Northern Bitcoin, Rawpool Sign Wallet and Mining Deal

Bitcoin Cash Miner Rawpool Agrees Wallet, Mining Deal With German's Northern Bitcoin

Germany’s Northern Bitcoin AG (MUN:NB2) has agreed to offer Bpal Wallet, a wallet and payments app created by China-based Rawpool Group, in the European market. The agreement between the Munich-listed company and the bitcoin cash (BCH) miner, effective from today, also covers mining operations and cryptocurrency exchanges. Shares of Frankfurt-based Northern Bitcoin AG rose 2.8 percent on the news.

Also read: Tax Evasion Spotlighted as Swiss Banks Start Sharing Client Data

Northern Bitcoin to Offer Bpal Wallet in EU,
Expand Mining Operations

Northern Bitcoin CEO Mathis Schultz said Bpal Wallet — a digital application that stores, receives and dispatches cryptocurrencies — will be launched in the 28 countries of the European Union in the coming months.

Bitcoin Cash Miner Rawpool Agrees Wallet, Mining Deal With German's Northern Bitcoin

Schultz said that with Bpal Wallet, Northern Bitcoin will enter into cryptocurrency-related agreements with financial institutions such as banks and stock exchanges throughout the world. The wallet supports both BCH and bitcoin core (BTC).

In the mining sphere, German’s only publicly traded cryptocurrency company — currently valued at $152.6 million — will leverage Rawpool’s dominance in the mining of digital coins, particularly BCH, to gain access to low-cost mining hardware, Schultz said. Rawpool’s mining operations account for about one-third of all BCH-mined blocks in the world, the biggest of any mining pool.

Northern Bitcoin plans to use the deal to expand its mining operations in Norway via negotiated lower energy costs. The company will also diversify its business, which has been mining-oriented until now, by setting up multiple digital currency exchanges across Europe, in cooperation with Bi.top Exchanges, a unit of Crowdfund Group Inc., the U.S. owners of Rawpool.

Bitcoin Cash Miner Rawpool Agrees Wallet, Mining Deal With German's Northern Bitcoin
Mr Schultz

“The strategic collaboration with Rawpool takes Northern Bitcoin into a whole new dimension,” Schultz said in an online statement.

“It is great evidence of the impressive growth momentum that we, as the world’s leading sustainable bitcoin mining company, have developed successfully in the shortest possible time.”

Northern Bitcoin Shares Rise
After Deal Announcement

Northern Bitcoin, formerly Biosilu-Healthcare AG, runs its mining rigs in Norway, which the company claims are 100%-powered by renewable energy from hydro and wind power facilities. The network is designed to allow its users to contribute to the mining of cryptocurrencies, with the rewards split among the contributors.

Bitcoin Cash Miner Rawpool Agrees Wallet, Mining Deal With German's Northern Bitcoin
A Northern Bitcoin rig in Norway.

The German miner reported a $1.72 million net loss in the six months to June 2018. Last week, it listed its shares on M:Access, a secondary market for medium-size enterprises on the Munich Stock Exchange. Previously, the company had traded on the Munich exchange’s over-the-counter market, which is a rung below its current listing.

Shares of Northern Bitcoin rose just under 3 percent to $20.52 on the Munich exchange after the deal was announced. Over the past 52 weeks, the stock has reached a high of $58 and a low of $1.

Rawpool Dominates Bitcoin Cash Mining

“With Northern Bitcoin, we have found the perfect partner to introduce our rapidly-growing activities to the European market,” said David Li, founder and chief executive of Rawpool Group. “We see our agreement as the start of a great partnership and are aware that we can dominate the market with combined forces.”

In September, Rawpool became the world’s biggest miner of BCH, overtaking mining pools such as Coingeek, BMG Pool and Antpool. Li said at the time that his focus was on testing the bigger blocks offered on the BCH blockchain, but not for the BTC blockchain. “There’s lots of things to do besides the price of coins,” he said.

What do you think about Rawpool dominating the mining of BCH? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Bpal and Northern Bitcoin


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Don’t Hate EU Internet Regulation – Defy It

Don’t Hate EU Internet Regulation – Defy It

The European Union has come in for criticism over its repeated attempts to regulate the web. Critics assert that waves of EU legislation are suppressing free expression, impairing the user experience and, most heinously, “killing memes”. The solution, for those who take this view, would appear to be simple: don’t hate on the EU – defy them.

Also read: How to Use a VPN in the EU to Access the Uncensored Web

Rules Were Made to Be Broken

The European Union has the power to make internet laws, and it’s been exercising that right with gusto of late. When it comes to enforcing them, however, its powers all but evaporate. This is an important distinction to note. A lot of the headlines surrounding the passing of copyright laws Article 11 and 13, and the recent GDPR data protection legislation, are hyperbolic. That’s not to say there aren’t valid concerns to be raised over the implications of these laws, but the media, as well as the webmasters obliged to implement the EU’s directives, have missed the point.

Don’t Hate EU Internet Regulation – Defy ItWhen you try to visit a US website, as a European resident, and are barred from doing so by a notice blaming GDPR, that’s not the EU. That’s the fault of the webmaster, who has unilaterally decided out of caution, ignorance, or stupidity, to impose a blockade. The EU is not going to come after US websites that fail to display GDPR notices – it has no authority to do so, and no interest in doing so either. The same applies, believe it or not, for websites hosted within the European Union.

If you live in the EU, you’re sure to have bemoaned the absolute state of the internet lately. Visiting any website for the first time calls for blindly clicking to remove the GDPR-based privacy notice concealing the page before you can proceed. It’s annoying once; having to do so dozens of times a day is infuriating. Americans and Asians, free from the excesses of the EU, have no idea how good they’ve got it. Many European regions benefit from super-fast internet, but what’s the point in getting online faster, only to waste time clicking through a panoply of pop-ups?

Stop Caring About What the EU Says

Defiance has always been more effective than protest. Grumbling about the EU’s encroachment into your life won’t fix anything – openly defying them will. This exhortation applies to website operators in particular. Webmasters: take down your pop-ups. Conceal your GDPR notices in the Terms of Use page, where nobody goes. Ignore unjustified Article 13 takedown requests. Get on with doing what you were doing before the EU decided to become internet world police.

Don’t Hate EU Internet Regulation – Defy It

You won’t have been assailed by a privacy pop-up upon visiting news.Bitcoin.com because we don’t believe in molly-coddling our readers. We believe in Bitcoin, and the principles it stands for: empowerment, self-determinism, free will, and resisting overreaching government dictates. Kowtowing to authorities seeking to tell you what you can do with your internet money and internet platforms is a recipe for more laws and less freedom. Webmasters and web users: unite, keep calm and defy the EU. It’s your internet. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do.

Do you think EU laws make the web a better place or a worse one? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, and Twitter.


OP-ed disclaimer: This is an Op-ed article. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own. Bitcoin.com does not endorse nor support views, opinions or conclusions drawn in this post. Bitcoin.com is not responsible for or liable for any content, accuracy or quality within the Op-ed article. Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the content. Bitcoin.com is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any information in this Op-ed article.

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Wendy McElroy: Crypto and the New Cold War

Crypto and the New Cold War

The Satoshi Revolution: A Revolution of Rising Expectations
Section 4: State Versus Society
Chapter 10, Part 4
Crypto and the New Cold War

History is written by the victors.
-Winston Churchill

Success is a great deodorant.
-Elizabeth Taylor

The winning side of a war writes the narrative; politicians, cultural leaders, educators, and the media create the “facts” that school-children know. The losing side can struggle for decades to crack open a window onto inconvenient truths and a more complete picture. “Unimportant” facts do not fare much better in textbooks. Marginalized nations and groups are overlooked or selectively noted according to their relevance to the winner-loser framework. Things get lost. Average people get lost, because history revolves not only around victors but also around kings and queens, presidents and generals. Average people are faceless subjects or cannon fodder.

The historical parallel to the crypto revolution is called the “revolution of rising expectations.” The term refers to a condition in which even a slight increase in freedom and economic well-being make people believe they can improve their lives. They can benefit their families and future through action. The phenomenon rocked marginalized nations after World War II, from the Far East to Latin America and Africa, and it sparked political revolutions. The new order was often unpleasant, but that does not makes the phenomenon less remarkable.

Nothing in living memory has destabilized the world as thoroughly as World War II, and its aftermath. It wrecked industrialized nations that had anchored Europe; the world map was redrawn; America became the dominant empire; communism became a “bloc”; and the Cold War defined foreign policy until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The destabilization was more than political. It was also economic, social, and cultural, because the fabric of society is a seamless web in which everything connects.

