Policy Exec Tells Developers to Make Their Code Unchangeable to Avoid a Possible Jail Sentence


According to Peter Van Valkenburgh of Coin Center, smart contracts that are switchable via a governance vote or multisignature mechanism may present issues.

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According to a policy executive, developers creating decentralized applications (DApps) should make sure the smart contracts supporting them are unchangeable at all to reduce their risk of being held accountable for frauds that take place on the platforms.

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During a panel discussion on April 9 at the 2024 Bitcoin Policy Summit in Washington, D.C., research director of Coin Center Peter Van Valkenburgh stated, “From a regulatory standpoint, this is actually really important.”


In order to avoid “ending up in jail,” he advised Bitcoin developers creating DApps on the blockchain’s layer 2 networks to make sure immutability is imposed into these smart contracts right away.

However, in the event that illicit activity takes place on the platform, those who permit the smart contract to be turned on and off through a governance vote or a multisignature mechanism run a far higher risk of being held accountable.

According to Van Valkenburgh, it’s also a bad idea to decide against making the smart contracts publicly available.

“In that world, you have very hard questions of whether everybody who’s participating [is] liable for the activities of that smart contract […] I don’t see those questions having good regulatory outcomes.”

According to Van Valkenburgh, the Ethereum ecosystem will provide Bitcoin developers with a “very intriguing model for avoiding regulatory choke points by virtue of truly building something that [is] not controlled by any human discretion.”

The recently dropped Uniswap lawsuit, he continued, proved his point. The court decided that a person writing computer code shouldn’t be held accountable for how a third party uses their platform.


However, the indictment of the original developers of Tornado Cash demonstrates that developers have not been immune from prosecution despite contracts requiring immutability.

The creator of the crypto mixer, Alexey Pertsev, was detained for eight months in the Netherlands on suspicion of using the protocol for money laundering.

Roman Storm, a fellow Tornado Cash developer, has entered a not guilty plea to charges brought against him by the US for allegedly plotting to run a money transmitter, assist in money laundering, and evade sanctions. Roman Semenov, the other co-founder of the protocol, is still at large.

After Storm’s case is resolved, Van Valkenburgh stated that there will be greater clarity in the United States.

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