Posted on

Coinbase Bans Personal Account of British Right-Wing Pundit Milo Yiannopoulos

U.S. major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has barred British right-wing pundit Milo Yiannopoulos from its platform.

American major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has barred British right-wing pundit Milo Yiannopoulos from its platform, Yiannopoulos stated in a Gab post on May 3.

Yiannopoulos is a well-known political commentator and public speaker, espousing controversial far-right views and describing himself as a “cultural libertarian”. Previously, Yiannopoulos used to be an editor for syndicated American news and opinion website Breitbart News.

Yiannopoulos’ account on Coinbase was reportedly closed within three minutes:

Screenshot of Yiannopoulos Gab post

Screenshot of Yiannopoulos Gab post. Source: Gab

Yiannopoulos was previously banned by social media and networking platforms Facebook, as well as its subsidiary Instagram, and Twitter, according to the Guardian. A Facebook spokesperson reportedly told the Guardian that “we’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology. The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”

In January, Coinbase reportedly terminated the personal merchant account of Gab founder Andrew Torba. A possible reason why it is hard for Gab to obtain a payment processor is purportedly its reputation for being the social network for people banned from mainstream platforms for hate speech.

Moreover, last April Coinbase blocked the account of WikiLeaks Shop, the merchandise arm of international anonymous publishing non-profit WikiLeaks, due to terms of service violations. Last December, Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks and international exile, urged donors to contribute to the online publication by using cryptocurrencies in order to skirt the financial ‘blockade’ by national governments.

Posted on

Major American Magazine Time Column Reports About Bitcoin’s Liberating Potential

Mainstream newspaper Time published an article illustrating the liberating potential of Bitcoin, especially in countries with oppressive governments.

Bitcoin (BTC) has a substantial liberating potential, American mainstream newspaper Time reports on Dec. 28.

The aforementioned article claims that “speculation, fraud, and greed in the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry have overshadowed the real, liberating potential of Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention.”

According to the article’s author, Bitcoin “can be a valuable financial tool as a censorship-resistant medium of exchange.”

Alejandro Machado, a cryptocurrency researcher at the Open Money Initiative, reportedly said that the fee on a wire transfer from the United States to Venezuela can be as high as 56 percent.

To circumvent such conditions, Venezuelans have reportedly turned to cryptocurrency, receiving Bitcoin from their relatives abroad. The main alternative is to wire money to Colombia, withdraw and bring cash to Venezuela, which according to the article, “can take far longer, cost more, and be far more dangerous than the Bitcoin option.”

Times suggests that Bitcoin is a good way to protect oneself from fiat currency inflation. Venezuela is prime example of that, with the inflation of their native currency projected to top 1 million percent. But there are also other similar examples, like Zimbabwe, where former president Robert Mugabe “printed endless amounts of cash.” But the author points out:

“His successors can’t print more Bitcoin.”

Bitcoin is also, according to the article, a tool to evade mass surveillance in places like China. That being said, as Cointelegraph reported in March, according to U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden, Bitcoin isn’t optimal for avoiding government coercion, and he believes that the world needs a better option.

Times also points out the advantage given by the inability of governments to censor transactions or freeze Bitcoin wallets. In fact, Cointelegraph reported in April that WikiLeaks’ Coinbase account has been suspended due to a term of service violation.

Still, nobody can prevent WikiLeaks from using cryptocurrency wallets where the organization controls the private keys. In fact, WikiLeaks is still accepting cryptocurrency donations and also added support for Snowden’s favorite crypto Zcash in August 2017.

Posted on

China's Government Censorship Agency Is Hiring a Crypto Expert

The state-level Chinese government agency responsible for censoring media output in the country may soon have a cryptographer on the payroll – and with expertise in blockchain technology.

The research center of the State Administration of Press – which is directly administrated by the State Council – is looking for a cryptographer who “keeps abreast of the most advanced cryptography applications in areas such as blockchain.”

According to the job description published by the government agency on Tuesday, the ideal candidate would be a technologist with strong skill-set in cryptography algorithm and performance optimization.

Other responsibilities will be researching and developing tools for measuring the security level of different cryptography applications.

