GitHub Reverses Tornado Cash Ban, but there’s a catch

GitHub Reverses Tornado Cash Ban, but there’s a catch

The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated popular crypto tumbler Tornado Cash as an entity on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) sanctions list last month, sparking an outcry from privacy and free speech advocates. Subsequently, Microsoft-owned GitHub removed its source code, as well as terminating the user accounts of three people who contributed code to the project.

In a recent turn of events, the platform suspended the coin mixer and contributors on the platform. Noting that the repos are currently in “read-only” mode, Ethereum developer Preston Van Loon tweeted that the host service should not yet reverse all actions and return the repositories to their previous status.

Loon believes the move is still “progress from an outright ban”.

Clarification on interaction with Tornado Cash

Tornado Cash’s return to GitHub follows clarification guidance issued by the US Treasury Department earlier this month that states only “interacting” with its open source code, with certain provisions, will not violate sanctions imposed by OFAC.

“U.S. persons will not be prohibited by U.S. sanctions regulations from copying open source code and making it available online for others to view, as well as discussing, teaching about, or including open source code in written publications.

Likewise, U.S. persons will not be prohibited by U.S. sanctions regulations from visiting the Internet archives of the Tornado Cash historical website, nor will they be prohibited from visiting the Tornado Cash website if it becomes active again on the Internet.”

The interaction must not involve a prohibited transaction according to the guidance. Individuals who initiate transactions using the mixer before sanctions were imposed on August 8 can apply for an OFAC license to perform the transaction or to make a withdrawal.

Tornado Cash’s unofficial archive

Aside from the partial restoration, an unofficial archive of Tornado Cash’s code was published on GitHub by Matthew Green, a cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins University, in August with support from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Condemning the hosting site’s earlier move, the researcher, along with his EFF colleague, Kurt Opsahl, said that if the code was disabled again, they would challenge the decision in court.

While the fate of Tornado Cash still hangs in limbo, the break-up managed to generate significant industry support. Coinbase, for one, revealed pay the bill for a lawsuit brought by six people in the country against the Ministry of Finance.

The exchange, in an announcement, stated that OFAC, instead of targeting the bad actors or the property controlled by them, imposed sanctions on an open source technology, “a tool that is legitimately used by many innocent people, although also by some bad actors.”

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