detect haiku.

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you should really make time to listen to it before blindly backing these witnesses.. It was cringe-worthy with all the toxic comments and demands the witnesses were making... I have never been more ashamed of our "leadership"... It is truly pathetic..

hi! glad I found another person who views this predicament on steem with both 2 sides of the coin's point of view. as for the soft-fork, I don't agree with that too.

The problem with the ninja-mined stake was that the witnesses reached a detente with Ned. And, unfortunately, it really should have been settled concretely.

The piece not shown in this post is that
if the witnesses didn't act quickly, there would be no way to effect the vote for witnesses by the users. So, if Mr. Tron had that voting power, he could vote in 20 new witnesses, and that would be that.

In other words Mr. Tron would have been a dictator at the click of a button.
The detente was clearly not transferred to Mr. Tron


The ends justify the means

The ends never justify the means.
As in, an old Buddhist saying, "the path to something, always contains the attributes of the something"

the path to happiness, always contains all the properties of happiness.

You can't do bad to do good.
(and defending yourself is not bad in this context)

which brings us to

The Minority Report.

As any precog knows, there isn't "one" future.
In fact, you could state, there are all futures.

(but, to understand that you need to understand what is relevant to the universe. And those are usually emotional possibilities to learn new things. That shtupid guy Schrodinger messed up his experiment by putting a cat into it. Now, the future possibilities are how does the cat feel about it, and how do all the scientists feel about the cat dying. The future is the matrix of those. The 50/50 garbage can be safely ignored)

So, you might say, any person might commit a crime or not.
But this is not usually correct. What is more appropriate is, the person will commit a crime, but will it be crime A or crime B.

And, if you want to stop that crime, you need to find the person who will commit it and get them psychological help for the reasons that lead up to the crime. THEN! you need to find the victims and get them psychological help for the reasons that attract the crime.

You've pretty well summed up my thoughts on the whole bloody mess.
Things should have never gotten to the point where the witnesses did what they did. It's mismanagement and short-sightedness.
I can't read Ned's or Justin's minds but I can see the fruit of their actions and it's callous and uncaring and selfish...IOW's capitalism! And saying that doesn't make me a communist as I reject that the state should own the means of production.

Never supported the softfork to freeze someone's stake. Never will
Never supported what justin did by voting in his own witnesses. Never will

I do believe that their fears over the "community" being damaged were real, however I think they are less altruistic than they are letting on. Because of the facts I've laid out above, it would seem their reasons are a lot more selfish than appeared at first glance.

100% Agreed!

@cryptogee,

Hey mate.

This is the most articulate, honest and objective summary I've yet read about the issues at hand. (The Minority Report analogy ... nice.)

Typical Cryptogee. Good job.

The preemption issue you mentioned is analogous to a fundamental "Freedom of Speech" precept called "prior restraint." That is, the government cannot restrict a person from saying a thing before he says it ... the ultimate in censorship for it represents not just restraint on speech, but restraint on thought ... the essence of Orwell's dystopian warning in "1984."

By extension, one cannot be arrested for actual or presumed contemplation of a crime. Indeed, how many times have you thought to yourself, "God, I could kill that f---ing Quill for his damned verbosity?" Thinking it is OK. Doing it is not.

These real world subtleties and distinctions cannot be dismissed in the "cyber-ether" that Satoshi et al wish to create.

This is a theme about which I have opined for years. Cryptoland wants to create a "jursidictionless No Man's Land in cyberspace" where they get to make up any laws (or lack of them) they desire. This WILL NOT happen.

When incidents like the current brouhaha end up in a real world court, all of those centuries of jurisprudence, and the precepts and principles that resulted, are going to coming crashing down upon these anarchist schemers and dreamers.

None of this has been handled well by anyone. The Top 20 hijacked @justinsunsteemit's assets offering to free them in exchange for concessions. That's called extortion. It would be like me tying you to a chair, holding a gun to your head and saying, "Let's talk ransom."

Justin Sun responded in kind, effectively doing to them what they had done to him. I doubt that anything he did was illegal. The STEEM held at exchanges are effectively "in trust" and the exchanges are "trustees." But "trusts" are not "persons or things" like "people or corporations" ... they're "relationships." As such, the exchanges did not "steal" or "improperly use" the voting power associated with the STEEM held in trust at their institutions.