Although the job description does not offer any detail around the agency’s plans regarding blockchain, the stated requirement still signals a notable move by the high-level central government agency.

Intriguingly, the job post comes at a time when blockchain is being increasingly used to bypass China’s pervasive web censorship – often dubbed the “Great Firewall” – in an effort to keep censored articles available to the public. Examples include an expose of a firm involved in China’s recent vaccine scandal and an effort by the #metoo movement in the country to not be silenced.

Founded in 1946, the State Administration of Press directly is administrated by the State Council, but reports to the propaganda department of the Chinese Communist Party. It is known for its role as a top censor with the remit of controlling information produced by all types of mass media in China, including TV, radio, newspaper and the internet.

Safe image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Posted on

Pharma Scandal Prompts Calls to Put Vaccine Data on a Blockchain

A scandal around the fraudulent actions of a vaccine manufacturer in China has sparking a heated debate over the last week – and now the Chinese cryptocurrency community is suggesting blockchain as a potential solution.

The uproar followed a report from China’s State Drug Administration, which, based on a tip-off, launched an investigation of the company – Changsheng Biotechnology – and found that it had falsified aspects of its rabies vaccine production data.

The news immediately drew widespread criticism both in the country and internationally, amid fears that some vaccines may not be safe to give to children. The vaccine in question has been reportedly recalled and the firm has been ordered to halt production.

Alongside the public outcry, China’s blockchain enthusiasts have been using social media platforms such as 8btc to push for blockchain adoption in the pharma industry, so that every step of a vaccine’s production and distribution can be tracked on a tamper-proof ledger.

Notably, one of the best-known of the country’s crypto investors, Li Xiaolai, published an article on his own WeChat channel on Monday, arguing that vaccine production and distribution is, in effect, a public affair in China.

As such, he said, the entire vaccine supply chain should be open to all and a distributed ledger should be employed to help record every detail of the process – from who produces the vaccine, who is in charge of quality assurance, which hospitals did a vaccine go to and at what price, who has received shots of the vaccine, and so on.

The openness and transparency of a distributed database would help to ensure the public will remain calm when facing such a situation, Li added.

“With a traceable chain of data, it’s easier to hold people accountable once a vaccine is found with problems. … And for children who might be harmed by problematic vaccines, it will be also easier for them to claim for damages,” he said.

While a viable application that can track vaccine production may not be immediately available, Li continued, he believes one will arrive sooner than expected – and preferably on a token-free blockchain.

“In fact, the token-less blockchain technology has got pretty good prototypes so far. But given people’s misunderstanding of blockchain as something just for speculation, … it’s hard to put those applications into usage whether for government agencies or non-profit organizations,” said Li.

Bypassing censorship

If not so far for pharma supply chain tracking, blockchain has at least been used once again as a means to bypass China’s “Great Firewall” and permanently store censored articles.

On Saturday, an investigative article – called “The Vaccine King” and published on WeChat – listed the wrongdoings of Changsheng Biotechnology over the decades. Within a day of publication, the piece was blocked across social media and the internet in China due to sensitive information it included that the authorities believed had the potential to cause panic.

To counter the censorship, coders to have now hashed the entire article into a transaction on the ethereum blockchain, so that the original text is still available to readers in China.

Although currently opening that ethereum address on WeChat is also censored, access through blockchain exploring websites such as etherscan.io is still available.

The vaccine exposé marks the latest case in which controversial information that was blocked in China has been permanently recorded on the public blockchain to fight internet censorship.

Previously, an article detailing a Chinese version of the #metoo movement was also widely blocked in China, but was later encoded to the ethereum blockchain as a permanent, visible record.

Vaccine image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Posted on

Crypto Exchanges Are Suddenly Being Censored In Iran

“Every crypto exchange in Iran [has been] filtered since May.”

That’s how one Iranian bitcoin advocate, speaking on condition of anonymity, described a new wave of government censorship that has cut Iranians off from vital links to the crypto economy ahead of a scheduled renewal of U.S. sanctions in August and November.

Several Iranians exclusively told CoinDesk they are having trouble accessing crypto exchanges like Binance, Blockchain and LocalBitcoins, even with virtual private networks (VPNs) and other workarounds that were already commonplace because of international sanctions.

