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On-chain vote buying and the rise of dark DAOs

Philip Daian, Tyler Kell, Ian Miers, Ari Juels
Hacking, Distributed
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Though smart contract voting offers a promising alternative to centrally-run elections, it can be vulnerable to vote buying and coercion.

  • Example attack on CarbonVote system: a decentralized cartel which buys on-chain votes opaquely could create information asymmetry or short the currency


  • Coordination mechanisms and multiple blockchains interacting can disrupt incentive structures and should not be used for on-chain voting
  • Buying attack described above can work for any on-chain transactions, not just voting
  • Permissionless on-chain voting fundamentally degrades to plutocracy
    • Only way to exit is through fork-based governance providing user rights protection

For smart contract voting to work, users must have either

  1. A trusted hardware token setup channel, or
  2. An SGX-based system which guarantees voter access to their key material
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