An Adelphi University professor has launched a cryptocurrency dedicated to promoting free speech.
The digital coin, FreeSpeech.Finance, was launched on Halloween and trades under the ticker SPEECH.
It is one of thousands of cryptocurrencies in the marketplace and its recent valuation is a fraction of a penny, but communications professor Mark Grabowski is hoping the coin's anti-censorship mission can help it gain a following.
"We're concerned about free speech in a broad sense," he said. "Not just the First Amendment."
Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that uses specialized software to keep transactions secure. Bitcoin, the most widely used cryptocurrency, employs a decentralized digital database known as blockchain to ensure records of transactions are intact.
Grabowski, an attorney who worked as a journalist, including a stint as an intern in Newsday's Washington bureau, said that censorship on social media and cancel culture have become more widespread. What began as an effort to curb conspiracy theorists has spread to legitimate public debate.
"I've always thought the best solution was more speech," he said. "We increasingly have algorithms deciding what we can say."
The cryptocurrency promotes freedom of speech by taking 5% of each transaction and donating it to organizations deemed to promote free speech, he said.
A week after the Halloween launch, FreeSpeech.Finance donated the equivalent of $250 in cryptocurrency to The Foundation for Individual Rights. The not-for-profit describes its mission as defending the freedom of speech, religion and association of students and faculties at U.S. colleges and universities. It named St. John's University, Fordham University and New York University among the 10 schools on its 2021 "Worst Colleges for Free Speech" ranking.
Future donations will go to organizations such as WikiLeaks and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, according to the white paper Grabowski wrote outlining the purpose of the cryptocurrency.
Craig Rudes, co-founder of Long Island Blockchain, a community group devoted to sharing ideas and developing projects on cryptocurrency, said creating a digital coin is simple, but developing one that gains traction is another matter.
"Anyone could start their own cryptocurrency," he said. Using available software "it's as simple as inputting how many coins you want to create and what you want to name them."
On the surface it may look like a digital gold rush, but that's far from the reality, he said.
"There's no secret sauce," Rudes said, adding that "it all lies in tokenomics," a word that refers to the supply and demand dynamics of cryptocurrency. "What is the utility of the coin you created?"
Grabowski said he spent about $5,000 of his own money on the project. Costs included hiring an artist to create a logo, hosting fees for the website, marketing and providing liquidity to give the coin an initial value. There are about 500 million tokens in circulation, he said.
Many meme coins have light-hearted themes like Dogecoin, which began as a joke but on Monday was trading at 18 cents with a market capitalization of $23.7 billion, according to Coinbase.
SPEECH, meanwhile, was trading at $0.00000725, down from its Nov. 9th high of $0.00000893, according to Coinpaprika.com.
Grabowski said he hopes to tap the libertarian bent of the cryptocurrency community to generate a wave of interest.
"That's what a meme is: an idea that goes viral," he said.
Should SPEECH get a following, Grabowski said he plans to step aside.
"Eventually I plan to hand this over to the community if there's enough interest," he said. "I want this to be a truly decentralized cryptocurrency."