Whether Sun accurately represented why he wanted them to vote in support of his designated Witnesses (himself) ... well that's a matter of speculation but, in any event, it's not particularly germane ... they were not defrauded and suffered no consequential damages. While almost certainly not illegal, it was most certainly provocative, dramatically upping the ante.

As you can see, navigating any of this (even superficially) requires reference to a host of real world legal concepts, none of which are reflected in crypto code. But even if "the law" is not explicit in CryptoLand ... it's implied. And the real world folks, the ones with aircraft carriers, will insist upon said implication.

Speaking of implication, all this talk about "Steemit Inc.'s ninja-mined stake and an 'Implied Social Contract'" ... spare me. That line of argument would last about 10 seconds in front of a judge.

Besides ... I thought it was all about "having skin in the game and voting your stake?" That "anarchist morality" was whatever the consensus said it was ... and that it didn't matter how you achieved consensus, only that you did.

For years, some of the largest bidbots on the blockchain were owned and operated by Top 20 Witnesses. Naked vote-buying and -selling, which is the dictionary definition of corruption in any voting-based system. And I recall a huge Whale trying to organize a bidbot for auctioning Witness Votes to the highest bidder. "If you want to be a Top 20 Witness, you ought to be willing to compensate Whales for their support." He even used the world "kickback."

And yet to listen to the moral outrage of the (former) Top 20 Witnesses you'd think that they were Cardinals in Conclave agonizing about who should be God's Victor on Earth. You can't be pirates on day and claim to be the navy the next.

Quill

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This is the most articulate, honest and objective summary I've yet read about the issues at hand. (The Minority Report analogy ... nice.)

  • Thank you very much, kind sir!! :)

the ultimate in censorship for it represents not just restraint on speech, but restraint on thought ... the essence of Orwell's dystopian warning in "1984."

  • Unfortunately, most, if not all of the spectators in this debacle will completely miss the irony of this. Steemit was meant to be the last bastion of free speech and non-censorship, yet this is what we've become.

I doubt that anything he did was illegal. The STEEM held at exchanges are effectively "in trust" and the exchanges are "trustees." But "trusts" are not "persons or things" like "people or corporations" ... they're "relationships."

  • I'm not sure on that one, it definitely feels illegal, however I bow to your greater knowledge of all things financial. However the exchanges have shot themselves in the foot on this one, because like you say it is a relationship built on trust, and they've just eroded a hell of a lot of that very same trust.

For years, some of the largest bidbots on the blockchain were owned and operated by Top 20 Witnesses. Naked vote-buying and -selling, which is the dictionary definition of corruption in any voting-based system. And I recall a huge Whale trying to organize a bidbot for auctioning Witness Votes to the highest bidder. "If you want to be a Top 20 Witness, you ought to be willing to compensate Whales for their support." He even used the world "kickback."

  • Yup! Ned allowed his barons their lands, and allowed them to collect their taxes without interference, just as Machiavelli advises a Prince to do.

Once Ned gave up his kingdom, naturally the barons and the oligarchs grew restless, fearing a new order, they acted to fill a perceived power vacuum.

And yet to listen to the moral outrage of the (former) Top 20 Witnesses you'd think that they were Cardinals in Conclave agonizing about who should be God's Victor on Earth. You can't be pirates on day and claim to be the navy the next.

  • Unfortunately for them, they were tricked into not having a Cardinal ready to be made Pope, hence they were left in a position whereby they found they could not back one of their choosing, so they instantly opposed.

"God, I could kill that f---ing Quill for his damned verbosity?"

  • Your verbosity, along with your sometimes acerbic wit, go together to make up important parts of your character. Without which, you simply wouldn't be Quill! 😁

Cg

I agree with every word in your post, especially the speculation part. I would even name it fact part.
Most of the top witnesses are powering down.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS?

(IFF) you subscribe to "the rule of law" (THEN) "special" "emergency" "temporary" "powers" should NEVER be implemented.

Live by the law, die by the law.

Making up new rules for fabricated "emergencies" is a core ethical violation (patriot-act).

Everybody knew the ninjamine was a "problem" but their fundamental mistake was to "trust" ned. Never trust a human to do anything except act in their own personal self-interest.

BLOCKCHAIN should be TRUSTLESS.