A similar destabilization is occurring within currency, with crypto poised to play a unique role in the redefinition of the global economy and personal freedom. For one thing, crypto enthusiasts are among the few who will applaud the destabilization of a corrupt system (central banking) and view it as an opportunity.


The Return of the Cold War

After almost two years, hysteria still permeates the media over Russia’s alleged interference in America’s 2016 elections. This obsession is a manifestation of a larger global conflict in which America and its allies—albeit, some reluctantly—are pitted against Russia and China, along with their allies, and against the nations that America has alienated through policies of invasion, sanctions, and other forms of aggression. The global rivalry is for political influence, trade advantage, territory, and the future of space and the Arctic.

In short, a new Cold War is in progress. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. has been the world’s ruling power, but competitors and dissatisfied “customers” now contest that status (at least, economically). Once again, the undeclared Cold War is between super powers. Once again, individuals and marginalized nations will benefit as best they can from the opportunities that arise from economic disruption.

Unlike many other disruptions, the currency crisis is measurable and inevitable. For decades, the U.S. dollar has been the world’s default or reserve currency. A reserve currency is one that is held by governments and institutions for their foreign exchanges; it is the default currency used in international transactions by agencies and individuals. In 1944, the dollar was established as the reserve unit, partly because of its comparative merits and partly because of World-War-II political dynamics. The Bretton Woods Agreement was forged by over 700 delegates from 44 Allied nations in order to regulate post-war international finance. Central banks were to maintain fixed exchange rates between their national currencies and the U.S. dollar, buying or selling the dollar as necessary to regulate their own money supply and value. A “floating rate” was later substituted.

Owning the printing press for the world’s reserve currency contributed hugely to America economic and political dominance. It has been challenged over the last few decades, however. The European Union established a homogenized money across almost 20 nations, making the Euro the second-largest reserve currency and the second-most-traded one. Nations have also called for a “cashless” society, which would raise questions regarding the future of fiat. These challenges come from governments as they jostle for advantage.

And, then, there came the arrival of crypto. It was created by individuals in order to bypass the politics of currency and to control their own lives. It was developed by revolutionaries who had rising expectations of freedom.


The Challenge to America’s Currency Power

In a fast-moving world, a 1944 agreement has naturally eroded, not least because it was based on political circumstances. America has hastened its own decline, however, by abusing the dollar’s global muscle. In broad strokes, America will lose the power derived from a default currency and a dollar-based banking system for two reasons:

First: America’s belligerent foreign policy and its fiscal incompetence have run amok around the globe. In the last two decades, America has invaded more countries than ever before in its history. The astronomical cost of perpetual war is not merely economic; the cost is also the alienation or hatred that much of the world now feels toward the U.S. Even nations that have not been invaded resent the U.S.’s monetary policies, such as FATCA (the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act), which have been imposed upon the world to benefit the Americans at everyone else’s expense. 

Meanwhile, America’s inflation and debt soar to ruinous levels. The dollar-based central banking system is close to crashing. An economic cliff approaches and, seeing it on the horizon, the central banks scramble for solutions from a cashless society to negative interest rates or the issuance of official crypto. Removing the dollar as the reserve currency does not seem to be under active consideration. For one thing, it would mean a brutal confrontation with the U.S. For another, the systemic problems of central banking cannot be cured by swapping in a new reserve currency.

Second: Alternatives to the dollar and to the current central banking system are being developed. Former antagonists find common cause in this goal. In particular, China, Russia, Iran, and (now) Turkey have become dollar mavericks. Much of their response is driven by U.S. sanctions. Radio Free Europe reported, “Russia is vowing to speed up its efforts along with China and Iran to stop using the U.S. dollar in global trade, particularly in oil sales that are vital to both Moscow and Tehran.” The point is not whether the currency coup will succeed; the point is that other nations are actively weaponizing an alternate fiat against the U.S. If the currency coup does succeed, however, the basic functioning of the world’s finances will not change: fiat money, central banks, and the consequent theft from the individual.

More than money is stolen; hope and opportunities are stripped away. By contrast, crypto offers escape. It confronts fiat and central banking via the remarkable strategy of not confronting them at all; it simply bypasses them. Crypto is a proof of principle. The principle: it is possible to have global finance without government fiat or the toll bridge of central banking. It is possible for average people to control their own finances and to prosper, without the sanction of authorities. Crypto fuels a quiet but growing revolution.


The Revolution of Rising Expectations

People are awakening to autonomy through crypto. And that’s where the revolution resides-not in traders or investors, but in average people who glimpse financial freedom and safety for their families. Having glimpsed it, they then demand it. The energy of this demand rises like heat from two sources:

  • Marginalized nations in which survival is a driving force. Crypto thrived through Venezuela’s devastation and currency collapse, for example, despite harsh laws against it. Africa could-be-next-frontier-cryptocurrency is an engine for crypto because people have a visceral desire for a currency that is both independent of corruption and accepted by the wider world.
  • Secessionist movements that seek monetary independence as part of political autonomy. According to a Cointelegraph article (Oct. 8, 2017), “How Blockchain Helps Pave the Way for More Autonomous Governance,” “…independence movements [like Catalonia] are being supported by…the introduction of the cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin, and their underlying Blockchain technology. The growing use of the cryptocurrencies could help drive the success of secessionist movements around the world as digital currencies can be used by separatist states to finance their own governments…”


Why the Revolution is Dismissed

The crypto community makes the mistake of looking to investors, traders, and businessmen for political and historical analysis. Those who came up through the ranks of crypto probably have valuable perspectives, but those to whom crypto is nothing but a way to profit from a new form of investment will view it as nothing more than a new form of investment. Profit is a laudable thing, but it is not political or historical analysis. Those who view the essence of crypto as an investment will naturally promote policies that favor the goal of profit, such as respectability—that is, regulation. They will be scornful of advocates who perceive a deeper meaning to crypto, especially if that meaning sometimes obstructs profit, as does resistance to regulation.

Yet the political or historical analysis of successful traders and investors is accorded automatic credibility simply because they make profits. An important element is factored out of their analysis, though: the average person, the workingman who is trapped in a financial cage as strong as any bars. Those who open the door for him should not be derided. Freedom is not the enemy of profit. Nor is the overthrow of a corrupt system.

[To be continued next week]

Reprints of this article should credit bitcoin.com and include a link back to the original links to all previous chapters


Wendy McElroy has agreed to ”live-publish” her new book The Satoshi Revolution exclusively with Bitcoin.com. Every Saturday you’ll find another installment in a series of posts planned to conclude after about 18 months. Altogether they’ll make up her new book ”The Satoshi Revolution”. Read it here first.

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Bittrex to Launch Crypto Exchange in Malta Next Month

Bittrex to Launch Crypto Exchange in Malta Next Month

US-based cryptocurrency exchange Bittrex is reportedly launching a crypto exchange in Malta at the beginning of next month. Bittrex says the new platform will allow them to list coins “a lot faster.” It will operate within the regulatory framework established by the European Union and the Maltese government.

Also read: 160 Crypto Exchanges Seek to Enter Japanese Market, Regulator Reveals

Bittrex Eyes Malta Launch in October

Bittrex to Launch Crypto Exchange in Malta Next MonthBittrex has confirmed that “it will open a branch in Malta on Oct. 1, as part of its global expansion plans,” the Investor reported on Friday, September 14. Bittrex’s co-founder and CEO, Bill Shihara, said at the Upbit Developer Conference on the South Korean Jeju Island:

We are now planning to launch Bittrex Malta…This will allow us to list tokens a lot faster.

Bittrex to Launch Crypto Exchange in Malta Next Month
Bill Shihara at the Upbit Developer Conference 2018.

The conference is organized by Dunamu Inc., the operator of one of South Korea’s largest crypto exchanges, the Kakao-backed Upbit. Bittrex has a partnership agreement with Upbit that “allows the two exchanges to share the same order book and coin listings, among others,” the news outlet conveyed.

Shihara explained that “the coin listing process will be much easier and faster in Malta,” the publication noted, adding that the exchange “will also not charge fees for listing.”

Bittrex to Launch Crypto Exchange in Malta Next MonthBittrex has already established a subsidiary in Malta as well as an affiliated company, Bittrex International, to manage all of its overseas operations.

Citing that “Bittrex Malta is designed to operate within the regulatory framework established by the European Union and Maltese government,” the exchange wrote:

Every digital asset listed on Bittrex Malta will be available for our international network of partner exchanges to launch (consistent with their local laws).

