Crypto-anarchy is the realization of anarchism in the cyber-spatial realm (a.k.a. via computer networks). Using cryptographic software designed to help them evade potential prosecution, crypto-anarchists send and receive information with the goal of protecting their and others’ privacy and political freedom. An overarching ideology of crypto-anarchism is the creation and deployment of infrastructure that, by design, does not and cannot comply with authoritarian requests to divulge the identity of participating individuals.
The use of cryptographic software makes it very difficult to associate a crypto-anarchist user’s or organization’s true identity with the online pseudonym they use. Among other things, this practice makes it possible for the user or organization to circumvent applicable country-specific laws, as the location of the participant is, by intent, unknown.
A common motive of crypto-anarchy is the defense against unwanted surveillance on computer network communications. Eschewing political action, many crypto-anarchists consider the development and use of cryptography to be the only effective defense against government mass surveillance.
The evasion of censorship on the grounds of freedom of expression, and in particular internet censorship, is another key concern of the crypto-anarchist movement. Crypto-anarchist programs are often designed to make possible the anonymous publishing and reading of information from the internet or other computer networks. Numerous computer networks and software have been created to allow for anonymous, hidden web pages that can only be accessed by users of these networks or programs. Other projects are designed to enable anonymous messaging as a substitute for “traditional” email.
Counter economics is a third common motive of crypto-anarchism. Networks such as the now-defunct Silk Road and the continuing growth of currencies like Bitcoin make the anonymous trade of goods and services possible, with little to no interference from governmental or law enforcement agencies.
Some computer programs have joined the crypto-anarchy movement strictly for the technical challenge provided by the development of effective cryptographic systems. Often, these programmers do not participate in other crypto-anarchist activities beyond the development of secure software and programming.
It is argued that messages, personal information, and many other aspects of private life would be seriously damaged without encryption abilities. Crypto-anarchists argue that a ban on cryptography equates to the elimination of secrecy of correspondence, and that cryptography would only be banned by governments acting as police-states.
That said, the use of cryptography is already illegal in a number of countries, while others have restrictive export laws. Violations of anti-cryptography laws can result in imprisonment or worse, even without evidence of other criminal activity.