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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.

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