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Photo Illustration: A shattered Bitcoin
Justine Goode; MSNBC / Getty Images

Looming federal regulation will shatter dreams of crypto bros everywhere

President Biden is reportedly planning to ask government agencies how crypto can impact the economy, and how to regulate it.


UPDATE (March 9, 2022, 11:55 a.m. ET): President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday instructing the federal government to explore possible regulations for digital currencies. 

President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order calling on multiple government agencies to begin developing policies and regulations on cryptocurrencies, multiple outlets reported this week.

That faint shriek you hear in the distance is from crypto bros everywhere as they discover their financial facade may soon fade away.

Why? Because for the past decade or so, cryptocurrencies have been billed by finance aficionados (and wannabe aficionados) as assets people can invest in if they want to exist outside the scope of federal regulation. If you’re new to the game: these assets are bought and sold on what’s called a “blockchain,” which is essentially a digital record of transactions that uses a special code to make difficult to determine who sold or purchased something. 

If you’re thinking, “Gee, I can see why the government would hate something like that,” you’re on the right track. Crypto enthusiasts often speak of anonymity as an appealing feature for buyers and sellers. Many, for example, say it’s useful in countries with repressive governments, where purchasing things such as a newspaper or a Bible can lead to punishment. 

And sure. Maybe. 

But we know for certain it’s very, very often used for criminal activity, or by seedy characters who may have nefarious reasons for hiding their money. And for that reason, it was always silly to believe it is — or will be — completely free of government oversight. For example, I reported on two white nationalists who allegedly received large sums of bitcoin from a French national as they pushed Donald Trump’s election fraud conspiracies ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

In his order, Biden is reportedly expected to request a report on the potential for crypto to be used for illicit financial transactions. (NBC News hasn’t confirmed reports of Biden's order.) The announcement is going to arrive at a peculiar time for cryptocurrencies. As Russia continues its brutal invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials have warned about the potential for cryptocurrencies to be used to help Russia evade crippling sanctions imposed by countries around the world. 

At the same time, just about every celebrity you can think of — from LeBron James to Reese Witherspoon to Larry David — is leaping at the opportunity to pitch gullible buyers on the value of cryptocurrencies. 

Whatever one’s purpose for participating in the crypto party, the government has noted the swell of popularity around it. And it wants in.