Friend or Foe: Inside Poland’s Strange War on Cryptocurrencies

On the list of anti-cryptocurrency countries, Poland has never really stuck out. In fact, there has been enough evidence to suggest that the Eastern European country was moving towards embracing Bitcoin and Blockchain technology.

However, a recently uncovered smear campaign by the NBP (National Polish Bank, or Central Bank) has thrown that all out of alignment. The NBP has admitted to paying a number of YouTubers a sum of about $21,000 in order to dissuade Polish citizens into buying cryptocurrencies for fear of losing all their money.

The NBP has called this an ‘educational campaign’, trying to get across the dangers of cryptocurrencies, but it has come across more as a smear campaign which raises questions about the Polish government’s view of cryptocurrencies.

Seemingly accepting

Poland, along with a number of EU countries, has never shown any true discontent for cryptocurrencies prior to this latest campaign to discredit them. Back in 2013, there were reports of an official from Polish Ministry of Finance saying, “What is not forbidden is permitted. However, we certainly cannot consider Bitcoin to be a legal currency.”

In 2015, the Polish Finance Ministry issued a statement to the effect, “Any regulatory action addressing the problems of trading virtual currencies. They should be taken either as a result of initiatives at the EU level with a view to the cross-border nature of the business or as a result of a threat market failure cryptocurrency.”

In an interview around February 2015, Filip Godecki, CCO of Bitcurex, a major Polish cryptocurrency exchange, explained the government’s stance as neutral: “From our perspective, it would be difficult to talk about a negative trend. The attitude toward Bitcoin in Poland is neutral, converging with tendencies in most EU countries. Institutions are looking at the project from a certain distance, waiting for what comes next. The situation is similar with banks.”

In February 2017, trading of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies was officially recognised in the country. It was stated on a governmental website that from Dec.1, 2016, “The issuance of electronic currency and purchase and sale of electronic currency via the internet stand classified by official statistics services in Poland.” While there may be no definitive stance on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies coming out of Poland, the government has seemingly allowed it to exist and continue functioning.

Growing popularity

One of the bigger indicators that the Polish government was leaning towards being Bitcoin friendly was when in March 2017 it released its Best Practices document to promote digitization of the national cryptocurrency market and help startups establish themselves in the market.

These guidelines were followed by several other programs aimed at promoting cryptocurrency technologies, such as the Ministry of Digitization’s “Blockchain / DLT Stream and Digital Currencies” program.

Еven more telling is that many well known cryptocurrency businesses set up shop in Poland over the years because the banking system was so welcoming and a lot more liberal than many others in Europe. Even the British stock exchanges and even the infamous Mt.Gox had their financial backing set up in Poland.

Latest smear

Despite Poland making no final call on its perception on Bitcoin, Blockchain and the entire cryptocurrency market place, there is evidence that the government sees potential and possibility in it. It therefore is very surprising that the Polish central Bank has launched this smear campaign that was partially hidden, but also unashamedly done.

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Polish Journalist and Youtube-blogger Karol Paciorek briefly explained the math between this campaign:

“There was a product placement deal between NBP and three large youtube channels: Marcin Dubiel – 937,000 subscribers; Wiśnia – 818,000 subscribers; and Planeta Faktów 1 mln subscribers. It’s an educational campaign paid from a government-based organisation. Someone asked NBP how much they have paid for the campaign, and got an answer – $21 000.”

The issue is that these videos are very slanderous of Bitcoin, and could hardly be called educational in the real sense of the word. Furthermore, there was no indication that it was a paid-for, or sponsored, video.

Another blogger, Maciek Budzich from the Mediafun Blog, has also written about the strange sponsored videos and their effect on the perception of cryptocurrencies in Poland. Budzich shows the actual response from the NBP when asked about the campaign, it details information including the figure spent. In Poland, every citizen has the right to ask the state authorities (as part of access to public information) about money and state spending.

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