some links for you

i read all of it so you dont have to - 3/6/2020

The discussion of whether or not bitcoin can be a safe haven asset has continued from last week. It’s probably going to come up whenever there is a crisis, so we might as well get used to it. 

In CoinDesk, Jill Carlson added to the conversation by laying out the particular properties of Bitcoin that could make it appealing as a safe haven. 

Bitcoin is, in many ways, the ultimate safe haven asset. It can be self-custodied, so even when systems of trust and rule of law breaks down, it can be held. It is open and borderless, with relatively liquid markets in every country in the world. It is censorship-resistant, meaning no government nor institution can, practically speaking, prevent investment or transaction in bitcoin. Bitcoin has a fixed supply, much like gold. Bitcoin is digital, which makes it practical to hoard, hold and transport. For doomsday preppers, dystopian sci-fi fans and apocalypse predictors, there is a lot to like about bitcoin. 

As we know, and I am constantly reminded of by my skeptical friends, that has yet to play out. But I still think there is something to it. Here’s an anecdote from Lebanon (More info in the thread).  

Bitcoin (well, actually in this case a stablecoin) was not helpful to them because they did not anticipate the crisis, so they couldn’t get their money into the coin. But I suppose the point of a safe haven is to be there before the storm hits. 

Hiring hitmen on the dark web has long been an urban legend and probably the plot of some slasher movies. The New York Times covered a new paper that dug a little deeper and asked “Can You Really Hire a Hit Man on the Dark Web?

But don’t expect someone to get the job done. Experts and law enforcers who have studied these sites — almost all of them on the so-called dark web or dark net — say they are scams. There has not been a known murder attributed to any of them.

Looks like the answer is no. 

The University of Toronto’s CitizenLab published a research paper on the Chinese government’s censorship of social media as it attempted to contain fallout from its apparent mishandling of the situation. 

Here are the key findings: 

  • YY, a live-streaming platform in China, began to censor keywords related to the coronavirus outbreak on December 31, 2019, a day after doctors (including the late Dr. Li Wenliang) tried to warn the public about the then unknown virus.

  • WeChat broadly censored coronavirus-related content (including critical and neutral information) and expanded the scope of censorship in February 2020. Censored content included criticism of government, rumours and speculative information on the epidemic, references to Dr. Li Wenliang, and neutral references to Chinese government efforts on handling the outbreak that had been reported on state media.

  • Many of the censorship rules are broad and effectively block messages that include names for the virus or sources for information about it. Such rules may restrict vital communication related to disease information and prevention.

Let’s not forget the uncensorable monument to whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang, made possible by public blockchains and cryptocurrency. 

Maybe I’m paranoid, but in general I suspect that government access to private data operates on similar principles as those found in the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition

For those of you who don’t know, the first Rule of Acquisition is “once you have their money, you never give it back.” 

Speaking of, the value needed for a financial transaction to trigger a currency transaction report has been slowly shrinking over time. The rule sets it at $10,000, but back when it was set $10,000 was worth $68,000 in today’s money. That may not have been the intent when the rule was drafted, but why fix it now? 

In case you didn’t know, the Crypto Wars are back. This time with the addition of Section 230 protections, which made the internet as we know it possible, in the firing line. 

As Wired reports:

EARN IT focuses specifically on Section 230, which has historically given tech companies freedom to expand with minimal liability for how people use their platforms. Under EARN IT, those companies wouldn't automatically have a liability exemption for activity and content related to child sexual exploitation. Instead, companies would have to "earn" the protection by showing that they are following recommendations for combating child sexual exploitation laid out by a 16-person commission.

Though it seems wholly focused on reducing child exploitation, the EARN IT Act has definite implications for encryption. If it became law, companies might not be able to earn their liability exemption while offering end-to-end encrypted services. This would put them in the position of either having to accept liability, undermine the protection of end-to-end encryption by adding a backdoor for law enforcement access, or avoid end-to-end encryption altogether.

It’s no secret that the world’s authorities are rankled by the rising popularity of encrypted messaging apps, even if they themselves recognize their security value. It’s a line that the technology community has successfully held for decades. Hopefully they can continue, even in this era of tech backlash. 

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