Bittrex’s Overseas Expansion

The CEO explained that “Working with the government in the US to stay compliant is hard. So it would be very difficult for us to open offices around the world in different countries,” elaborating:

We actually like this partnership model… If we can find great partners like Dunamu, then they can handle a lot of work with local regulations and banks. All we need to do is just help them make their exchanges better.

Bittrex to Launch Crypto Exchange in Malta Next MonthThe news outlet noted that Shihara expressed “great satisfaction with the tie-up,” adding that “he seeks to renew the partnership every year, without plans to open a separate Bittrex branch in Korea.”

Bittrex started offering US dollar trading in May but currently has no plans to add other fiat currencies, the publication described. “But we do plan to continue listing more digital currencies that trade against the US dollar.” According to Coinmarketcap, Bittrex now lists 287 coins while Upbit has 273 coins listed.

What do you think of Bittrex opening an exchange in Malta? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, the Investor, Upbit, and Bittrex.


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How to Use a VPN in the EU to Access the Uncensored Web

How to Use a VPN in the EU to Access the Uncensored Web

If you’re reading these words from within the European Union, you may have had to first check a box confirming your consent. Ever since the EU’s GDPR law came into effect, the internet has become a minefield of opt-in forms. With the passing of the controversial Articles 11 and 13 this week, the web looks set to become even more convoluted to European citizens. Throw in the “Right to be forgotten” law, and Europe’s internet looks very different than that of America’s. At times like these, a VPN has never been more essential.

Also read: Faced With Cash And Forex Shortages, Zimbabweans Turn To Bitcoin – Even When It’s Banned

The Changing Face of Europe’s Internet

In the last two months, browsing the web from within the EU has become increasingly tiresome. A barrage of pop-ups and warning notices has turned a once frictionless experience into one that is filled with unnecessary checkpoints and pitstops. Well-meaning data protection legislation in the form of GDPR has had unintended consequences. Presented by an endless stream of compliance notices, European web users have become accustomed to consenting to everything, without even pausing to consider what they are signing up to. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do otherwise.

How to Use a VPN in the EU to Access the Uncensored Web
GDPR has made some websites looks like this, when accessed from the EU.

The EU’s “Right to be forgotten” law, which entitles individuals to have search results struck out that are deemed to impinge upon their privacy, already makes the first page of Google look very different from that viewed on the other side of the Atlantic. The passing of Article 13 this week threatens to further distort the web when viewed within the confines of the EU. The copyright directive may be well intentioned, but it is sure to have repercussions for web users.

How to Use a VPN in the EU to Access the Uncensored Web

While billed as the “meme killer”, Article 13’s purpose is ostensibly to filter out copyrighted material such as songs and images that have been uploaded to web platforms. There are pros and cons to this legislation, with exponents fearing that it will lead to censorship and exorbitant compliance costs for smaller websites. Proponents, meanwhile, see the law as balancing the power of Google and Facebook, who profit off the content created by others. Regardless of which side you’re on, this much is undeniable: to continue seeing the same internet as the rest of the world, EU citizens will need to connect from an IP outside of the European Union. Enter the VPN.

How a VPN Works

A Virtual Private Network is a software client that grants you an encrypted connection to the internet via a remote server. To any websites inspecting your IP address, it will appear that you are located elsewhere in the world. With your web traffic appearing to originate from the server you are connected to, third parties will struggle to ascertain your actual geographical location. Connect to a VPN server in Georgia, for example, and you will be treated to the same web content as any US resident of The Peach State, even though you may actually be in Britain or Spain.

How to Use a VPN in the EU to Access the Uncensored Web

There are numerous reasons why an individual might want to use a VPN, with privacy preservation being paramount. While not 100% foolproof, a VPN provides an added layer of protection between you and the internet service you are connecting to. If you are a cryptocurrency user, maximizing your privacy and enhancing your security are likely to already be primary motivators. Using a VPN in this context makes sense. With EU laws creating a non-fungible web, so to speak, which differs from one continent to another, there’s an added incentive to use a private network. The following VPN providers will enable EU residents to access an unfiltered and uncensored internet, with the added bonus of letting you pay with cryptocurrency.

The Best Crypto-Friendly VPN Providers

The number of VPNs that accept cryptocurrency as payment is extensive, and this list is by no means comprehensive. The following providers are all well regarded however. It should be noted that there are no guarantees that a service provider is not retaining logs of your browsing activity. Thus, having access to a VPN should not be seen as a cast-iron safeguard against having your location and identity discovered.

Pure VPN: Access starts from $3.54 per month and payment can be made in BTC, BCH, ETH and many more cryptocurrencies. With servers located in over 180 locations, you should have no trouble in connecting from wherever you want to be in the world.

Nord VPN: Plans commence at $6.99 per month and BTC, ETH, and XRP are accepted. The Swiss-based provider offers over 70 global locations to connect to.

Air VPN: Its UI is less refined than some of its competitors, but Air VPN has a good rep, having accepted BTC since the cryptocurrency’s early days, and its forums provide valuable advice for privacy connoisseurs. Payment can also be made in BCH, LTC, XRP, and ETH.

Express VPN: While a little more expensive than some, at $8.32 per month, Express VPN is easy to set up. It offers 148 locations and accepts BTC.

If you’re tired of having your privacy eroded, websites blocked, and search results filtered, acquiring a VPN is the one of the best things you can do to reclaim your freedom to browse.

What other VPN providers do you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.


Disclaimer: Bitcoin.com does not endorse nor support these products/services.

Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the mentioned companies or any of their affiliates or services. Bitcoin.com is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any content, goods or services mentioned in this article.

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European Union to Discuss New Rules for Cryptocurrency Sector

The Finance Ministers of 28 European countries on September 7 will meet in Vienna to discuss new rules for the locally emerging cryptocurrency sector. The informal gathering, according to the EU’s draft note, will witness a broad discussion about current policy issues relevant to financial and economic affairs. Bloomberg, which claims to have read the

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EU Study: International Nature of Cryptocurrency Markets Is a Challenge for Regulators

EU Study: International Nature of Cryptocurrency Markets Is a Challenge for Regulators

An EU study claims that the international nature of the cryptocurrency markets is a challenge for European regulators because many players, especially miners, are outside their reach. The researchers also expect that bank-issued coins could reshape the balance of power among cryptos, with commercial banks using underhanded tactics to stifle the competition.

Also Read: The Daily: TCAP Explores Market, Tutanota Accepts Cryptos, Huobi Launches Cloud

Regulatory Challenge

EU Study: International Nature of Cryptocurrency Markets Is a Challenge for RegulatorsA recent study titled “Competition issues in the Area of Financial Technology”, which was requested by the European Parliament Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, raised a couple of interesting issues from a regulatory point of view. First, the researchers say that the international nature of cryptocurrency markets is a challenge to the implementation of competition policy at the European level.

The paper explains that many of the players operate from locations outside the jurisdiction of EU competition authorities, which makes investigation or prosecution more difficult. The main weakness of European regulators is the concentration of the mining activity in non-European countries. The researchers write: “Mining is the most strategic, sophisticated and technology dependent activity in the cryptocurrency market, and there currently appears to be a significant concentration of mining activities occurring in certain Chinese provinces.”

Bank-Coins to Reshape Competition?

EU Study: International Nature of Cryptocurrency Markets Is a Challenge for RegulatorsThe EU study also claims that the arrival of “permissioned cryptocurrencies” issued by banks, both commercial and central, will reshape the current competition level in the cryptocurrency market. A potential inadequacy of traditional policy to address competition issues in the cryptocurrency markets can be found, “suggesting direct public participation through a central-bank digital currency as a remedy.”

The researchers warn that the market power of incumbent commercial banks might be used to limit competition in the cryptocurrency market through preemptive acquisitions or predatory pricing schemes. The banks may also engage in anti-competitive practices by denying access to their gateways for exchange or wallet services, such as payment and transfer systems or card processor schemes. This may be conducted by means of low service quality, delays in negotiation, proprietary technical standards or excessive pricing. They say that these practices may deter consumers from using normal cryptocurrencies in favor of those promoted by the banks.

Is the international cryptocurrency market being outside of a single regulator’s reach really a problem for competition? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Images courtesy of Shutterstock.


Verify and track bitcoin cash transactions on our BCH Block Explorer, the best of its kind anywhere in the world. Also, keep up with your holdings, BCH and other coins, on our market charts at Satoshi Pulse, another original and free service from Bitcoin.com.

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The European Union is Urging Regulators Not to Ban Cryptocurrencies

EU on cryptocurrencies

The EU on cryptocurrencies: The European Parliament has just published an in-depth analysis of virtual currencies.

