Documentary Shows How Bitcoin Helped Verify Guatemala's Elections


A new documentary is showcasing how Bitcoin, beyond its role as a digital money, played a crucial role in verifying Guatemala’s most recent presidential elections.

The documentary, entitled “Immutable Democracy,” delves into the innovative use of OpenTimestamps, a tool developed by Bitcoin Core developer Peter Todd, and implemented by Guatemalan tech startup Simple Proof.

OpenTimestamps utilizes cryptographic timestamps on the Bitcoin blockchain, ensuring the immutability of key documents related to the country’s elections. This approach, leveraging hash functions and decentralized blockchain technology, provides a robust defense against fraud and tampering.

“The reason why Bitcoin is useful for elections… is because all of these communities have one common goal, which is the truth. We can use the same system which is good at helping people come to the truth,” Todd said in the video.

The documentary explains the intricacies of OpenTimestamps, detailing how it cryptographically timestamps data into the Bitcoin blockchain. By anchoring information to a specific block, the tool ensures that tens of thousands of network nodes can independently verify the existence and timing of the timestamp.

Guatemala, plagued by a history of political corruption, embraced Simple Proof’s Immutable Backup solution to fortify the electoral process. 

Rafael Cordón, co-founder of Simple Proof, highlighted the application of OpenTimestamps in recording proofs of documents on the Bitcoin blockchain in a tamper-evident manner. This method not only protects official election documents but also guards against artificial intelligence and disinformation.

Guatemala’s citizens now have access to a dedicated web portal allowing them to verify the timestamp proofs of each tally sheet used in the election. While the setup doesn’t guarantee the validity of each sheet, it provides transparency by allowing citizens to independently verify when each tally sheet was timestamped. 

This transparency becomes crucial in identifying potential anomalies, such as sheets timestamped significantly later than the expected timeframe.

“The only acceptable election is something where anyone can verify and be a part of that process, and the beauty of paper is to [give] it integrity, you just need a whole lot of eyes from a whole lot of observers,” Todd added.

The documentary emphasizes the role of Bitcoin and OpenTimestamps in dispelling claims of election fraud. Following the unexpected victory of President-elect Bernardo Arévalo, allegations of fraud led to intense scrutiny. 

Bitcoin’s role in this context extends beyond its original design as electronic peer-to-peer money, offering a blueprint for how increased transparency and accountability can be brought to elections worldwide.


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