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First POST: Bitcoin Agonistes

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, January 22 2014

Bitcoin Agonistes

  • Marc Andreesen, one of the first to unleash the potential of the world wide web with the development of what became the Netscape browser, argues that BitCoin has a similar revolutionary potential. It's not because it's a digital currency; it's because it enables trustworthy digital transfers of property without needing a central intermediary. From there, he argues that Bitcoin can eliminate credit card fraud, make money transfers easier, and make micropayments "trivially easy"--which could open a huge new economy for content monetization.

  • On Medium, Glenn Fleischman tartly parses Andreesen's essay. He says the rise of Bitcoin has "little in common" with previous disruptive technologies like the PC or the Internet, both of which were developed through extensive public collaboration. But he agrees that it is "the first practical, large-scale mechanism to deal with the problem of decentralizing trust." Most critically, though, he says Bitcoin "doesn't eliminate fraudulent transactions; it only eliminates counterfeit payments."

  • Meanwhile, Miguel Freitas, a research engineer in Brazil, has built an open-source, peer-to-peer alternative to Twitter called "Twister" using code forked from Bitcoin that is designed to be impossible to censor, Mitch Wagner reports on Internet Evolution.

In other news around the web

  • In an exclusive interview with Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, Edward Snowden pushed back on the accusation from Rep. Mike Rogers, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, that he was a Russian puppet.

  • Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation reminds us that the Nixon Administration also tried to label Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg a Soviet spy.

  • President Obama gave an exclusive interview to German TV after his NSA reform speech last Friday, but skepticism remains strong there, our Miranda Neubauer reports.

  • Tim Wu reviews "The Internet's Own Boy," a film about Aaron Swartz, that just had its opening at Sundance.

  • The Ukrainian government sent cellphone messages to people near the scene of violent protests yesterday saying "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance." According to Andrew Kramer's report in the The New York Times, this attempt to frighten anti-government activists had little effect. Three Ukrainian cellphone companies denied providing location data to the government, with one suggesting the messages were "the work of a 'pirate' cellphone tower set up nearby."

  • Is Facebook about to lose 80% of its users, flaring out like a disease that suddenly stops spreading? That's what these Princeton researchers think.

  • Kenya's bloggers say a new media bill is making them vulnerable to prosecution, Neelam Verjee reports for us.

  • Argentina has restricted online shopping to keep its foreign currency reserves from dropping. (h/t Dan Abadie)

  • Tuesday, a large chunk of China's internet traffic was redirected to a house in Cheyenne, Wyoming, which appears to be home of more than 2,000 corporations, including one that fights web censorship that owns a block of Internet addresses that the traffic was pointed to. Further reporting by the New York Times suggests the outage was a result of problems with China's own online censorship system.

  • The Centre for International Governance Innovation and Chatham House have announced a new "Global Commission on Internet Governance" that will be chaired by Swedish Foreign Affairs minister Carl Bildt and will study the future of multistakeholder Internet governance. The commission's members are a curious mix of net freedom defenders like European Parliament member Marietje Schaake and GovLab founder Beth Noveck, and government cybersecurity experts Joseph Nye and Michael Chertoff.

  • A door closes; a door opens: Ezra Klein is leaving the Washington Post and Wonkblog to start his own project; The Volokh Conspiracy, a group blog that focuses on the law and public policy, is joining the Post.

  • Former RNC eCampaign associate director Brian Athey and art director Corben NIchols have started their own design agency, Flywheel.co, that will do creative strategy and web development.

  • Clint O'Brien, longtime senior VP of business development at Care2, is joining fundraising platform Engaging Networks as its COO.

  • Housekeeping note: First POST will be on hiatus for the next week as I am off to Berlin to speak at the "As Darkness Falls" conference this weekend.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

GO

tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

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monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

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The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

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Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

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wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

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