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FT: Multiple Online Harassment Allegations Against IOTA Team, Foundation Board Member Says He’s Not ‘Aware’ Of Incidents

The Financial Times (FT) news outlet published an article Wednesday, Apr 25, detailing  allegations levelled by several people against IOTA. According to FT’s report, some members of IOTA’s team have resorted to threats of legal action or violence when dealing with critics of their project online.

When asked to comment on the report, Ralf Rottmann, a member of the IOTA Foundation’s board of directors, told Cointelegraph that he “joined the Board of Directors just recently and [is] not personally aware of any of the alleged incidents”:

“What I do know: IOTA Foundation continues to win renowned corporate partners and advisors, who all carefully vet whom they partner with, which to me speaks for itself. Also I’ve never personally witnessed any IOTA Foundation member to intimidate anybody. There have been heated debates on twitter, but that goes with the territory as you clearly know. Would love for Cointelegraph to focus on the progress and positive!”

The FT article details the response by IOTA to a study last fall, conducted by the MIT Media Lab and written about on Medium, that alleges the researchers found a vulnerability in the IOTA’s hash function – written by IOTA developers – that would have allowed for forgeries of IOTA signatures.

The apparent vulnerabilities have since been removed, and the IOTA team has since spoken out that the vulnerabilities would not have allowed for forgery, as their Coordinator would have stopped it – IOTA’s “tangle” system, as opposed to a Blockchain system, is not yet decentralized.

According to the FT, when a writer for Forbes covered MIT’s research, the IOTA Foundation board of directors’ member Dominik Schiener sent message on Slack that “she needs to be slapped.”

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Tim Swanson, the director of tech advisory firm Post Oak Labs, told the FT in reference to IOTA’s response about the reported vulnerabilities found by MIT:

“Once you start threatening independent research teams that do vetting and verification…you’re not just creating ill will, but you’re actually creating an environment in which security researchers no longer feel safe to provide independent verification of claims which benefit society as a whole.”

IOTA CEO David Sønstebø has also cursed at media outlets on Twitter like TheNextWeb as well as other Twitter users that criticize IOTA. In February of this year, IOTA’s twitter posted that it would “blacklist” TheNextWeb due to their “deliberate defamation”:

Sønstebø said once on Twitter – ironically – that he is “unprofessional” to the media, more recently tweeting more than a week ago,

“I am ‘blunt’ and brutally honest to people who attack IOTA, a non-profit project with pure intentions, with falsehoods, insane accusation, and general defamation, yes. If that makes me rude, I’m rude as f***.”

The FT refers to IOTA’s “troll army” as intimidating people to such an extent that three people they wanted to speak to for the article refused to do so, one citing a fear of physical harm.

Swanson also told the FT that he deleted a retweet of an article criticizing IOTA due to feeling “intimidated” after receiving Skype messages from a member of the IOTA team about his retweet. When asked about Swanson’s allegations in the FT article, Rottman told Cointelegraph that the “IOTA Foundation categorically denounces these demonstrably false claims”:

“Timothy Swanson has been an acquaintance of David Sønstebø since 2013, they have regularly discussed different topics pertaining to the crypto realm throughout the years. David was perplexed by seeing Swanson retweet the debunked narrative of DCI and simply sent him two casual inquiring messages on Skype: ‘Hey’ and ‘Why are you retweeting fud?’. That was the entire extent of David’s communication to Swanson, Swanson proceeded to choose to take down the tweets. There was never any intimidation involved here. I saw a screenshot of the Skype conversation David was having with Timothy dated back to December 12th, 2017 and I in no way see, how anybody could potentially feel intimidated by David reaching out like he did at all.”

During an interview with Cointelegraph this January, Sønstebø spoke about the future of IOTA, highlighting “the fantastic team that [they] have put together and continue to put together, having world-leading developers and advisors is vital to the project, and something a lot of projects think of as secondary, but the execution is everything.”

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FUDsters Not Misinterpreted Microsoft Partnership, Responsible For IOTA Decline, Clarifies CEO

Two years ago, in January 2016, Cointelegraph published an interview with David Sonstebo, the CEO of IOTA, who listed out his vision for a Blockchain-less cryptocurrency and explained about the technology behind IOTA. From its humble beginnings, IOTA is now ranked in top-10 world’s cryptocurrencies.

Cointelegraph caught up with David again for a conversation about the recent events and the overall journey of IOTA.

