Selfish Opaque Transaction Ordering in the Bitcoin Blockchain: The Case for Chain Neutrality [article]

Johnnatan Messias, Mohamed Alzayat, Balakrishnan Chandrasekaran, Krishna P. Gummadi, Patrick Loiseau, Alan Mislove
2021 pre-print
Most public blockchain protocols, including the popular Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains, do not formally specify the order in which miners should select transactions from the pool of pending (or uncommitted) transactions for inclusion in the blockchain. Over the years, informal conventions or "norms" for transaction ordering have, however, emerged via the use of shared software by miners, e.g., the GetBlockTemplate (GBT) mining protocol in Bitcoin Core. Today, a widely held view is that
more » ... miners prioritize transactions based on their offered "transaction fee-per-byte." Bitcoin users are, consequently, encouraged to increase the fees to accelerate the commitment of their transactions, particularly during periods of congestion. In this paper, we audit the Bitcoin blockchain and present statistically significant evidence of mining pools deviating from the norms to accelerate the commitment of transactions for which they have (i) a selfish or vested interest, or (ii) received dark-fee payments via opaque (non-public) side-channels. As blockchains are increasingly being used as a record-keeping substrate for a variety of decentralized (financial technology) systems, our findings call for an urgent discussion on defining neutrality norms that miners must adhere to when ordering transactions in the chains. Finally, we make our data sets and scripts publicly available.
doi:10.1145/3487552.3487823 arXiv:2110.11740v1 fatcat:h3lis5ss6vhx7dvaskqxorcvpy