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i read it all so you dont have to - 4/23/2020

China’s digital currency is rolling out

The new currency, which doesn’t have an official name but is known by its internal shorthand “DC/EP,” or “digital currency/electronic payment,” will share some features with cryptocurrencies including bitcoin and Facebook Inc.’s Libra, PBOC officials have said. While it won’t boast the anonymity that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies tout, China’s central bankers have vowed to protect users’ privacy.

As you can guess, that last line is of interest to me. I have seen this mentioned here and there but have not seen any details of how this new payment system will be private. 

And I don’t mean private as in ‘we promise not to look at the data.’ I want to see private as in ‘we don’t have the data.’ As the article says: 

China’s central bank has said that shifting to a government-run digital payment system will help combat money laundering, gambling and terror financing. It has also hailed digital currencies as a way to improve the efficiency of transactions in its financial system.

That sounds all fine and well. After all, who likes terrorism? The problem though is that the Chinese government has used the excuse of combatting terrorism to justify brutally repressing and punishing the Uigyer muslims in the country. So remember, the usefulness of restricting privacy invasions to only law enforcement purposes depends a lot on who is making what laws. 

We’ve really gotten ourselves into a free speech, freedom of assembly, and platform neutrality pickle with this virus. 

What happens when believing and acting on a falsehood could be genuinely dangerous? Not in some existential ideological sense, but more like they could actually get sick and spread that to others. 

Facebook took a proactive step of banning pages for organizing the reopen protests. This raises some questions. 

The protest pages were removed because the gatherings would violate stay at home orders, but protests break laws all the time. Some would argue that things like staging a sit-in or occupying buildings are breaking the law too. I can see that this is a different situation, but I think Facebook may have opened a platform neutrality question it shouldn’t have.  

Of course, the protesters are really not helping themselves if they want to be taken seriously:

The problem though is that reopening the economy is a real political opinion that real people have. And we have built our system on the notion that people with ideas should be able to share them. 

I have no idea how to unwind this. 

By the way, when I posted about all this, I got a bunch of responses saying it’s fine to block those protest pages because they are astroturf. They were all citing a viral reddit sleuthing thread that ended up being wrong, but of course the correction never gets nearly as much airtime.

A thread on that.

Also, people say protests are astroturf all the time, all across the political spectrum. It’s not like those are paid actors out there. 

Some more reading: Facebook bans some anti-lockdown protest pages

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