Cointelegraph: IOTA’s price exploded abruptly after the Microsoft Partnership announcement, only to drop down after ‘the clarification.’ What do you think happened there? Was it just a misconception or could there be any deliberation from any end?

David Sonstebo: IOTA’s abrupt price increase cannot be attributed to a misinterpreted ‘Microsoft Partnership,’ even though that’s the narrative of ‘FUDsters’ and other non-critical people that blindly and misleadingly went with and spread like a virus. IOTA announced the data marketplace, which in itself is a novel killer application of IOTA and significant milestone for crypto-adoption in general, with participating companies such as Samsung ARTIK, Bosch, Fujitsu, Orange, Engie, DNV GL, Schneider Electric, EY, Accenture and tons more. These giants combined far outweigh any impact, one singular company like Microsoft had on the announcement.

Furthermore, IOTA is already a co-founder with Microsoft of the Decentralized Identity Foundation, and we were invited by Microsoft to be part of their Azure stack in early 2016. The Microsoft and IOTA connection was therefore old news to the public. The other world leading companies working with IOTA were what cemented IOTA as a leading protocol in the minds of most and consequently had an impact on the market cap. Microsoft was the least newsworthy participant of this data marketplace— thus we can rule out Microsoft in terms of price attributed to the Data Marketplace news. Beyond this, IOTA also listed on Korea’s second largest crypto exchange Coinone around the same time, which was a significant factor in the steep price and volume increase.

What happened was merely an internal procedural error on Microsoft’s side, which they have taken ownership of in correspondence with the IOTA Foundation. One of their main Blockchain engineers gave us clearance for PR, logo and provided us with a quote where the now infamous term ‘partner’ originated. We quoted them verbatim, as any professional entity would.

Afterward, a lot of FUDsters decided to spam Microsoft with inquiries like: “are you launching a data marketplace?” and “are your business partners?” This barrage made their PR department attempt to clarify the nuances in vain. Some journalists then spun a minuscule semantic issue into a controversy, which again was exploited by ‘FUDsters’ in an effort to manipulate the market. It got so amplified and epitomize just how regular users and crypto investors can easily be manipulated by the FOMO-FUD cycle that neuroscientist and author Bobby Azarian felt prompted to pen an in-depth article for PsychologyToday and HuffingtonPost about the whole debacle.

CT: When IOTA came, it essentially attracted attention for its “Blockchain-less” technology. How do you feel about the new technologies that have since come up in the cryptosphere post IOTA? Is there any that has particularly impressed you or you feel that it is an improvement, even on IOTA?

DS: There has obviously been some novel approaches in the cryptosphere since IOTA kickstarted the ‘beyond Blockchain’ era, but so far it’s mostly copycat attempts, gimmicks and half-measures. Thus far IOTA stands as the only permissionless distributed ledger to resolve fees, centralization and scaling limitations. A few months after we announced IOTA the crypto space, unfortunately, decayed into a miserable state of get-rich-quick ICOs and paid promotion with no substance. We set out with the goal of interoperability where it makes sense. We want to collaborate with anyone, which we still firmly believe in. However, due to the sheer magnitude of money involved in crypto now, there is a constant rivalry between projects that could benefit from simply synergizing instead. For a lot of people, this is no longer about technology or vision. IOTA is at present the only project I am aware of that is progressing the fundamental elements both from a technological point of view, but equally crucial concerning real-world adoption, hence my laser focus on it.

CT: What do you feel have been the highlights of IOTA so far —the major achievements— ever since phase one of its launch back in July 2016?

DS: If I were to elucidate a few, it would be first and foremost the Tangle operating as planned, even in the face of quite aggressive attack attempts. Secondly, I want to highlight the fantastic team that we have put together and continue to put together, having world-leading developers and advisors is vital to the project, and something a lot of projects think of as secondary, but the execution is everything. Thirdly I have to mention the Data Marketplace, which to me epitomizes killer applications, and the fact that we got so many world-leading corporates participating in exploring its potential is a significant win for IOTA’s goals. Finally, the registration and approval of the IOTA Foundation as the first and only in Germany as a major highlight that elevates the IOTA project to an unmatched echelon concerning gravitas and potential.

CT: What is the purpose of the IOTA Foundation that was recently launched? As far as we read, it is only to further promote IOTA’s business interests. Doesn’t that contradict the goal of a non-profit organization and what does it actually achieve?

