Crypto pleads the First- POLITICO

Crypto pleads the First- POLITICO

With help from Derek Robertson

Over the past 24 hours, a video of a bearded man crooning lines of computer code with the aid of an auto-tuner has achieved minor virality online.

In addition to being amusing, the video gets to the crux of a momentous legal question hanging over the digital era: How does the First Amendment apply to computer code?

In the song, by musician Jonathan Mann, the lyrics are lines of code from Tornado Cash, a software tool called a “mixer” used to obscure the provenance of crypto tokens, which the Treasury Department sanctioned last week after it was used by North Korean hackers.

The refrain of Mann’s song — “This is illegal” — argues that the sanctions amount to a constitutionally dubious ban on discussing the Tornado Cash code itself.