It’s a scenario that highlights the complexities of censorship resistance – a country whose people are most in need of an economic lifeline are now ostracized from empowering services.

“Many people are using it [bitcoin] as a hedge instrument because buying BTC is easier than going into the black market to buy yourself US dollars,” said the Iranian source, a cryptocurrency veteran with deep ties across Tehran’s startup scene.

No speculative investment, the source is referencing how Iranian’s currency reached an annual inflation rate of 127 percent on July 2. (For some Iranians, bitcoin’s volatility appears trivial in the face of rampant inflation and political uncertainty.)

“[President Rohani] doesn’t want Iranians to transfer foreign currency, especially dollars, outside the country,” said Ahmad Khalid Majidyar, director of IranObserved Project at the Middle East Institute, a think tank in Washington D.C. that offers non-partisan political analysis.

Majidyar told CoinDesk:

“If [diplomacy] falters, it would mean there are more restrictions, and definitely cryptocurrency would be impacted as well.”

Most experts agree that the current economic crisis, one tied to international relations, has spurred Iranian authorities to seek strict controls on cryptocurrency. (A CoinDesk survey of 200 domestic crypto users revealed a majority used the tech for cross-border payments.)

In light of the political situation, the censorship has been a long time coming.

In December 2017, Iran’s anti-money laundering body forbid financial institutions from working with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. This policy stipulated the Central Bank of Iran cannot take “any action to promote” decentralized currencies.

Then in May, the Iranian Financial Tribune reported Mohammad Reza Pourebrahimi, head of the parliament’s economic committee, warned crypto traders could harm the Iranian economy if they continued to spend billions through international marketplaces.

Signs of censorship

Now, firsthand accounts from Tehran imply a quiet push toward stricter censorship is currently underway. (To date, the Rohani administration hasn’t issued any official statements condemning individual cryptocurrency users.)

According to a second anonymous source in Iran, however, it appears as though government censors are now examining network traffic via a process called “deep packet inspection“– a tactic Iranian authorities used in the past– to restrict VPN access to crypto platforms.

He said as of this week LocalBitcoins is no longer accessible, and that imported cryptocurrency mining equipment is also banned. Adding credibility to the assertions the government is behind the move, is the fact that cryptocurrency services providers say they aren’t blocking local users.

An Iranian tech blog reported Binance told one concerned user of the exchange platform that it has no plans to restrict regional services.

A Binance spokeswoman told CoinDesk, “the responsibility rests on the user” to use Binance lawfully, including both international sanctions and local restrictions. She declined to comment on Iran specifically.

The second anonymous source said buying and selling cryptocurrency with Iranian rials is forbidden, although people still trade with each other in person.

When asked to describe the sentiment among cryptocurrency users in Iran, he simply answered: “Uncertainty.”

Crypto-nationalism

All in all, these actions represent a stark reversal for a country that had appeared on the verge of a blockchain boom. (That same 2017 CoinDesk survey also showed the majority of Iranian respondents believed the government would actively advance cryptocurrency.)

Even as recently as February 2018, blockchain startups were working closely with regulators to consider a legal framework for cryptocurrencies.

Further, that same month the Information and Communications Technology Minister, MJ Azari Jahromi, announced plans for a national cryptocurrency. Majidyar said Rohani is still moving forward with this high-tech plan for a “separate financial system.”

Still, others think Rohani, Jahromi and other Iranian moderates may be mirroring the “blockchain not bitcoin” sentiment popular among traditional institutions abroad.

“Of course, it would be subject to the same sanctions,” the Middle East Institute’s Majidyar said. “But they just want to control prices even more.”

Since most international banks already shun Iranians, Majidyar expects this censorship of decentralized cryptocurrencies will worsen if diplomacy falters.

Yet bitcoin enthusiasts on the ground reported feeling anxious, not hopeless. Some continue trading crypto between acquaintances in exchange for local cash.

The first anonymous source told CoinDesk:

“They always find the way.”

Iranian rial image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Posted on

Freedom of the Press Foundation Now Accepts Donations in 5 Cryptos

The Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) now officially accepts donations made with cryptocurrencies, the non-profit announced Monday.