EU on Cryptocurrencies

The EU parliament urged regulators and policymakers in a 33-page document not to attempt to ban cryptocurrencies. They also stressed that these countries can’t simply ignore cryptocurrencies either.

The report states:

“Policy makers and regulators should not ignore VCs, nor should they attempt to ban them. Both extreme approaches are incorrect.”

Virtual Currencies and Central Banks Monetary Policy: Changes Ahead

Policy Department A provided the document at the request of the ...

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EU Report Advises Regulators Not to Ban or Ignore Cryptocurrencies

EU Report Advises Regulators Not to Ban or Ignore Cryptocurrencies

A recent report published by the European Parliament advises policymakers and regulators not to ignore cryptocurrencies or attempt to ban them. It discusses how crypto should be treated, their taxation, as well as their potential impact on financial systems and central banks’ monopolies on money issuance.

Also read: Yahoo! Japan Confirms Entrance Into the Crypto Space

European Parliament’s In-Depth Analysis

The European Parliament last week published an in-depth analysis entitled “Virtual currencies and central banks monetary policy: challenges ahead.”

EU Report Advises Regulators Not to Ban or Ignore CryptocurrenciesThe 33-page document was provided by Policy Department A at the request of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee. It is co-authored by Marek Dabrowski and Lukasz Janikowski.

The report acknowledges that virtual currencies (VCs) “are often referred to as ‘cryptocurrencies’ because the majority of VCs rely extensively on use of cryptographic algorithms.” However, the authors of the paper wrote, “in our opinion, this term is misleading and may have a pejorative meaning, so we will not use it in our paper.” The document specifically defines VCs as private money that is usually decentralized, exists exclusively in digital form, most are based on blockchain technology, and most have global character meaning they work across national borders.

The report reads:

Policy makers and regulators should not ignore VCs, nor should they attempt to ban them. Both extreme approaches are incorrect.

The authors further asserted, “VCs should be treated by regulators as any other financial instrument, proportionally to their market importance, complexity, and associated risks…Given their global, trans-border character, it is recommended to harmonize such regulations across jurisdictions.” In addition, they recommend that investment in cryptocurrencies be taxed similarly to investment in other financial assets.

Impact on Financial Systems

EU Report Advises Regulators Not to Ban or Ignore CryptocurrenciesThe report discusses the potential impact of cryptocurrencies on financial systems as well as whether they can break central banks’ monopolies on money issuance.

After analyzing the impact of cryptocurrencies on monetary policy, the authors concluded that it seems unlikely that cryptocurrency has the potential to compete with the sovereign currencies issued by central banks, “despite the relative market success of bitcoin and the chances for similar successes with its followers.”

Citing that the total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies in April was below US$300 billion while broad money (M3) in the US approached US$14 trillion at the end of 2017, the report states:

The monetary dominance of major central banks and major currencies seems to remain unchallenged in the near future.

Walking a Thin Line

EU Report Advises Regulators Not to Ban or Ignore CryptocurrenciesNonetheless, the authors believe that “the prospects may look different in smaller monetary jurisdictions, especially in countries where the sovereign currency remains inconvertible or does not enjoy the trust of economic agents due to its poor record of stability or due to political and economic uncertainty.”

The report also finds that the demand for cryptocurrencies is not going away and that it should be taken seriously by all readers. “The economists who attempt to dismiss the justifications for and importance of VCs, considering them…frauds or simply as a convenient instrument for money laundering, are mistaken. VCs respond to real market demand and, most likely, will remain with us for a while.” It also concedes that:

In extreme cases, such as during periods of hyperinflation, financial crisis, political turmoil, or war, they can become a means of currency substitution in individual economies.

Meanwhile, the authors reiterated their opinion that cryptocurrencies pose little threat to the existing central banks. “Despite their technological advances and global reach,” cryptocurrencies are “far from being able to challenge the dominant position of sovereign currencies and the monetary policies of central banks, especially in major currency areas,” they conveyed. In the document’s summary they even hinted at a specific way to keep cryptocurrencies from becoming a more useful money:

As long as major trading platforms and financial intermediaries do not accept payments in VCs, their transactional role will remain limited and they will fulfil mainly the third function of money, the store of value —that is, they will serve as one of many investment assets.

What do you think of the European Parliament’s findings and recommendations? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Kraken Goes Savage Against Tether Manipulation Allegations

Kraken Goes Savage Against Tether Manipulation Allegations

Following a Bloomberg News expose, alleging market manipulation of controversial alternative token Tether (USDT) on its exchange, Kraken fires off a savage blog post mocking journalists and defending their business’ integrity.

Also read: Red Flag Waved in Tether’s Relationship with Kraken Exchange

Kraken Goes Savage On Bloomberg

On Tether: Journalists Defy Logic, Raising Red Flags reveals the San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange is having exactly none of it. A journalist “covering market structure for Bloomberg News inexplicably fails to comprehend basic market concepts such as arbitrage, order books and currency pegs.  More troubling, however, was the applause from other ‘journalist’ lemmings as they followed in walking their reputations off a cliff.  It defies logic.”

Kraken Goes Savage Against Tether Manipulation Allegations

Kraken is a scrappier exchange in the crypto world, and if the present rebuttal doesn’t convince readers of that fact, remembering back to its verbal joust with no less than the New York Attorney General would suffice. The AG issued its notorious Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative Questionnaire to leading cryptocurrency exchanges throughout the United States, and then, as now, Kraken went savage. CEO Jesse Powell shot back, referring to the AG’s request directly, “When I saw this 34-point demand, with a deadline 2 weeks out, I immediately thought ‘The audacity of these guys — the entitlement, the disrespect for our business, our time!’” 

Kraken Goes Savage Against Tether Manipulation Allegations
Matt Leising

True too is the fact it has been one hell of a week for Kraken’s current object of scorn and derision, journalist Matt Leising. Not only was he principal author in the offending Tether story, he also released viral speculation about Satoshi Nakamoto’s reemergence via new writings. For Kraken, however, “The would-be Tether takedown was indefensible and handily dismantled by the community.  Each comment a prelude to a thorough evisceration,” and nearly half a dozen scathing Tweets follow. Mr. Leising has since announced he is “off Twitter until July 9. Go yell at someone else.”

For the exchange, the need to push back on Mr. Leising’s work in this manner comes down to the presumption “lawmakers are reading this stuff. The title sure was sensational, and it undoubtedly grabbed eyeballs but what of the readers who are not following the outrage on Reddit and Twitter? What of those who rely on the journalistic integrity and expertise of their news sources? If we are to take up our pitchforks against market manipulation, guide your torches toward this illumination: the Bloomberg News piece was published on June 29th, the last business day of trading for Q2, and expiration date of numerous futures contracts. It raises red flags,” the post chastised at Mr. Leising’s methodology.

Kraken Goes Savage Against Tether Manipulation Allegations
“Taking a look at a snapshot of the order book, we see that there is well over $1 million dollars of resting buy and sell orders within a very close range around a price level of $1 US dollar. As a result, price changes in USDT are typically very small.”

Tether’s Price is Not Being Manipulated by Kraken

After explaining USDT’s price stability is a function of the token’s inherent design and rather banal arbitrage, the exchange turns to its overall influence on the tether market at large. “As much as we pride ourselves on the level of recognition we enjoy in the industry,” Kraken explains, “we sadly cannot claim to be the arbiters of the price of USDT.  It is more likely determined by the billions of USDT traded over markets like BTC/USDT or ETH/USDT on other platforms. If 1 BTC trades for ~6,350 USDT on one platform and ~$6,350 US dollars on Kraken, then the implied price of each USDT is logically $1 US dollar. This level of USDT price discovery happens on markets with hundreds of millions of dollars of volume, not on Kraken’s USDT/USD market, which has currently traded less than $1 million in the last 24 hours.” They further invite anyone to check their logic against publicly available data.

The exchange bills itself in terms of euro liquidity and volume “the world’s largest bitcoin exchange.” It operates in the United States, European Union, Canada, and Japan. Owned by Payward Inc., ironically it provides bitcoin core (BTC) pricing to the Bloomberg Terminal. It was founded largely in the wake of the Mt. Gox implosion, and established itself as a viable alternative. It was launched by Mr. Powell in Fall of 2013, and, with some noted hiccups, has been an ecosystem staple.

Kraken Goes Savage Against Tether Manipulation Allegations
“For a real-world historical picture of a massive pegged market, take a look at USD/CNY in 2004,” above.

