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Blockchain and Social Media | A Match Made in Heaven?

Social media platforms of the new future will be very different from what we have today, that is if the current trends are to sustain. Social networking is not an old phenomenon. It has picked up in the last two decades. At the dawn of the internet, as it started to gain mainstream adoption in the early 90s, the only thing we could do was view information and send messages via email. Later on, as the decade progressed, online search started to become a big thing, and later microblogging caught on, albeit at a small scale.

Instead of just viewing information, the idea of sharing and forming platforms started to grow. America Online (AOL) could be viewed as heralding this era when it enabled the creation of member profiles that were searchable. Nonetheless, major strides in social networking were not made until after the dot com bubble burst in 2000. The new era of social networking sites began. Friendster was launched in 2002, then Myspace in 2003, LinkedIn also in 2003, and Facebook in 2004. Even Google launched Orkut, a social networking site, in 2004. It has since shut it down.

Facebook and Myspace became the two leading social networking sites until Facebook dominated. Facebook specifically did a few things differently from Myspace that worked—starting by targeting university students, understanding its core product value, etc.—and these things eventually allowed it to increase engagement and capitalize on ads.

Later came Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat—all with one core idea—giving a platform for people to share their daily life experiences. User-generated content became the main thing. To monetize the platforms, the only viable model was through allowing companies to place ads while people used the service for free. As people generated more content, engagement grew. As time went by, more customer data was being analyzed and tracked in order to give better ad placement than TV and other traditional platforms could offer.

This has been the dominant model for social media platforms, but major problems have arisen from this model.

Hacking and data leaks have been a huge problem, perhaps the most concerning. Facebook allows third-party developers to create applications that work on Facebook’s platform. Recently, we learned about how this has been abused, exposing users’ records, names, passwords, comments, etc. It started with the Cambridge Analytica scandal. LinkedIn also had a password breach.

Too many ads can lead to a bad customer experience. Many social media companies, in a bid to increase revenue, found more ways to customize ads. The length of time a person stays on a platform became the main metric, and all efforts have been done to increase staying time. The centralized control of social media companies means that they optimize for engagement and ease of use in order to make better targeting for advertisers. Sometimes this comes at the expense of users.

Even with increased staying time, the majority of the value generated accrues to the platforms themselves and not the users who are the creators of the content.

Fake accounts, spamming, and bots are also becoming a menace for current social media platforms. For example, Facebook recently said that in the first quarter of 2019, it had removed 2.2 billion fake accounts. That is a high figure, even though Facebook says it is able to flag fake accounts within minutes of registering. In addition, how to manage privacy in an ad-based model is still a challenge.

Finally, there’s online harassment and hate speech. This has always been a problem but has especially become so in the last few years. The only way a user can really deal with this is by reporting the account; beyond that, the jury is still out on how best to solve the issue of online harassment and hate speech.

>> Tether (USDT) Accidentally Creates $5 Billion in Crypto

It Started with Bitcoin

The launch of bitcoin in 2009 sought to change the way we view and use money. Satoshi outlined the vision of a decentralized, censorship-resistance internet-based money. Bitcoin has acted as a currency and medium of exchange, enabling borderless mechanisms to store and exchange value. The idea is to reduce centralized control and the single point of failure, which can be prone to manipulation and locks out many, especially those in countries with failing monetary regimes and a lack of ways to transfer value cheaply across national borders. This aspect of decentralized networks has caught on and is now being extended beyond money to other areas.

Ethereum later came in 2015, introducing the idea of a platform to build and launch decentralized applications. Hundreds of use cases have evolved from here: fundraising (ICOs), prediction markets, data storage, etc.

Social media is one of the use cases. As outlined above, some of the major challenges of existing social networks can be solved by decentralized networks if they work as envisioned.

  1. Reduce powerful corporations controlling huge chunks of data;
  2. Deal with problems of bots and fake accounts;
  3. Incentivize good behavior through tokens—this could reduce spamming/trolling;
  4. Enable contributors to earn based on the content they share;
  5. A payment system.

Let’s look at some of the existing projects trying to solve the problems currently plaguing social media.

Steemit

Steemit was an early blockchain startup that showcased how the technology could be used to benefit content creators. As a decentralized alternative to platforms like Reddit, users are able to create accounts and start posting content. When it becomes popular, they earn Steem tokens.

