Damus, Nostr’s first iOS client, went live on the App Store on January 31st, 2023. Within two days, Apple had already bent the knee to the Chinese Communist Party and removed it from the App Store in China.
Will Casarin, the creator of Damus, received the following notice from Apple:
We are writing to notify you that your application, per demand from the CAC (Cyberspace Administration of China), will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China.
Presumably the Damus functionality that is “illegal in China” is the ability to speak freely and be heard.
Banning apps is nothing new for Apple. In 2017, Apple removed several VPN apps from the China App Store, since VPNs could allow oppressed Chinese citizens to access websites that are banned in mainland China. In 2020, they purged 46,000 apps from the China App Store in one day.
A few weeks after the Damus removal, snort.social was blocked by the Great Firewall of China.
It is likely that China will continue to block Nostr clients like Damus and Snort, because they simply cannot allow free speech, nor the free propagation of information, to exist. Such is the nature of Communism.
Unfortunately for the free speech-fearing totalitarians at the CCP, Nostr is a hydra: every time you cut off a head, two more will grow in its place.
China banning Damus shows exactly why open protocols like Nostr are useful and necessary to avoid state overreach: there is no throat to choke. No single head to decapitate.
Cut off one, two grow in its place. Ban one Nostr client and freedom-loving cypherpunks across the world will create two more. You can slow it down, but not stop it, and any attempts to do so only draw more attention to it (we should almost thank the CCP for the Streisand effect).
A couple weeks ago, Will posted “You can't stop us CCP”, and shared the following encrypted DM he received on Nostr: “There’s always a way. I’m sending this through to you from downtown Shanghai.”
Information wants to be free, to flow like water. Open protocols like Nostr and Bitcoin are resilient and adaptable in the face of censorship or attempted State control because they facilitate the free flow of information, the free flow of value.
Open protocols are like water.
Just look at China’s Bitcoin mining ban; it may make mining more difficult, but it certainly hasn’t stopped it.
The same will be true of Nostr usage in China and in other authoritarian regions around the world. The State can remove apps and ban websites, but more will spring up in their place. Chinese citizens who want to speak freely and be heard may have to work a little harder, but at least Nostr gives them a fighting chance.
If you stumbled upon this article and have yet to try Nostr for yourself, check out my prior guide (What is Nostr? How Does it Work? Why Does it Matter?) or any of the other great resources at the bottom of this article.
If you are already on Nostr, consider yourself lucky. We are witnessing the real-time growth of an open protocol that facilitates the free flow of information and ideas without the shackles of algorithmic bias and centralized control.
Now, with zaps, Bitcoin’s Lightning Network allows us to marry the free flow of information with the free flow of monetary value. As you can see from the chart below, this marriage seems to be going pretty well.
On its own, Nostr is powerful. It’s censorship resistant, it’s open source, and it’s just plain fun. But combined with Bitcoin, Nostr is unstoppable.
For the first time we have a protocol for free and open communication that’s seamlessly integrated with an internet-native money; neither of which can be controlled by the government.
Anyone can use Nostr, just like anyone can use Bitcoin. You don’t need an ID, or a bank account, or an email address; you don’t even need to use your name.
All you need is a way to access the internet, and right now over 7.1 billion people around the world have smartphones.
30 years ago today, on March 9, 1993, Eric Hughes published “A Cypherpunk's Manifesto”. Hughes was adamant that “the freedom of speech, even more than privacy, is fundamental to an open society; we seek not to restrict any speech at all” and that “privacy in an open society requires anonymous transaction systems.”
With Nostr and Bitcoin, we see the realization of Hughes’ manifesto: an open source, privacy-protecting protocol for free speech combined with an open source protocol for money, both enabled by cryptography.
We need not be completely anonymous, I am certainly not. What is important is that each of us has the choice to reveal ourselves as we see fit, protected by the power of an open-source, cryptographic hydra:
“Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world.”
Nostr was created by a pseudonymous cypherpunk who goes by “fiatjaf.” Today, take a moment to thank an open source developer. If you find what they do valuable, consider zapping them some sats on Nostr. After all, no one can stop you.
I’ll leave you with one final quote from Hughes:
Cypherpunks write code. We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and since we can't get privacy unless we all do, we're going to write it. We publish our code so that our fellow Cypherpunks may practice and play with it. Our code is free for all to use, worldwide. We don't much care if you don't approve of the software we write. We know that software can't be destroyed and that a widely dispersed system can't be shut down.
You can find me on Nostr here:
Nostr101 Guide: What is Nostr? How Does it Work? Why Does it Matter? , by Walker
Why Nostr Matters, by Jameson Lopp
The Implications of Open Monetary and Information Networks, by Lyn Alden
Learn about Nostr: https://nostr.how/
Nostr Resources: https://nostr-resources.com/ by Gigi
Nostr Newcomers Guide: https://uselessshit.co/resources/nostr/
Awesome Nostr Projects: https://github.com/aljazceru/awesome-nostr
Nostr Mobile Clients:
Nostr Web Clients:
Nostr GitHub, created by fiatjaf: https://github.com/nostr-protocol/nostr