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The blockchain-powered blogging platform Steemit is being accused of centralization and censorship. On Jan. 7, 2019, the hacker group The Dark Overlord had its account banned from Steemit by a developer known as ‘Jredbeard’ for violating the company’s terms of service agreement.
Steemit Bans 9/11 Whistleblower Account
On Dec. 21, 2018, a hacker group known as the Dark Overlords threatened to dump classified insurance files that are allegedly related to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings. The hackers told the public that the files were taken from major global insurers like Lloyds of London and Hiscox Group. The Dark Overlord’s announcement also included a demand for $ 2 million in bitcoins for a 10GB archive of files, according to the Pastebin post, which has since been scrubbed from the Internet. According to the publication Motherboard and a spokesperson for the law firm Hiscox Group, the files were stolen and likely did pertain to the 9/11 attacks. Since the group distributed this information across the web and made international headlines, The Dark Overlord’s social media accounts were targeted and the hacker group was deplatformed from sites like Reddit and Twitter. After the wide range of censorship, on Jan. 2 The Dark Overlord explained in another Pastebin announcement that they would be dumping the data on the Steem blockchain.
However, it seems publishing classified 9/11 data is not looked upon favorably by those who run Steemit. On Jan. 7, 2019, the Steemit Github repository shows the developer known as ‘Jredbeard’ appended the account ‘thedarkoverlord’ to the protocol’s ‘GDPRUserList.js’ section. Essentially this means the account was banned from using the website for violating Steemit’s terms of service (ToS) agreement. The action has also infuriated some members of the Steemit community as posts about the subject can be seen on the project’s Reddit page r/steemit.
One particular post exclaimed:
Steemit has censored the account of the Dark Overlords!! What was the point, Steemit?
Uncensorable Blockchain Platforms Exist
Interestingly enough, some Steemit proponents defended the action and explained how The Dark Overlord account was only banned from the official Steemit website, noting that the group’s posts could still be seen on alternative sites like Busy.org. Moreover, other cryptocurrency community members discussed other blockchain services that would help The Dark Overlord dump the data in a truly immutable fashion.
The hacker group could hypothetically utilize platforms like Memo.cash and Bitcoinfiles.com to communicate to the public and dump classified files without the risk of takedown. For instance, Memo acts like Twitter but every action is recorded into the Bitcoin Cash (BCH) blockchain. The posts cannot be taken down after they are etched into the BCH chain and one individual even started recording every verse in the King James Bible into the blockchain. Another example of a tool that could help whistleblowers is the Bitcoinfiles protocol developed by the BCH programmers James Cramer, Attila Aros, and Hapticpilot.
Bitcoinfiles is a file-sharing platform that allows anyone to upload any type of media file to both the Inter-Planetary File System (IPFS) protocol and the Bitcoin Cash blockchain. Once the files are recorded into the chain they can be shared widely and found easily using a blockchain explorer or queried on the Bitdb network. There is no developer or arbitrary individual who can delete the files once they are appended to the network and IPFS files tied to the BCH chain can be shared with anyone in the world using a simple URI.
Over the last year, deplatforming and censorship have continued to increase, but cryptocurrency and blockchain advocates believe it should not happen on their turf. It is obvious that centralized entities on the web will persist and suppress dissident voices and whistleblowers. As a result, blockchain applications that fight against this behavior will be welcomed with open arms by those who cherish the ability to speak freely.
What do you think about the hacker group The Dark Overlord being removed from the Steemit website? What media sharing platforms would you recommend that record immutable data onchain? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.
Images via Shutterstock, Memo.cash, Bitcoinfiles.com, and Steemit.
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Regulations Roundup: Chinese Mining Farms Undergo Tax Inspection, Michigan Bans Campaign Donations in CryptocurrencyNovember 13, 2018 | dailybusinessnews
In recent regulatory news, we report on an authorized mining company in China that has had its operations temporarily halted for tax inspection and implementation of real-name registration processes. We also look at the Michigan Secretary of State’s ban on crypto-based political donations, as well as the recent certification of X8’s stablecoin for Shariah compliance. In addition, we focus on the operator of a fraudulent cryptocurrency scheme who has been punished for misappropriating $ 601,000 in BTC and LTC from his employer.
Chinese Mining Farms Suspended
According to a statement published by an unidentified cryptocurrency mining company, Chinese state agencies have ordered the suspension of its mining farms in southwestern Guizhou Province and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region for tax inspections and to implement real-name registration processes.
“According to the needs of the public security department’s network information security work, in the future, our company will implement higher standards for the company’s business real-name system according to the work needs of the public security department,” the anonymous company said. “For customers with the latest standard real-name systems, the data center will have to suspend reloading, restarting, moving in and out, etc.”
Michigan Secretary of State Says ‘No’ to Crypto
In a letter addressed to William Baker, a recent candidate for the Michigan state legislature, the office of the Michigan Secretary of State has formally barred cryptocurrency donations to political campaigns.
Baker, who lost his bid in the state’s Nov. 6 election, had previously sought clarification on how the value of donations in the form of cryptocurrencies should be recorded. He also asked whether virtual currency exchanges would qualify as valid secondary depositories for the storage of crypto assets.
Baker asserted that “it is self-evident that digital currency is a valid way to receive political contributions.” However, the state secretary’s office responded by stating that “the law does not authorize such a vehicle, and the department has never determined that digital currencies are a valid way to receive political contributions.”
The letter also highlighted concerns pertaining to the price volatility of cryptocurrencies. “As with stocks and commodities, bitcoin’s worth fluctuates daily,” the office said. “There is no way to ascertain the precise monetary value of one bitcoin on any particular day.”