This way, spam content is eliminated. Users can exchange tokens with other cryptocurrencies or fiat on exchanges. Started in 2016, it has now amassed 1 million users. However, it has not yet achieved scale to rival any of the existing social media platforms.

Voice

Block.one, the company behind the EOS cryptocurrency, announced on the first anniversary of EOS mainnet on June 1, 2019, that it was launching a social media platform called Voice.

The information available from the launch says that the platform will seek to eliminate bots through a special authentication process when onboarding users. If successful, that would eliminate one of the main challenges of managing fake accounts and bots on traditional social media.

The Voice token will be at the center of the network whereby users receive Voice tokens based on the content they share and by collecting likes. The token cannot be obtained in any other way, such as mining, but only through the platform, and it can be spent promoting users’ own posts.

Facebook’s Libra

Even the existing social media platforms such as Facebook are realizing that this is not a passing façade.

Facebook first came out in support of blockchain in 2018 when its CEO said that they were looking into blockchain as possible solutions for their privacy woes. Later in December 2018, it has heavily been reported by various new platforms such as Bloomberg that, finally, Facebook is launching its own cryptocurrency, Libra. The announcement came on June 18, 2019. and Libra is expected in 2020.

Libra is to be in the form of a stablecoin for facilitating payments on Facebook’s platforms. According to the whitepaper, the project is a collaboration of 27 other partners which form the Libra Association; each partner contributes $10 towards the project and hosts a node. Facebook formed Calibra, which is to be Facebook’s own representative in the Libra Association. David Marcus, head of Calibra, says that members are expected to grow to 100 by the time the launch.

Libra is meant to facilitate payments across the world. Facebook would benefit by enabling its 2.2 billion users to have a way to make payments easily and cheaply. Further down the line, Libra could be used to enable users to pay for ads on the platform.

Nonetheless, Facebook has received a lot of backlash from lawmakers in both Washington and Europe. Reports also indicate that China could launch its own version to compete with Libra.

This is not the first time Facebook has experimented with digital tokens, having launched Facebook credits in 2009 to enable users to purchase items such as games on the site before terminating the project after it failed to gather traction. However, with the rise of cryptocurrency tokens, could this social media platform have now found a way?

>> John McAfee Reiterates His $1 Million by 2020 BTC Price Prediction

Telegram

Telegram, the messaging platform, is also building the TON, or Telegram Open Network, which will enable users to undertake e-commerce.

Telegram raised $1.7 billion in 2018, making it one of the biggest ICOs ever. In February this year, The Block reported that the project was 90% complete and would be launched in Q3 of 2019.

Telegram aims to launch GRAM, the native token powering the TON. To add to messaging, the TON is expected to enable payments via GRAM, a decentralized marketplace, and peer-to-peer file hosting as explained in its technical whitepaper. The project is speculated to be in testing mode currently, and more details will be availed when the project is fully launched later this year.

With 200 million monthly users already, the launch of TON could radically change messaging as Telegram is already one of the most widely used non-blockchain based messaging platforms, particularly for ICOs, mainly because of its privacy features. If TON is successful, this could solve the monetization challenge of the platform, since the founder Pavel Durov has publicly said that Telegram will never allow ads as a method of monetization.

From Now On

For the majority of the new and upcoming blockchain-based social media platforms, incentivizing good behavior, payment channels, and rewarding users for sharing content seems to be the core tenets of blockchain-influenced social media.

Until now, the only viable way to make money by being on social media as a user has been growing a following or fan base to high numbers, having some level of influence, and then endorsing or sponsoring products through which the user can earn a commission based on set metrics.

However, for the majority of the remaining users, there is no incentive not to troll, spam, and so forth. With tokens, the idea is to reward those who spend more on the platform, sharing updates, pictures, stories, and the like. Social media giants such as Facebook have come under pressure for generating billions of dollars in ad revenue based on content created by users while users do not benefit directly. Native platform tokens could unlock this problem. The extent to which this will work remains to be seen, but at the core, it challenges the fundamentals of how not only social media but also by extension, the internet has been built so far.

Privacy, payments, and control over data seem to be at the core of how the future of social media is going to work.

Time will tell.

Featured image: DepositPhotos © yourg

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TRON

TRON’s CEO Debunks Association with Billion Dollar Ponzi Scheme Scam

While responding to an allegation that Tronfoundation and BitTorrent are involved in a billion-dollar Ponzi-scheme scam that defrauded thousands of investors in China, Justin Sun, TRON’s CEO, says both companies are “fine.” According to the CEO, preparations were being made to launch BitTorrentSpeed on July 8, so people should stop publicizing fake news and pictures.