“We take allegations of manipulation very seriously,” the exchange insisted. “We strive to operate a platform that is open and fair to all of our users.” Nevertheless, “After reading the Bloomberg article, we scratched our heads, questioning just what type of manipulation was being claimed.” Rhetorically, it asks, “Is it so hard to believe that an asset-backed stablecoin could trade, well… with so much stability?  As we discussed previously, one need only take a look at the order book to understand why trades of different sizes result in little-to-no change in price levels. If an order book is too hard a concept to grasp, think about stock at your grocery store.  Why doesn’t the price on avocados change every time you put one in your basket?”

As for the charge of wash trading, “If you’re looking around for potential wash trading in USDT, we recommend you look elsewhere.  That said, it’s not clear what harm could come from wash trading of a pegged asset against its peg. In Kraken’s case, USDT is only traded against its peg, USD, which itself is an explicitly manipulated asset.” And that pesky 13,076.389 number thought to be so very maniacal? They “asked the botter responsible for the mysterious 13076.389 orders. The answer: ‘literally randomly selected.’ So, there you have it,” they conclude.

Is tether’s price being manipulated? Let us know in the comments. 


Images via the Pixabay, Twitter.


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Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Spanish Parties Back Crypto Draft, Slovenia Adopts Crypto Action Plan

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Spanish Parties Back Crypto Draft, Slovenia Adopts Crypto Action Plan

All parties represented in the Spanish Congress have voiced support for a new draft legislation introducing favorable crypto regulations in the country. We’ve covered the details in today’s edition of Bitcoin in Brief. Also, Slovenia adopts a crypto action plan, Estonia drops plans to issue a national cryptocurrency, and Hungary claims it’s ready to join the global blockchain market.  

Also read: Bitcoin in Brief Friday: Expanding Horizons in a Bearish Month

Spanish Parties Call for Favorable Crypto Regulations

Lawmakers in Spain, who have earlier this year reviewed proposals to introduce incentives for crypto companies, have now issued a unanimous call for adopting regulations that favor the implementation of crypto and blockchain technologies. These should be introduced to the market “through controlled testing environments.” A draft legislation aimed at achieving the goal, proposed again by the ruling People’s Party, has just won support from all parliamentary groups in the Finance and Public Function Committee of the Spanish Congress.

The legislative initiative calls for promoting the advantages of the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, including cost savings through the elimination of intermediaries in payments and transfers and the benefits it offers when it comes to raising capital, especially for startups. Its sponsors urge support for projects to build authorized blockchain technology networks, Europa Press reported.

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Spanish Parties Back Crypto Draft, Slovenia Adopts Crypto Action Plan

The draft approved by Spain’s leading parties also turns attention to the perils associated with crypto-related operations, calling for “adequate dissemination of information about the risks” assumed by investors, as well as their rights and the guarantees they can rely on. According to Spanish deputies, the approach will help to avoid “economic damages that are impossible to repair”, such as those linked to high-risk financial products.

Lawmakers call on the government in Madrid to support the initiative and join the efforts of the National Securities Market Commission and the Bank of Spain in that direction. They also insist on reaching a common position in regards to the use and the regulation of cryptocurrencies on European level and ask the executive branch of power to work with other EU countries and institutions to achieve that.

Slovenia Adopts Crypto and Blockchain Action Plan

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Spanish Parties Back Crypto Draft, Slovenia Adopts Crypto Action PlanThe government in Ljubljana has adopted an action plan to underpin the implementation of blockchain technology in Slovenia and create a regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies. According to the Economy Ministry, the plan entails a series of measures designed to also regulate Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). Slovenian authorities hope to establish a safe and stable legal environment to help the creation, growth and development of blockchain technology-based projects and startups.

Another goal is to transpose in the national legislation the legal provisions adopted by European and other relevant institutions, STA reported. Local officials believe that the application of blockchain technologies can improve the competitiveness of the Slovenian economy. The government also backed the creation of a European Blockchain Hub as a link between public and private stakeholders in the field, both in Slovenia and within the EU. On Thursday, the Slovenian Ministry of Economy was tasked to get actively involved in the hub.

Estonia Backpedals on Plans for National Crypto

Estonian officials have scaled down plans to issue a national cryptocurrency, which were criticized some time ago by both the European Central Bank and local banking authorities. According to Siim Sikkut, who is in charge of the country’s IT strategy, Estonia has dropped its intentions to peg the Estcoin to the common European currency and offer it to all citizens. The digital tokens will instead be distributed as an incentive to e-residents of the Baltic country, Sikkut said in an interview, Bloomberg reported. These are foreign nationals who use Estonia’s electronic identification system to remotely sign documents and set up companies.

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Spanish Parties Back Crypto Draft, Slovenia Adopts Crypto Action Plan

The tech-savvy former Soviet republic was one of the first European nations to come up with plans for a national cryptocurrency. Similar initiatives have been discussed in Sweden, Switzerland, Poland, the UK, and other countries. The idea, however, was not appreciated by the ECB management. In September, the bank’s president, Mario Draghi, criticized the proposal declaring that “No member state can introduce its own currency. The currency of the Eurozone is the euro.”

“We agreed in discussions with politicians that Estcoin will proceed as a means for transactions inside the e-resident community. Other options aren’t on the table. We’re not building a new currency,” Siim Sikkut said. This was confirmed by the author of the Estcoin plan, Kaspar Korjus, who also noted that the details are still being analyzed for potential benefits. Estcoin “would definitely not be a national ‘cryptocurrency’,” he emphasized. Estonia’s e-residency program has so far issued ID cards to more than 35,000 foreigners. The majority of the participants are from Finland, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Hungary Prepared to Join the Global Blockchain Market

Blockchaineum 2.0, arguably the largest blockchain summit in Central and Eastern Europe, recently gathered major stakeholders in Budapest to discuss blockchain-based solutions and other hot topics related to the implementation of the technology around the world. While many in Europe are just starting to take blockchain seriously, Hungary has been preparing for some time and now claims it’s ready to join the global blockchain market.

Bitcoin in Brief Saturday: Spanish Parties Back Crypto Draft, Slovenia Adopts Crypto Action Plan“Many regulatory rules have been laid down recently on European level, and it is in Hungary’s best interest to make use of them in order to become a regional center. Although, this won’t happen because of regulation, but rather on purely market basis,” said Tamás Czeglédi, quoted by the Budapest Business Journal. He is one of the organizers of the event and is working to put his country on the European blockchain map.

Hungarian business wants to jump on the blockchain bandwagon ahead of regional competitors and it has created a Blockchain Competence Center (BCC) earlier this year to prove its intentions. “Whereas the EU had been focusing on regulation until around a year ago, the past few months saw a shift towards a more practical approach,” said Péter Benedek, the CEO of BCC. “The newly established Ministry for Innovation and Technology, along with the enhanced national digital wellbeing strategy, can help local blockchain players embrace innovative solutions and improve their fundraising potential,” he added.

What are your thoughts on today’s Bitcoin in Brief topics? Let us know in the comments section below.


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South Korea to Follow G20 Unified Cryptocurrency Regulations

South Korea to Follow G20 Unified Cryptocurrency Regulations

The South Korean government reportedly plans to soften its crypto regulations in line with the policies set by the G20 nations in an effort to create “unified regulations.” The Korean regulators have also agreed to apply the standards set by the Financial Action Task Force to its crypto policies.

Also read: Yahoo! Japan Confirms Entrance Into the Crypto Space

G20’s Unified Crypto Regulations

South Korea is reportedly planning to follow the policies set by the G-20 nations and soften its crypto regulations, the Korea Times reported.

The G20 is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors. Its members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and the European Union.

South Korea to Follow G20 Unified Cryptocurrency Regulations

The top financial policymakers of these countries have agreed to acknowledge and regulate cryptocurrencies as financial assets, the news outlet noted, elaborating:

Financial policymakers of G-20 nations have set a July deadline for the first step toward ‘unified regulations’ of cryptocurrencies. One reason for the move by the G-20 is that they see cryptocurrencies as ‘too small to jeopardize’ financial markets. The combined market value of cryptocurrencies is less than 1 percent of the global GDP.

Financial Action Task Force Standards

While the G-20 classifies cryptocurrencies as financial assets, the Korean government has earlier classified them as non-financial products due to their speculative nature. Acknowledging the differences, the country’s Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) was quoted expressing:

It’s almost certain that cryptocurrencies will be classified as assets and the main issue will be centered on how to regulate them properly under the unified frame that will be agreed upon between G-20 nations. Given the current stance, this isn’t good, but we will step up efforts to improve things.

South Korea has also agreed to apply to cryptocurrencies the standards of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body formed to fight money laundering and terrorism financing, the publication conveyed.

Softening Crypto Policies

Recently, the new FSS chief indicated that he will ease the country’s cryptocurrency regulations. Governor Yoon Suk-heun said there are many positive aspects of cryptocurrencies, promising to release updates on this issue in the near future.