The Michigan Secretary of State raised additional objections to the use of cryptocurrencies as donations. In the letter, the office added that state legislation also “requires that committees deposit funds in an account in a financial institution, which is not an option for cryptocurrency.”
X8 Stablecoin Certified as Shariah Compliant
X8C, the stablecoin issued by Swiss fintech company X8 AG, has obtained a certificate showing that its stablecoin is compliant with Shariah law. It received the certification from the Shariyah Review Bureau, an Islamic advisory firm licensed by the Central Bank of Bahrain.
Francesca Greco, director and co-founder of X8, announced that the company will soon establish a regional office in the Middle East. Greco also indicated that X8 plans to launch a Shariah-compliant virtual currency exchange, adding that the company has already met with representatives of exchanges based in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Bahrain.
“The Gulf region is a really good place for financial technology companies, because they all want to become hubs for fintech,” Greco said.
CFTC Fines Crypto Scheme Operator Over $ 1.14M
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has ordered Joseph Kim, a resident of Phoenix, to pay more than $ 1.14 million for operating a fraudulent cryptocurrency scheme. Kim was also sentenced to 15 months in prison on “related criminal charges” filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. According to the court order, Kim pleaded guilty to “orchestrating a fraudulent Bitcoin and Litecoin scheme that led to more than $ 1 million in losses.”
Kim was found to have misappropriated $ 601,000 worth of BTC and LTC from his employer — described as “a Chicago-based proprietary trading firm” — before attempting to fabricate security-related issues to obfuscate the misappropriation of funds. Despite this, the company fired Kim in November 2017 after the theft of the cryptocurrency was discovered.
Between December 2017 and March 2018, Kim then sought to repay his former employer through profits that he had generated through the operation of a cryptocurrency trading scheme. According to the CFTC, he “falsely told customers that he would invest their funds in a low-risk virtual currency arbitrage strategy, when, in fact, Kim made high-risk, directional bets on the movement of virtual currencies that resulted in Kim losing all $ 545,000 of his customers’ funds.”
Do you think Chinese miners will report the temporary suspension of their operations for tax inspection and real-name registration? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Images courtesy of Shutterstock
At Bitcoin.com there’s a bunch of free helpful services. For instance, have you seen our Tools page? You can even lookup the exchange rate for a transaction in the past. Or calculate the value of your current holdings. Or create a paper wallet. And much more.
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Using cryptocurrency for political donations has been a hot topic in many societies. Two recent developments demonstrate different views on the matter. A Taiwanese politician who has accepted bitcoin from his supporters believes crypto donations can help keep his country’s political system clean and transparent. At the same time, the California campaign watchdog says cryptocurrency can raise questions about transparency and is hard to track.
Bitcoin Donations Help Transparency, Taiwanese Politician Says
Cryptocurrency has entered Taiwanese politics. A candidate for the Taipei City Council announced on social media he had accepted a number of small bitcoin donations – a first, according to local media reports. Hsiao Hsin-chen, a representative of the minority New Power Party, received the digital cash worth NT$ 10,000 (~US$ 325) from anonymous supporters. The money was sent after an announcement on Facebook last month that his campaign is ready to accept donations in BTC.
In his call for support, Hsiao said the development has political as well as technological implications. Crypto donations could help keep Taiwan’s political system clean, he stressed, quoted by the Taiwanese Business Next outlet. The nature of the cryptocurrency, the fact that every transition is recorded on a public blockchain, can lead to more transparency, he added. “Accepting bitcoins as a political donation is more symbolic than the act appears,” claimed the politician.
In Taiwan, crypto contributions are currently classified as non-cash political donations – a definition given by the Interior Ministry. According to the country’s recently updated Political Donations Act, candidates can accept up to NT$ 10,000 from anonymous donors, a limit that applies to the value of donated cryptocurrency as well.
If the sum exceeds the maximum amount, politicians are obliged to return the excess money to the donor or hand it over to the state. However, it’s unclear how the value of crypto donations will be estimated as the prices of digital assets can change significantly in a short period. Control Yuan, a government monitoring agency, has advised candidates to keep full records of their donations.
‘Independent’ Commission Says No to Crypto Donations in California
Officials in the US state of California, however, share a different view of campaign contributions in crypto. A commission charged with overseeing the political process in the Golden State has recently announced that donations cannot be made with cryptocurrency such as bitcoin, according to an Associated Press report. On Thursday, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) voted 3-1 to ban them. The watchdog says it may be hard to track the origin of cryptocurrency contributions which could raise questions about transparency.
According to its website, the FPPC is an “independent, non-partisan” commission responsible for the administration of the state’s Political Reform Act which regulates campaign financing along with other potentially controversial aspects of political campaigns such as conflicts of interest and lobbying. Promoting transparency and fostering public trust in the political system are two of its core objectives.
The Commission is composed of five members appointed for four-year terms. The Chair and another member from a different party are appointed by the Governor. The other members are appointed by the State Controller, Secretary of State and the Attorney General. No more than three commissioners may be from the same political party. Currently one of the seats is vacant, which may be interpreted as a positive in terms of finding the balance in the generally bipartisan political landscape of the US.
A similar body on national level, the Federal Elections Commission (FED), allows bitcoin donations to federal candidates. In 2014 the FED decided that every US citizen can donate cryptocurrency worth up to $ 100. A number of states have already addressed the issue as well – Colorado and Montana allow crypto contributions with certain restrictions, South Carolina and Kansas have banned them. In April, the Wisconsin Ethics Commission discussed a proposal to cap crypto donations with the limit applicable to cash contributions – $ 100. Larger donations require a credit card or a bank check.
What is your opinion about campaign contributions in cryptocurrency? Share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
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