Justin Sun Says Tronfoundation and BitTorrent are Fine

In a tweet on July 8, 2019, Justin Sun debunked the rumors that began earlier in the day. The CEO claims that Tronfoundation and BitTorrent are fine and plans are currently being made to launch BitTorrentSpeed, an engine that will reward BitTorrent users with BitTorrent (BTT). Sun further outlined that people should stop disseminating fake news and pictures about the blockchain company.

The news, on the other hand, which was circulated by several reputable media outlets, informed that Chinese police raided TRON’s office in Beijing, China. The raid was a result of a Ponzi-like scheme called Wave Field Super Community, defrauding hundreds of thousands of its investors. The scheme began in January this year and ended last week. It is believed that its organizers made away with at least 200 million CNY ($30 million) of investors’ funds.

TRON’s part in all this is that the scam took advantage of the name “Wave Field,” which is usually used to describe the blockchain company in China. As a result of using the same brand name that TRON is known for in China and making claims that the scheme is TRON’s Super Representative, investors were led to believe that it is also owned or supported by TRON.

Sun Refused to Disassociate TRON and BitTorrent from the Scam

Similarly, Justin Sun, who was asked in the past to confirm his company’s relationship with the platform, refused to do so and only spoke up on July 1, 2019, a day after the scam packed up. On the said date, Sun posted on social media platform Weibo warning investors to be wary of Ponzi-like schemes that took advantage of the TRON name. However, he did not outrightly point out Wave Field Super Community as one of them.

There are now claims that TRON’s CEO had refused to publicly disassociate TRON and its other company, BitTorrent, from the scheme because TRX, TRON’s crypto-asset benefitted from it. The company’s cryptocurrency was allegedly purchased and then dumped into the scheme in hopes of making huge returns.

>> Crypto News Today: Poloniex Now Accepts Cards, Will Gemini Join Libra?

Single Parent Purportedly Commits Suicide After Loss to Ponzi Scheme

Aside from the loss of funds on the part of investors, it is alleged that a woman named Xia Bing, who was also an investor in the scheme, committed suicide. On July 1, 2019, her photographs and suicide note went viral on messaging website WeChat. The deceased is reportedly a middle-aged single parent who borrowed money from a neighbor to invest in the fraudulent scheme.

This article was curated through CryptoCurrencyNews’ Contributor Program. If you would like to write for us, send us your submission!

Featured image: DepositPhotos © sdecoret

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BrewDog

BrewDog Extends Its Crypto Investment Opportunity “Equity for Punks”

The Scottish craft beer company BrewDog has announced it will be extending its groundbreaking cryptocurrency investment program “Equity for Punks” until April next year.

The program, which was originally intended to end on July 5 this year, allows investors to buy BrewDog shares using a variety of cryptocurrencies. These include Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), Litecoin (LTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), OmiseGo (OMG), QTUM, 0x, and Bitcoin SV (BSV).

BrewDog is a multinational brewery and pub owner founded in 2007 with pubs in over 50 locations throughout the United Kingdom and 24 locations internationally. As a company that has always upheld unconventional values, it sees parallels between its beliefs and those of the cryptocurrency industry. Discussing the company’s growth and achievements over the past decade, BrewDog co-founder James Watt said:

“Cryptocurrency is exactly the same. If you embrace change to subvert the mainstream we are in your corner; whether your weapons of choice are malt, hops, yeast and water or blockchain.”

In 2018, BrewDog launched the investment scheme, Equity for Punks, as a way to give average citizens an easy way to buy shares in the company and join the BrewDog community. Since its inception, the Equity for Punks scheme has raised over £72.1 million from 114,000 individual shareholders, selling shares at £25 a piece.

The scheme also hosts a range of additional benefits for its ‘community members’ in the form of occasional free products and discount offers. Earlier this year, BrewDog ran an ‘honesty payment’ promotion called The Honest to Dog scheme that ran from June 3–9. Shareholders in the Equity for Punks scheme were given the opportunity to choose how much, or how little, they wished to pay for their beer at all BrewDog pubs (excluding Scotland due to government regulation).