South Korea to Follow G20 Unified Cryptocurrency RegulationsMeanwhile, the country’s National Tax Agency has been collaborating with the finance ministry to collect tax data in order to establish crypto tax policies. While cryptocurrency transactions are currently tax-free in Korea, crypto operators are required to pay income taxes, the news outlet detailed.

Despite the new FSS chief suggesting an easing of crypto regulations, his department has launched an investigation into crypto exchanges, in collaboration with other related authorities. In March, the prosecution arrested four employees of crypto exchanges including the CEO of Coinnest. Last week, they started investigating the country’s largest crypto exchange, Upbit. This week, three people were arrested from HTS Coin exchange for alleged fraud and embezzlement charges.

Do you think South Korea will soon ease crypto policies? Let us know in the comments section below.


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The UK and USA need to extend their “special relationship” to technology development

The UK and the USA have always had an enduring bond, with diplomatic, cultural and economic ties that have remained firm for centuries.

We live in an era of profound change, and are living with technologies set to change things ever faster. If Britain and America work together to develop these technologies for the good of mankind, in a way that is open and free, yet also safe and good for our citizens, we can maintain the global lead our nations have enjoyed in the fields of innovation.

Over past months we have seen some very significant strides forward in this business relationship. All of the biggest US companies have made decisions to invest in the UK. Apple is developing a new HQ in the iconic Battersea Power Station, close to the new US embassy, while Google is building a billion dollar new HQ in the increasingly fashionable King’s Cross. Facebook, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft are all extending their operations, and a multitude of smaller US firms are basing their international headquarters in London.

They are all coming here because as we prepare to leave the EU we are building a forward looking Britain that is open to the wider world, and tech is at the heart of this.

Similarly, there have been major expansions or new investment from British firms into the US. Jaguar Land Rover, the UK’s largest automotive manufacturer, supports more than 9,000 jobs in the USA and have recently opened their new multimillion-dollar corporate North America HQ in New Jersey.  iProov, a leading British provider of biometric facial verification technology, became the first international company to be awarded a contract from the US Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program last month.

We want to work with our global partners – to share expertise, and encourage investment – as we harness technology for the wider good. And that of course includes our old friend and closest ally, the USA.

We have a great deal to offer.

The UK was recently ranked the most AI ready nation among all the OECD countries. In the past three years, new AI start-ups have been created in the UK on an almost weekly basis.

Recently, UK government and industry together committed over $1 billion to support our AI sector, much of which will go towards entrepreneurs. Funding has been set aside to create a nationwide network of tech incubators, that we’re calling “Tech Nation”, which will support new AI businesses as they get off the ground.

We are also excited by — and I am a firm advocate for — the development of blockchain and similar technologies. The UK is leading the way in many areas where blockchain has the potential to be used, such as Fintech. There are now more people working in UK Fintech than in New York or in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia combined.

And we are eminent in the development of immersive technologies, like Augmented and Virtual Reality, which look set to radically improve many areas of life in coming years, with applications as varied as flight simulation and surgical training techniques.

There is so much to be gained from close collaboration between our two countries on these new technologies and from sharing our expertise.

Together, we can reap the economic benefits of stealing an early lead in their development. We estimate that AI, for example, if widely adopted, could add $33 billion to the UK economy. But, perhaps most importantly, we can also work together to build a strong regulatory and ethical frameworks for their wider application.

It is the role of governments across the world, the UK and US included, to set frameworks for these decentralised, cross border systems so we can manage their use in a safe and effective way.

Our aim should be to harness the power and capability of technology but always for the benefit of, and in service to the populace.

We in the UK are avowedly pro-tech, always seeking to put its power in the hands of our citizens.

We have all learned valuable lessons from the recent scandals regarding data use, most recently around Facebook’s use of data.

We want to build a system that protects and cherishes the freedom of the Internet while protecting the rights of individuals, and their property, including intellectual property.

We want to see freedom in a framework; where our tech entrepreneurs have the space to innovate, knowing they do so with full public trust. Trust underpins a strong economy, and trust in data underpins a strong digital economy.

So in the UK we are developing a Digital Charter, to agree norms and rules for the online world and put them into practice. Our starting point is that what is unacceptable offline should not be tolerated in the online world. That includes how tech companies treat private citizens and use their data, as well as how people treat each other online.

Important changes like these cannot be agreed by one country alone. It is more important than ever that we work together and find common ground so we can make sure that tech continues to change the world for the better. Based on our mutual love of freedom and individual rights Britain and America have through history risen to challenges together. I firmly believe working together we can build that brighter future.

What do AI and blockchain mean for the rule of law?

Digital services have frequently been in collision — if not out-and-out conflict — with the rule of law. But what happens when technologies such as deep learning software and self-executing code are in the driving seat of legal decisions?

How can we be sure next-gen ‘legal tech’ systems are not unfairly biased against certain groups or individuals? And what skills will lawyers need to develop to be able to properly assess the quality of the justice flowing from data-driven decisions?

While entrepreneurs have been eyeing traditional legal processes for some years now, with a cost-cutting gleam in their eye and the word ‘streamline‘ on their lips, this early phase of legal innovation pales in significance beside the transformative potential of AI technologies that are already pushing their algorithmic fingers into legal processes — and perhaps shifting the line of the law itself in the process.

But how can legal protections be safeguarded if decisions are automated by algorithmic models trained on discrete data-sets — or flowing from policies administered by being embedded on a blockchain?

These are the sorts of questions that lawyer and philosopher Mireille Hildebrandt, a professor at the research group for Law, Science, Technology and Society at Vrije Universiteit Brussels in Belgium, will be engaging with during a five-year project to investigate the implications of what she terms ‘computational law’.

Last month the European Research Council awarded Hildebrandt a grant of 2.5 million to conduct foundational research with a dual technology focus: Artificial legal intelligence and legal applications of blockchain.

Discussing her research plan with TechCrunch, she describes the project as both very abstract and very practical, with a staff that will include both lawyers and computer scientists. She says her intention is to come up with a new legal hermeneutics — so, basically, a framework for lawyers to approach computational law architectures intelligently; to understand limitations and implications, and be able to ask the right questions to assess technologies that are increasingly being put to work assessing us.

“The idea is that the lawyers get together with the computer scientists to understand what they’re up against,” she explains. “I want to have that conversation… I want lawyers who are preferably analytically very sharp and philosophically interested to get together with the computer scientists and to really understand each other’s language.

“We’re not going to develop a common language. That’s not going to work, I’m convinced. But they must be able to understand what the meaning of a term is in the other discipline, and to learn to play around, and to say okay, to see the complexity in both fields, to shy away from trying to make it all very simple.

“And after seeing the complexity to then be able to explain it in a way that the people that really matter — that is us citizens — can make decisions both at a political level and in everyday life.”

Hildebrandt says she included both AI and blockchain technologies in the project’s remit as the two offer “two very different types of computational law”.

There is also of course the chance that the two will be applied in combination — creating “an entirely new set of risks and opportunities” in a legal tech setting.

Blockchain “freezes the future”, argues Hildebrandt, admitting of the two it’s the technology she’s more skeptical of in this context. “Once you’ve put it on a blockchain it’s very difficult to change your mind, and if these rules become self-reinforcing it would be a very costly affair both in terms of money but also in terms of effort, time, confusion and uncertainty if you would like to change that.

“You can do a fork but not, I think, when governments are involved. They can’t just fork.”

That said, she posits that blockchain could at some point in the future be deemed an attractive alternative mechanism for states and companies to settle on a less complex system to determine obligations under global tax law, for example. (Assuming any such accord could indeed be reached.)

Given how complex legal compliance can already be for Internet platforms operating across borders and intersecting with different jurisdictions and political expectations there may come a point when a new system for applying rules is deemed necessary — and putting policies on a blockchain could be one way to respond to all the chaotic overlap.

Though Hildebrandt is cautious about the idea of blockchain-based systems for legal compliance.

It’s the other area of focus for the project — AI legal intelligence — where she clearly sees major potential, though also of course risks too. “AI legal intelligence means you use machine learning to do argumentation mining — so you do natural language processing on a lot of legal texts and you try to detect lines of argumentation,” she explains, citing the example of needing to judge whether a specific person is a contractor or an employee.

“That has huge consequences in the US and in Canada, both for the employer… and for the employee and if they get it wrong the tax office may just walk in and give them an enormous fine plus claw back a lot of money which they may not have.”

As a consequence of confused case law in the area, academics at the University of Toronto developed an AI to try to help — by mining lots of related legal texts to generate a set of features within a specific situation that could be used to check whether a person is an employee or not.