If ned was so trustworthy, they would have VOLUNTARILY divested the ninjamined stake. They could have EASILY done this by slowly dumping at least 50% of the ninjamine onto the OPEN MARKET (and transferred the proceeds to steemit or whatever he promised to do).

sURE this would have lowered the market-price of steem tokens (better reflecting the TRUE-market-value), but this is not necessarily a "bad" thing. A reliable micro-payment system is a major paradigm shift away from traditional models and a low market-price of steem would lower the bar for new accounts (allowing regular people to "compete" with the "big-fish" (oligarchs).

@themarkymark and @freebornangel and @tarazkp and @abh12345 and others have repeated told myself and others,

"if you don't like it, then start your own blockchain".

They should take their own advice.

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Looks to me that that is exactly what the witnesses did.
Then tron did it, now it is the witnesses' turn, again.

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Nobody started their own blockchain yet.

They're quibbling over control of the existing blockchain.

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Yep, if tron wants to disband steem, let them get a fork to do it on.

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Sign me up!

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Why not both?

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Just to be clear, I want absolutely nothing to do with a TRON-STEEM hybrid.

If "the community" moves to setup some sort of "steem-classic" FORK with some new rules that safe-guard against any future centralization efforts (generally, without targeting specific accounts), I'm 100% on-board with that.

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Yes, but I didn't turn down bsv just because bch is a better coin, IMO.
I would've taken the bch from btc, too, but all I had was steem.
Now I got even more.
All hail, the steem reward pool and any forks of it that give me free coins!

DPoS is a plutocracy, if the minority does not agree with the direction they can - you guessed it - fork off. everything else is just begging for problems

Crypto Briefing reached out to Ned Scott about the move by Tron. Surprisingly, the former CEO seemed supportive of the action by Justin Sun, saying that “witnesses/portion of the community literally stole its [Steemit Inc’s] coins. Steemit owed them nothing.” He continued, “Steemit owes no one anything and anything else is grasping at straws / bullying to get your way/power… Fact: no pre mine, no investors.”

The Steem community was outraged by Scott’s comments, saying that over Steem’s four-year history that the founder had promised that these coins would be used to “decentralize” and wouldn’t be used in voting.

https://cryptobriefing.com/tron-executes-hostile-takeover-steem-exchanges-collude/

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You see, this is my point. Ned did not break that promise, he simply sold his stake to someone else. The witnesses then decided that Justin was going to use that stake to vote them out, so they froze it.

Lest us not we forget, that the @freedom vote was powered up by ninja-mined Steem, so you could argue that the promise was broken a long time ago, but nobody said boo to a goose then. Now suddenly they're outraged.

Just seems a bit disingenuous to me.

Cg

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Just seems a bit disingenuous to me.

Too bad we can't code logical-coherence into the system.

There are so many people here who claim to be "libertarians" and yet, they act as de facto AUTHORITARIANS.

Thank you so much for writing this article! It is the most honest one I have found on this topic yet! I totally agree with it and have been trying my best to explain to everyone these truths that you have laid out.

My favorite line was this

I do believe that their fears over the "community" being damaged were real, however I think they are less altruistic than they are letting on. Because of the facts I've laid out above, it would seem their reasons are a lot more selfish than appeared at first glance.

Truer words have never been spoken typed!

I am resteeming this and going to be dropping the link in a lot of comments because this was laid out so nicely! I especially loved the minority report reference, that really nailed it :)

Thanks again. Take care.

I sincerely believe that we have done a grave injustice not just to Justin Sun but to ourselves even more.

We already have a shrinking user base unless you include all the Steemit.inc funded accounts exclusively used for flags.

I fail to see how this controversy could possibly attract people.

If i were a government agency, and wanted remove the possibility of Steem becoming widely accepted, I would do what we have just done. I would also be very happy about the EIP and free flags

I really appreciate these posts!
I know virtually nothing about governance and history in this environment other than what has surfaced or been presented since the hostile takeover and it’s nice to have a place to get informed and discuss everything that’s happening. I think your presentation is very diplomatic, truly takes both sides into account and offers a fair look at both.

Having said that, I don’t think I agree with the framing as a preemptive strike. In my opinion, the witnesses didn’t strike so much as powered up the shields. Based on the info you laid out above and what I’ve found independently, I completely understand why Justin would view it as an act of hostility. It’s his reaction that discredited him, imho.

He (thought) he bought a house and the tenets occupying it locked him out. Fair to say this does call for action. But he could have knocked and asked to talk, which everyone inside had been asking for since the moment tanks started rolling up onto the lawn. Instead he gave the order to kick in the door and take no prisoners. Where would we be now had the shields been down?

excellent post