Growing Crypto Interest

It seems companies around the world are finally beginning to embrace cryptocurrencies, one decade after Bitcoin came into existence in early 2009. The most notable of these is Facebook, which intends to launch its own cryptocurrency, Libra Coin, in 2020. While the development has been met with some controversy and widespread criticism from the cryptocurrency and banking communities alike, it’s a strong indication of just how popular crypto is becoming.

>> GBTC Makes Massive Move Thanks to Crypto Bull Market

One of the major stepping stones for widespread adoption of crypto is retailers’ ability to legally and successfully integrate the technology into their systems. However, in 2019, cryptocurrency adoption is steadily increasing due to changing mindsets amongst lawmakers and growing interest from financial institutions. Government agencies in the EU and around the world have finally begun to draw up clear and precise legal and regulatory requirements for cryptocurrency use in businesses, giving many the green light to get involved.

These days, more and more retailers are beginning to use crypto payment gateways like Coinpayments and CoinGate to enable their customers to settle in cryptocurrency. Recent improvements in blockchain technology mean the payment gateways can quickly and easily be integrated into any retail website or point-of-sale (PoS) system, making crypto payments as easy as using a credit card or Paypal.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated or associated with BrewDog, and currently hold a small amount of Bitcoin and ETH.

This article was curated through CryptoCurrencyNews’ Contributor Program. If you would like to write for us, send us your submission!

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blockchain

A Look at Blockchain’s Pivotal Role in Securing Mobile Networks

Over the years, blockchain has received a lot of coverage, although the concept of blockchain is often quite misunderstood. From a more technical perspective, blockchain is nothing more than a data structure which is used to track interactions between devices on a distributed network.

One of the best-known examples of how blockchain technology works are cryptocurrency transactions like Bitcoin. The security that blockchain technology offers makes it a positive solution for many other different industries, pretty much all where there’s data. For example, blockchain could be used to secure, retrieve, and transfer medical records, mobile communication, border control, insurance, banking, and many others.

Network security has become an increasingly complex challenge to tackle over the past few years. As cyber attackers get smarter and new ways of hacking are released, network operators are on the front line of this movement and have to continually stay one step ahead of the game to avoid a network meltdown—which, let’s face it, will put many customers at a halt. Here are a few ways that blockchain technology can be adapted and used for mobile network security.

Personal Data Protection

Recent research has identified a different approach that could allow blockchain to be used to protect the personal data of network users. Research carried out by MIT looked into creating purposes-based blockchain as an access-control moderator with the ability to offer an off-blockchain storage solution. This gives users transparency of their data as they would not be required to turn to any third-parties with their data and would always be aware of what is being collected, and more importantly, how sensitive data is being used. By implementing blockchain in this way, it could be viewed as a critical aspect of a risk mitigation strategy that mobile network operators could (and should) adopt.

>> ChainLink (LINK) is the Top Crypto Performer: Jumps 950% Since May

Considering the fact that most Americans are more concerned about having their sensitive data stolen as opposed to being a victim of a violent crime, adopting secure technology is of the essence.

Internal Process Security

Blockchain could be used to help secure operational and business support systems. This can be done by creating a higher level of security, typically for private and public networks. Doing this can be quite valuable for networks as it would help operators offer multiple layers of security, especially for internal, external, and hybrid users.

As the Internet-of-Things expands, there’re more devices connected and exposed to a network. Hence, having a system like this in place is more crucial now than ever before.

Roaming

Roaming is mainly associated with traveling to different countries, which changes your service provider and network. The use of blockchain technology here could help network operators simplify subscriber authenticity while users are roaming. This would help reduce the risk of unauthorized devices being used on a carrier network, but it would also help reduce the cost related to managing device roaming, which presents an attractive cost saving aspect. A blockchain structure could improve the integration and accuracy of the network in terms of billing and could reduce errors.

Although modern telecom is far from saturation, with GSMA penetration being only 63%, “the market is yet liable to multiple flaws – intermediary links, excessive expenditures and tech-lagging ” says Petr Malyukov, Irbis Network CEO (SafeCalls) and Co-Founder.

There’re already companies that offer blockchain-based mobile networks that provide anonymous connection, worldwide coverage, and enhanced security.

>> Blockchain Firm AmaZix is Tackling Crypto Scams on Telegram: Here’s How

Authentication

Blockchain technology can also be used to determine the devices that are connected to a network at any given time. This could be applied to several different services such as 4G connection, public Wi-Fi, payment methods, and could potentially be integrated into 5G networks, the use of which is expected to be utilized by 2.6 billion people in 2025.