“They’re basically looking for a mathematical function that connected input data — so lots of legal texts — with output data, in this case whether you are either an employee or a contractor. And if that mathematical function gets it right in your data set all the time or nearly all the time you call it high accuracy and then we test on new data or data that has been kept apart and you see whether it continues to be very accurate.”

Given AI’s reliance on data-sets to derive algorithmic models that are used to make automated judgement calls, lawyers are going to need to understand how to approach and interrogate these technology structures to determine whether an AI is legally sound or not.

High accuracy that’s not generated off of a biased data-set cannot just be a ‘nice to have’ if your AI is involved in making legal judgment calls on people.

“The technologies that are going to be used, or the legal tech that is now being invested in, will require lawyers to interpret the end results — so instead of saying ‘oh wow this has 98% accuracy and it outperforms the best lawyers!’ they should say ‘ah, ok, can you please show me the set of performance metrics that you tested on. Ah thank you, so why did you put these four into the drawer because they have low accuracy?… Can you show me your data-set? What happened in the hypothesis space? Why did you filter those arguments out?’

“This is a conversation that really requires lawyers to become interested, and to have a bit of fun. It’s a very serious business because legal decisions have a lot of impact on people’s lives but the idea is that lawyers should start having fun in interpreting the outcomes of artificial intelligence in law. And they should be able to have a serious conversation about the limitations of self-executing code — so the other part of the project [i.e. legal applications of blockchain tech].

“If somebody says ‘immutability’ they should be able to say that means that if after you have put everything in the blockchain you suddenly discover a mistake that mistake is automated and it will cost you an incredible amount of money and effort to get it repaired… Or ‘trustless’ — so you’re saying we should not trust the institutions but we should trust software that we don’t understand, we should trust all sorts of middlemen, i.e. the miners in permissionless, or the other types of middlemen who are in other types of distributed ledgers… ”

“I want lawyers to have ammunition there, to have solid arguments… to actually understand what bias means in machine learning,” she continues, pointing by way of an example to research that’s being done by the AI Now Institute in New York to investigate disparate impacts and treatments related to AI systems.

“That’s one specific problem but I think there are many more problems,” she adds of algorithmic discrimination. “So the purpose of this project is to really get together, to get to understand this.

“I think it’s extremely important for lawyers, not to become computer scientists or statisticians but to really get their finger behind what’s happening and then to be able to share that, to really contribute to legal method — which is text oriented. I’m all for text but we have to, sort of, make up our minds when we can afford to use non-text regulation. I would actually say that that’s not law.

“So how should be the balance between something that we can really understand, that is text, and these other methods that lawyers are not trained to understand… And also citizens do not understand.”

Hildebrandt does see opportunities for AI legal intelligence argument mining to be “used for the good” — saying, for example, AI could be applied to assess the calibre of the decisions made by a particular court.

Though she also cautions that huge thought would need to go into the design of any such systems.

“The stupid thing would be to just give the algorithm a lot of data and then train it and then say ‘hey yes that’s not fair, wow that’s not allowed’. But you could also really think deeply what sort of vectors you have to look at, how you have to label them. And then you may find out that — for instance — the court sentences much more strictly because the police is not bringing the simple cases to court but it’s a very good police and they talk with people, so if people have not done something really terrible they try to solve that problem in another way, not by using the law. And then this particular court gets only very heavy cases and therefore gives far more heavy sentences than other courts that get from their police or public prosecutor all life cases.

“To see that you should not only look at legal texts of course. You have to look also at data from the police. And if you don’t do that then you can have very high accuracy and a total nonsensical outcome that doesn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know. And if you do it another way you can sort of confront people with their own prejudices and make it interesting — challenge certain things. But in a way that doesn’t take too much for granted. And my idea would be that the only way this is going to work is to get a lot of different people together at the design stage of the system — so when you are deciding which data you’re going to train on, when you are developing what machine learners call your ‘hypothesis space’, so the type of modeling you’re going to try and do. And then of course you should test five, six, seven performance metrics.

“And this is also something that people should talk about — not just the data scientists but, for instance, lawyers but also the citizens who are going to be affected by what we do in law. And I’m absolutely convinced that if you do that in a smart way that you get much more robust applications. But then the incentive structure to do it that way is maybe not obvious. Because I think legal tech is going to be used to reduce costs.”

She says one of the key concepts of the research project is legal protection by design — opening up other interesting (and not a little alarming) questions such as what happens to the presumption of innocence in a world of AI-fueled ‘pre-crime’ detectors?

“How can you design these systems in such a way that they offer legal protection from the first minute they come to the market — and not as an add-on or a plug in. And that’s not just about data protection but also about non-discrimination of course and certain consumer rights,” she says.

“I always think that the presumption of innocence has to be connected with legal protection by design. So this is more on the side of the police and the intelligence services — how can you help the intelligence services and the police to buy or develop ICT that has certain constrains which makes it compliant with the presumption of innocence which is not easy at all because we probably have to reconfigure what is the presumption of innocence.”

And while the research is part abstract and solidly foundational, Hildebrandt points out that the technologies being examined — AI and blockchain — are already being applied in legal contexts, albeit in “a state of experimentation”.

And, well, this is one tech-fueled future that really must not be unevenly distributed. The risks are stark.   

“Both the EU and national governments have taken a liking to experimentation… and where experimentation stops and systems are really already implemented and impacting decisions about your and my life is not always so easy to see,” she adds.

Her other hope is that the interpretation methodology developed through the project will help lawyers and law firms to navigate the legal tech that’s coming at them as a sales pitch.

“There’s going to be, obviously, a lot of crap on the market,” she says. “That’s inevitable, this is going to be a competitive market for legal tech and there’s going to be good stuff, bad stuff, and it will not be easy to decide what’s good stuff and bad stuff — so I do believe that by taking this foundational perspective it will be more easy to know where you have to look if you want to make that judgement… It’s about a mindset and about an informed mindset on how these things matter.

“I’m all in favor of agile and lean computing. Don’t do things that make no sense… So I hope this will contribute to a competitive advantage for those who can skip methodologies that are basically nonsensical.”

Europe eyeing bot IDs, ad transparency and blockchain to fight fakes

European Union lawmakers want online platforms to come up with their own systems to identify bot accounts.

This is as part of a voluntary Code of Practice the European Commission now wants platforms to develop and apply — by this summer — as part of a wider package of proposals it’s put out which are generally aimed at tackling the problematic spread and impact of disinformation online.

The proposals follow an EC-commissioned report last month, by its High-Level Expert Group, which recommended more transparency from online platforms to help combat the spread of false information online — and also called for urgent investment in media and information literacy education, and strategies to empower journalists and foster a diverse and sustainable news media ecosystem.

Bots, fake accounts, political ads, filter bubbles

In an announcement on Friday the Commission said it wants platforms to establish “clear marking systems and rules for bots” in order to ensure “their activities cannot be confused with human interactions”. It does not go into a greater level of detail on how that might be achieved. Clearly it’s intending platforms to have to come up with relevant methodologies.

Identifying bots is not an exact science — as academics conducting research into how information spreads online could tell you. The current tools that exist for trying to spot bots typically involve rating accounts across a range of criteria to give a score of how likely an account is to be algorithmically controlled vs human controlled. But platforms do at least have a perfect view into their own systems, whereas academics have had to rely on the variable level of access platforms are willing to give them.

Another factor here is that given the sophisticated nature of some online disinformation campaigns — the state-sponsored and heavily resourced efforts by Kremlin backed entities such as Russia’s Internet Research Agency, for example — if the focus ends up being algorithmically controlled bots vs IDing bots that might have human agents helping or controlling them, plenty of more insidious disinformation agents could easily slip through the cracks.

That said, other measures in the EC’s proposals for platforms include stepping up their existing efforts to shutter fake accounts and being able to demonstrate the “effectiveness” of such efforts — so greater transparency around how fake accounts are identified and the proportion being removed (which could help surface more sophisticated human-controlled bot activity on platforms too).

Another measure from the package: The EC says it wants to see “significantly” improved scrutiny of ad placements — with a focus on trying to reduce revenue opportunities for disinformation purveyors.

Restricting targeting options for political advertising is another component. “Ensure transparency about sponsored content relating to electoral and policy-making processes,” is one of the listed objectives on its fact sheet — and ad transparency is something Facebook has said it’s prioritizing since revelations about the extent of Kremlin disinformation on its platform during the 2016 US presidential election, with expanded tools due this summer.