DS: The IOTA Foundation’s role will be core development, maintenance and indeed drive adoption. Achieved through catering to the development community with the right tools, libraries, tutorials etc., as well as assisting start-ups and conglomerates alike in getting up and running with exploring IOTA for new business models and security in their pre-existing services and products. It is an entirely neutral and non-profit organization whose sole goal is to drive adoption of IOTA as a neutral standard. However, to achieve that you have to engage with the actual consumers of the technology, way too many projects in the cryptosphere think that “if you build it, they will come,” but the reality is different. In IOTA we consider adoption above all to be a key metric of success, hence why it’s so important to have a dedicated entity that takes charge of this. We chose to establish it in Germany, which most considered impossible, precisely because we want the rigorous oversight and gravitas which that brings, this is something we find to be of vital importance for IOTA and crypto, in general, to go beyond the forums and basic experiments and into production-ready environments.

CT: We go far back; in fact, IOTA was first covered by Cointelegraph in October 2015, after which we covered the beta launch and the main launch of IOTA in 2016. As you have come a long path, do you feel the way you interact with the media and journalists — and their attitude towards IOTA has changed over these years?

DS: Indeed, it’s surreal to think that Earth has circled the Sun more than twice since the first interview with you guys, which I believe had a few thousand reads, now there’s always tens of thousands reading. There’s definitely a shift in attitude towards IOTA from the media. In the beginning, we were taken seriously mostly because we had proven ourselves in the past by inventing full Proof of Stake and pioneered a lot of the Blockchain 2.0 use cases like supply chain, voting, IoT, decentralized exchanges and marketplaces. But people were still (naturally) extremely skeptical of our claims that distributed ledger technology had to go beyond Blockchain. Very few managed to grasp how Tangle even worked, and at the time our predicted problems with fees and congestion issues of Blockchain had not yet been seen in practice by everyone. Now that people have struggled with these issues and witnessed the Tangle working and see its meteoric adoption the journalists are a lot more inquisitive and feel that it is their duty as journalists to cover this technology.

CT: What’s the next bomb IOTA is planning to drop? Any news from the vine — what to expect from IOTA in the near future?

DS: Haha, the Q-bomb (inside joke in the community). 2016-2017 was all about laying the groundwork on the technological, adoption and awareness side. 2018 will be about maturing the organization and making the technology production ready. We are looking to hire 50-100 new team members through 2018 and aim to have a production ready protocol and have commenced the standardization procedures by the end of 2018. IOTA has become known for releasing colossal news, and this won’t stop, but it is crucial for us that people don’t become ‘announcement fiends,’ IOTA is an open source grassroots effort, people need to be focused on the nuts and bolts rather than just look for the next announcement. Fiending for the next news that might spike the price is a preoccupation that every crypto project suffers from, but we try to limit it by applying quite a strict policy when it comes to speculation and digging for info to the hype. Technology and vision first, if that is properly executed then the prosperity follows.

CT: On a lighter note, do you actually write all of those IOTA blogs yourself?

DS: There are a few that we all provide input on, but for most indeed, I got five or so blog posts lined up that are 90 percent done, so does my Co-founder Dominik Schiener, as well as other core devs and founders. Now that the foundation is in place and we can hire the right people to delegate specialized tasks to, I hope that we will finally have more time to create more high-quality content that elucidates the vision and technology for all, making it easier to grasp it all, especially for newcomers.

CT: Thank you!

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IOTA Partners With Microsoft, Fujitsu, Others For IoT Data Monetization

Yesterday IOTA announced a major platform release allowing data monetization using micropayments through their distributed ledger technology. The data solution has already garnered huge partnerships from Microsoft, Fujitsu, Bosch, Deutsche Bank Telekom, and others.

IOTA has already issued its tokens of the same name under their token sale earlier this fall. The company has created what it considers a better option in Blockchain technology evolution called ‘tangle.’ Through this system, the company is creating a way for connected devices to be able to transfer, buy and sell diverse datasets while creating access to data that often sits unused, all with substantial security.

A demo of the platform is scheduled to run through January and will be a way for companies to participate in the innovation. Partners will also be able to influence how the platform continues to function. IOTA co-founder David Sønstebø said:

“The goal is to enable a combination of a business-to-business data economy, as well as enabling researchers and even hobbyists to participate. The beauty of enabling fine-granular trade access is that we really don’t know who or how it will be used, except that we know it is a completely new paradigm.”

The hope is that the structure of IOTA’s tangle technology, without miners or mining fees, will allow large-scale proliferation of micro-payments for datasets, providing access to data and building a network for companies to use and access that data for improvements to the Internet of Things (IoT).