The move is “a natural fit” for the organization, which aims to support journalists reporting on issues within governments, said executive director Trevor Timm.

FPF – which will now accept bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum, litecoin and zcash – currently has digital wallets available for direct donations, he said, although the aim is to ultimately utilize a payment processor to automatically convert the donations into fiat currency.

Decentralized technology is a tool that can help prevent online censorship, as well as prevent surveillance by certain parties, according to Timm. The decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies, in particular, can mitigate the risk of “financial censorship” by the relatively small number of traditional payment processors that currently hold a “monopoly” on fund transfers, he stated.

Timm told CoinDesk:

“If cryptocurrencies can lead to more awareness about anti-censorship, and also make it easier for potential supporters to support non-profits like Freedom of the Press Foundation, then I hope many other similar organizations follow suit in the coming months and years.”

“We live in a time when journalists around the world have never been at greater risk of surveillance, arrest, or worse, and it’s incredibly important that supporters of press freedom have all the available options to them to fight back,” he said.

Perhaps in recognition of that mission, blockchain startup Mainframe has already made the first crypto donation, sending 1,000 ether (around $498,000 at press time) to the foundation.

Timm said that the funds would allow the FPF, which notably has NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on its board, to expand its work, adding that “hopefully it might even inspire others to donate.”

Newspapers and chain image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Posted on

GoTenna Launches a Bitcoin Wallet That Works Without the Internet

If James Bond needed to use bitcoin on a secret mission in the jungle, he probably couldn’t drop by a Starbucks to use the wifi.

Since internet connections aren’t always available, reliable or private, cryptocurrency users need alternative ways to connect to the network. So the New York-based startup goTenna, founded in 2012 by Brazilian siblings Daniela and Jorge Perdomo, is partnering with Samourai Wallet to launch an Android app this summer that allows users to send bitcoin payments without an internet connection.

Announced Monday, the txTenna app will enable users to sync up their mobile with a goTenna device, which costs $179 per pair, then toggle the wallet app’s settings to transact offline and send the bitcoin.

“You need to be able to spend your bitcoin even in disaster areas,” goTenna engineer Richard Meyers told CoinDesk, citing the Perdomo siblings’ recent work in Puerto Rico, where goTenna devices helped people reconnect after Hurricane Maria. “As long as you have a way to charge your phone, you can be up and meshed and communicating.”

The signal needs to be within roughly a mile of another goTenna device to relay the message across the mesh network, a decades-old system for using the internet without wifi or a landline. So far, goTenna has sold more than 100,000 devices that let users tap into the mesh network.

If the offline bitcoin user is within a mile of another active device, the transaction could bounce across the mesh until it reaches a user with an internet connection.

“It offers an alternative that is more censorship-resistant,” Meyers said, adding:

“It’s going to obscure who you are and where you’re at when making these transactions. So that’s a big privacy advantage there.”

This system uses a free, unlicensed radio frequency, and it isn’t the first partnership to explore such potential for cryptocurrency networks.

It takes a village

Stepping back, a variety of projects since the Cold War have used relatively cheap and mobile radio setups to broadcast across firewalls and oceans.

Last year, renowned cryptographer Nick Szabo and blockchain engineer Elaine Ou published a proposal detailing how weak-signal radio transmissions could help boost security and the diversity of connections across the bitcoin network.

Then, in December, after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission repealed “net neutrality,” fans of ethereum, the world’s second most popular blockchain network, started flocking to mesh network technology meetups.

When net neutrality rules expire next month, internet service providers will no longer be barred from favoring or blocking specific websites and communities. It’s an opportune moment for censorship-resistant tools for bitcoin transactions.

Perhaps the most important aspect of txTenna is that the cryptocurrency wallet will be an open source project.

Indeed, it was Samourai Wallet’s open source communication tools on Github that first inspired goTenna’s team to reach out to the bitcoin startup. The same txTenna code could theoretically be applied to iOS wallet applications as well.

As Meyers explained:

“It absolutely could work with any software wallet and they [Samourai Wallet developers] are not writing it specifically for the Samourai wallet anyway. It will be something any wallet provider could send transactions through.”

Image of Daniela and Jorge Perdomo with goTenna devices via goTenna

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.