The Commission also says generally that it wants platforms to provide “greater clarity about the functioning of algorithms” and enable third-party verification — though there’s no greater level of detail being provided at this point to indicate how much algorithmic accountability it’s after from platforms.

We’ve asked for more on its thinking here and will update this story with any response. It looks to be seeking to test the water to see how much of the workings of platforms’ algorithmic blackboxes can be coaxed from them voluntarily — such as via measures targeting bots and fake accounts — in an attempt to stave off formal and more fulsome regulations down the line.

Filter bubbles also appear to be informing the Commission’s thinking, as it says it wants platforms to make it easier for users to “discover and access different news sources representing alternative viewpoints” — via tools that let users customize and interact with the online experience to “facilitate content discovery and access to different news sources”.

Though another stated objective is for platforms to “improve access to trustworthy information” — so there are questions about how those two aims can be balanced, i.e. without efforts towards one undermining the other. 

On trustworthiness, the EC says it wants platforms to help users assess whether content is reliable using “indicators of the trustworthiness of content sources”, as well as by providing “easily accessible tools to report disinformation”.

In one of several steps Facebook has taken since 2016 to try to tackle the problem of fake content being spread on its platform the company experimented with putting ‘disputed’ labels or red flags on potentially untrustworthy information. However the company discontinued this in December after research suggested negative labels could entrench deeply held beliefs, rather than helping to debunk fake stories.

Instead it started showing related stories — containing content it had verified as coming from news outlets its network of fact checkers considered reputable — as an alternative way to debunk potential fakes.

The Commission’s approach looks to be aligning with Facebook’s rethought approach — with the subjective question of how to make judgements on what is (and therefore what isn’t) a trustworthy source likely being handed off to third parties, given that another strand of the code is focused on “enabling fact-checkers, researchers and public authorities to continuously monitor online disinformation”.

Since 2016 Facebook has been leaning heavily on a network of local third party ‘partner’ fact-checkers to help identify and mitigate the spread of fakes in different markets — including checkers for written content and also photos and videos, the latter in an effort to combat fake memes before they have a chance to go viral and skew perceptions.

In parallel Google has also been working with external fact checkers, such as on initiatives such as highlighting fact-checked articles in Google News and search. 

The Commission clearly approves of the companies reaching out to a wider network of third party experts. But it is also encouraging work on innovative tech-powered fixes to the complex problem of disinformation — describing AI (“subject to appropriate human oversight”) as set to play a “crucial” role for “verifying, identifying and tagging disinformation”, and pointing to blockchain as having promise for content validation.

Specifically it reckons blockchain technology could play a role by, for instance, being combined with the use of “trustworthy electronic identification, authentication and verified pseudonyms” to preserve the integrity of content and validate “information and/or its sources, enable transparency and traceability, and promote trust in news displayed on the Internet”.

It’s one of a handful of nascent technologies the executive flags as potentially useful for fighting fake news, and whose development it says it intends to support via an existing EU research funding vehicle: The Horizon 2020 Work Program.

It says it will use this program to support research activities on “tools and technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain that can contribute to a better online space, increasing cybersecurity and trust in online services”.

It also flags “cognitive algorithms that handle contextually-relevant information, including the accuracy and the quality of data sources” as a promising tech to “improve the relevance and reliability of search results”.

The Commission is giving platforms until July to develop and apply the Code of Practice — and is using the possibility that it could still draw up new laws if it feels the voluntary measures fail as a mechanism to encourage companies to put the sweat in.

It is also proposing a range of other measures to tackle the online disinformation issue — including:

  • An independent European network of fact-checkers: The Commission says this will establish “common working methods, exchange best practices, and work to achieve the broadest possible coverage of factual corrections across the EU”; and says they will be selected from the EU members of the International Fact Checking Network which it notes follows “a strict International Fact Checking NetworkCode of Principles”
  • A secure European online platform on disinformation to support the network of fact-checkers and relevant academic researchers with “cross-border data collection and analysis”, as well as benefitting from access to EU-wide data
  • Enhancing media literacy: On this it says a higher level of media literacy will “help Europeans to identify online disinformation and approach online content with a critical eye”. So it says it will encourage fact-checkers and civil society organisations to provide educational material to schools and educators, and organise a European Week of Media Literacy
  • Support for Member States in ensuring the resilience of elections against what it dubs “increasingly complex cyber threats” including online disinformation and cyber attacks. Stated measures here include encouraging national authorities to identify best practices for the identification, mitigation and management of risks in time for the 2019 European Parliament elections. It also notes work by a Cooperation Group, saying “Member States have started to map existing European initiatives on cybersecurity of network and information systems used for electoral processes, with the aim of developing voluntary guidance” by the end of the year.  It also says it will also organise a high-level conference with Member States on cyber-enabled threats to elections in late 2018
  • Promotion of voluntary online identification systems with the stated aim of improving the “traceability and identification of suppliers of information” and promoting “more trust and reliability in online interactions and in information and its sources”. This includes support for related research activities in technologies such as blockchain, as noted above. The Commission also says it will “explore the feasibility of setting up voluntary systems to allow greater accountability based on electronic identification and authentication scheme” — as a measure to tackle fake accounts. “Together with others actions aimed at improving traceability online (improving the functioning, availability and accuracy of information on IP and domain names in the WHOIS system and promoting the uptake of the IPv6 protocol), this would also contribute to limiting cyberattacks,” it adds
  • Support for quality and diversified information: The Commission is calling on Member States to scale up their support of quality journalism to ensure a pluralistic, diverse and sustainable media environment. The Commission says it will launch a call for proposals in 2018 for “the production and dissemination of quality news content on EU affairs through data-driven news media”

It says it will aim to co-ordinate its strategic comms policy to try to counter “false narratives about Europe” — which makes you wonder whether debunking the output of certain UK tabloid newspapers might fall under that new EC strategy — and also more broadly to tackle disinformation “within and outside the EU”.

Commenting on the proposals in a statement, the Commission’s VP for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, said: Disinformation is not new as an instrument of political influence. New technologies, especially digital, have expanded its reach via the online environment to undermine our democracy and society. Since online trust is easy to break but difficult to rebuild, industry needs to work together with us on this issue. Online platforms have an important role to play in fighting disinformation campaigns organised by individuals and countries who aim to threaten our democracy.”

The EC’s next steps now will be bringing the relevant parties together — including platforms, the ad industry and “major advertisers” — in a forum to work on greasing cooperation and getting them to apply themselves to what are still, at this stage, voluntary measures.

“The forum’s first output should be an EU–wide Code of Practice on Disinformation to be published by July 2018, with a view to having a measurable impact by October 2018,” says the Commission. 

The first progress report will be published in December 2018. “The report will also examine the need for further action to ensure the continuous monitoring and evaluation of the outlined actions,” it warns.

And if self-regulation fails…

In a fact sheet further fleshing out its plans, the Commission states: “Should the self-regulatory approach fail, the Commission may propose further actions, including regulatory ones targeted at a few platforms.”

And for “a few” read: Mainstream social platforms — so likely the big tech players in the social digital arena: Facebook, Google, Twitter.

For potential regulatory actions tech giants only need look to Germany, where a 2017 social media hate speech law has introduced fines of up to €50M for platforms that fail to comply with valid takedown requests within 24 hours for simple cases, for an example of the kind of scary EU-wide law that could come rushing down the pipe at them if the Commission and EU states decide its necessary to legislate.

Though justice and consumer affairs commissioner, Vera Jourova, signaled in January that her preference on hate speech at least was to continue pursuing the voluntary approach — though she also said some Member State’s ministers are open to a new EU-level law should the voluntary approach fail.

In Germany the so-called NetzDG law has faced criticism for pushing platforms towards risk aversion-based censorship of online content. And the Commission is clearly keen to avoid such charges being leveled at its proposals, stressing that if regulation were to be deemed necessary “such [regulatory] actions should in any case strictly respect freedom of expression”.

Commenting on the Code of Practice proposals, a Facebook spokesperson told us: “People want accurate information on Facebook – and that’s what we want too. We have invested in heavily in fighting false news on Facebook by disrupting the economic incentives for the spread of false news, building new products and working with third-party fact checkers.”

A Twitter spokesman declined to comment on the Commission’s proposals but flagged contributions he said the company is already making to support media literacy — including an event last week at its EMEA HQ.

At the time of writing Google had not responded to a request for comment.

Last month the Commission did further tighten the screw on platforms over terrorist content specifically —  saying it wants them to get this taken down within an hour of a report as a general rule. Though it still hasn’t taken the step to cement that hour ‘rule’ into legislation, also preferring to see how much action it can voluntarily squeeze out of platforms via a self-regulation route.