Virgil Griffith, the American programmer who traveled to North Korea and was later arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday, has ignited a fierce debate regarding his actions.
According to a criminal complaint released by the US, Griffith, an Ethereum researcher who spoke at a blockchain conference in Pyongyang, is accused of assisting North Korea in evading sanctions imposed by the US government. The charge carries a penalty of 20 years in prison.
While Griffith traveled to North Korea without a special validation from the US government, as required, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin believes the programmer spoke at the conference in order to bridge a divide.
In a tweetstorm on Sunday, Buterin tells his 882,000 followers that he supports Griffith. In response to a blog post entitled, “Let’s start a petition to free Virgil Griffith” penned by Enrico Talin, the founder of blockchain platform Commerc.io, the Ethereum co-creator says he’s prepared to sign a petition to set Griffith free.
“Prefacing with two points. [i] Conflict-of-interest disclosure: Virgil is my friend, [ii] this whole thing has nothing to do with EF. EF paid nothing and offered no assistance; it was Virgil’s personal trip that many counseled against.
Geopolitical open-mindedness is a *virtue*. It’s *admirable* to go to a group of people that one has been trained since childhood to believe is a Maximum Evil Enemy, and hear out what they have to say. The world would be better if more people on all sides did that.”
Adding that Griffith made no personal gain from his trip, Buterin doesn’t believe that Griffith’s actions were intended to inflict harm.
“I don’t think what Virgil did gave DRPK any kind of real help in doing anything bad.