The use of blockchain has the ability to allow networks to manage interactions between access points and various devices autonomously. This can help lower network management and transaction costs, making it possible to secure and enable micropayments amongst network interactions.

Mobile Payments

The number of consumers using their devices to make payments has increased drastically over the past few years. Blockchain technology could potentially help network operators and banks by not only reducing transaction costs but also making them more secure.

As you can see from the points above, it’s clear that blockchain technology can be used as a positive piece of technology for securing mobile networks. The fact there is a considerable need to improve network security among these businesses while reducing costs means that operators are more likely to be willing to implement blockchain technology as part of their solutions to overcome security within their networks in the coming years.

Featured image: DepositPhotos © yourg

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China

When will China Legalize Bitcoin Again? The Impacts on the Market

In September 2017, China conducted a nationwide blanket ban on cryptocurrencies, exchanges, and ICOs.

This had a global impact. After all, before the crackdown, the country of the red dragon accounted for nearly 80 percent of the world’s crypto transactions and ICOs and housed the biggest crypto mining operations. So what happened after the ban?

Well, cryptocurrency development didn’t stop. The miners moved, most going to Mongolia. ICOs registered in Singapore. And the big Chinese exchanges just moved to Japan or Hong Kong. So what’s up with China?

Hope on the Horizon

There is hope on the horizon for miners, investors, and exchanges both in and outside China. As I said, just because the government banned crypto (even if it is the government of the most populous country in the world) doesn’t mean development stopped. Because of this fact, a few new developments have surfaced.

Bitcoin as Actual Property

A business conflict arose over the holding and transferring of crypto assets in China. An unnamed plaintiff signed a contract that allowed the defendant to manage, trade, and invest in a pool of cryptocurrencies on behalf of the plaintiff. As things sometimes go in business, the deal went belly up, and the defendant refused to return the plaintiff’s cryptocurrencies.

A local news outlet reported on a ruling by the Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration, which decided that cryptocurrencies must be legally protected “by law due to its property nature and economic value.

>> IBM Shipping Blockchain Grows with Two More Carriers on Board

The Shenzhen Court decided that Bitcoin and other crypto assets should be legally protected by China’s Contract Law, even if crypto is considered illegal tender in the country: “Bitcoin has the nature of a property, which can be owned and controlled by parties, and is able to provide economic values and benefits.

This is solid news. I dare say it is something like a repressed minority gaining rights. Perhaps that is a bit much as a comparison, but there is some truth to it. Cryptocurrencies are a minority of financial assets. They’re growing. And even though they are illegal tender in China, they are still being given rights.

Cryptocurrencies as Currency

Despite China’s crackdown, cryptocurrencies are being given more than rights in the country—they’re being given use cases. For example:

  • September 2018 saw the start of the Ethereum Hotel. This opened in the National Scenic Area of Four Girls Mountain, and it accepts Ether as payment.
  • On October 1, Beijing Sci-Tech Report (BSTR)—an established technology news source—announced it would accept Bitcoin as a payment method. Starting in February 2019, its subscriptions may be paid for with BTC. This was done “to encourage the utilization of crypto in a real-world setting for practical actions.”

This all happened thanks to the two digital assets, Bitcoin and Ethereum, being recognized as properties under local laws in China.

Granted, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. Trading Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies remains strictly banned. Yes, merchants are technically allowed to accept cryptocurrencies—but trading, crypto events, ICOs, and any form of OTC are still very much prohibited and enforced with jail time.

This could be a significant problem even for non-Chinese traders: Buying into an unregulated ICO is actually one of the biggest mistakes investors make.

>> This UK Financial Regulator has a Problem with Facebook’s Libra Coin

Being Cautious

ICOs are strictly forbidden in China—no exceptions. But what about STOs (Security Token Offerings), the upcoming darling of the cryptosphere? These are also being watched with apprehension by China.

Pan Gongsheng, acting deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, spoke at a financial forum in Beijing:

The STO business that has surfaced recently is still essentially an illegal financial activity in China. Virtual money has become an accomplice to all kinds of illegal and criminal activities.

Alas, we won’t be seeing STOs in China anytime soon—but they may be coming out of China. Why? Because, despite the caution, people and businesses in China are pressing for the legalization of cryptocurrencies. They understand cryptocurrencies are the future, and if China keeps strangling them, then they risk being left behind.

Featured image: DepositPhotos © Alexis84

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