Tech entrepreneur and web bad boy Kim Dotcom is back in the news, having announced the launch of the Internet Party.
This is not a joke: Dotcom wants to launch a legitimate political party in New Zealand and one of his stated goals involves the creation of a new cryptocurrency in the island nation.
Kim Dotcom does have rather a chequered past that could get in the way of his political leanings, however.
His rise to fame started in the ’90s, when he was convicted for computer fraud and espionage in his native Germany. His hacking days are now long over, however, and he is best known for starting file-sharing site Megaupload, which was later rebranded and re-launched as Mega.
That wasn’t enough for US law enforcement and Big Content, though, so he still battling extradition to the US on copyright-infringement charges related to the site.
Dotcom is quite a personality too: an Internet entrepreneur, singer, ex-hacker and for a while he was the number-one ranked Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 player in the world.
Since he is rather tall and a tad overweight, he is often described as the world’s ‘largest’ tech entrepreneur. Now he can add ‘politician fighting extradition’ to his list of accomplishments.
Dotcom appears to be quite serious about the Internet Party. At a press conference he described it as a political movement for the freedom of the Internet and technology, as well as for privacy and political reform.
The party does not have a manifest just yet, but Dotcom says it is on the way. For the time being, his vision is outlined on the party’s website. If you are expecting a utopian wish-list instead of a political platform, you may be in for a surprise.
The Internet Party is proposing sensible policies aimed at creating more high-tech jobs in New Zealand, boosting R&D investment and start-ups, eliminating monopolies held by Internet service providers, and strengthening New Zealand’s independence from foreign political and corporate interest.
The Internet Party says it will fight against mass surveillance, work to modernise schools with more technology, reform copyright laws to promote fair use and reward content creators, thus attracting new businesses to New Zealand.
Lastly, Dotcom’s party would like to introduce a government-sponsored digital currency in New Zealand. It has nothing to do with ideology – the party believes it would make financial sense and generate more economic growth:
“The Internet Party will support the introduction of a New Zealand-sponsored digital currency that is safe, secure and encrypted, providing for instant international transactions at minimal cost. By becoming a digital currency leader, New Zealand can become a key hub for a growing financial sector.”
This idea does raise an interesting point. What if a government, any government, decided to launch a cryptocurrency, backed by its national currency, with a decentralised infrastructure and centralised management? It sounds like a tantalizing concept and it’s not every day that we hear someone advocating for a government-issued cryptocurrency.
Many still believe digital currencies need to remain independent and unregulated, and that they must transcend national borders. There are increasingly attempts to create local or national digital currencies, with Iceland’s auroracoin leading the way.
However, media attention did not help auroracoin take off. In fact, it is starting to look like a lemon, as its price tanked by 50% after the ‘Airdrop’ to Icelandic citizens.
Dotcom’s larger-than-life persona attracts the tabloids, and his stunts appeal to many geeks, hence they are good for business.
However, he has a lot of detractors, too. He is a controversial figure, both in Germany, the US and New Zealand. While many Kiwis support him, others believe his ongoing legal battle against extradition is bad for the country’s image abroad.
Since Dotcom is not a citizen, he cannot run for office himself. What’s more, New Zealand already has a number of small political parties – quite a bit more than you would expect to find in a nation of 4.5 million inhabitants.
“Minority political parties are 10 a penny in New Zealand and I doubt this one will attract much more attention,” veteran NZ tech journalist Nick Farrell told CoinDesk, adding:
“Dotcom is [either] seen as a hero or hated in New Zealand, so it is hard to see how he will make much headway.”
Stunt or not, Dotcom doesn’t mind the limelight and his calls for the creation of a government-backed cryptocurrency will probably spark yet another debate on the role of government and the future of digital currencies.