Blockchain Tech Gives New Hope to Censored Activists and Journalists

John Vibes
  • Major social media platforms are cracking down on hate speech and offensive content, but activists and journalists are getting caught up in the mix as well.
  • Blockchain developers are now racing to create censorship-proof alternatives.

Last week, the free speech oriented social media platform Gab came under scrutiny, and was shut down by their service provider, after a member of the site carried out a terrorist attack at a Pittsburgh synagogue, shooting and killing 11 people, leaving 6 others wounded.

Gab has been around since 2016 and has billed itself as a free alternative to platforms like Facebook and Twitter where users are regularly censored and banned.

Since the platform has a zero-censorship policy, it has become somewhat of a haven for white supremacists and hate groups. However, Gab has instituted features which allow users to filter out content that they find offensive.

The shooter had profiles on all the major social networks, but Gab became a target because they refuse to censor any of their users, while sites like Facebook and Twitter have a certain level of plausible deniability because they put so much effort into policing content.

Heavy-handed Censorship

It is not just hate groups who are having their accounts removed in this new wave of online censorship. Just this month, over 1000 accounts were either removed or suspended from Facebook and Twitter, with some organizations having their pages taken down on both platforms on the same day. The vast majority of these pages were affiliated with journalist and activist websites with no affiliation to hate groups.

In addition to the chilling implications for internet freedom, shutting down platforms where hate groups post publicly actually has the unintended consequence of driving them underground where they are more difficult to monitor.

The curation of content on these platforms is now being directed by an influential think tank called The Atlantic Council. The Atlantic Council's sources of funding have come under question from activist groups, who suggest that donations from banks and weapons contractors represent a conflict of interest.

Blockchain Alternatives

In the wake of the recent purge of independent media sites, journalists are flocking to blockchain-based alternatives. Last week, CryptoGlobe reported that Overstock founder and CEO Patrick Byrne's blockchain subsidiary Medici Ventures invested $6 million in the decentralized social network "Minds," amid the censorship controversy. In addition to the large investment, Byrne will also be joining the Minds board of directors.

In addition to Minds, there are also a numerous other platforms that have given a voice to censored journalists, most notably BitTube (TUBE), which is the first app of its kind that has a user-experience comparable to YouTube. Many writers have also found a home on Steemit, the blockchain based social network that pays content creators rewards from the mining pool.

Earlier this month, newscaster Ben Swann announced a new blockchain based journalism project called Isegoria, which hopes to give a voice to some of the reporters who have been disenfranchised by the dominant social media websites. Isegoria, which will also be known as the ISE Network, is currently in development.

CryptoGlobe spoke with blockchain developer Mike Baysek, Co founder of Stepwyze, the team behind the ISE Network. Baysek said that the actions taken against Gab is a threat for the free speech of everyone, not just hate groups. Baysek explained:

What happened in Pittsburgh is terrible. I send my condolences to all involved and I pray that the perpetrators are brought to justice. This happened ever so swiftly and quickly after the terrorist event in Pittsburgh. It's great, and I'm relieved that authorities have the suspect in custody. However, Internet Service Provider, Joyent's action to suspend services to Gab as a result of criminal outcomes that have not been adjudicated is something that should be of great concern to everyone. The suspect merely had an account/on this service. He did not own the service. It's all but certain that he had accounts on other services like Facebook, Gmail, Twitter and the like. What is happening here is that, in the wake of social media censorship backlash, the mainstream media are trying to manufacture the public's consent to shut down alternatives to the centrally controlled, managed and surveilled social networks.This is why blockchain is so important. We can't censor away the evils of humanity. We need to record them accurately and forever, so we can never forget this barbaric time in our history. Those who are ignorant to history are condemned to repeating it.

Bitcoin Price Is Under Pressure on Two Fronts: China and the United States

Siamak Masnavi

On Friday (July 10), Bitcoin is trading around $9,200, seemingly under pressure by events in China and the United States.

Let's start with China.

The CSI 300 is "a capitalization-weighted stock market index designed to replicate the performance of the top 300 stocks traded on the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange".

Yesterday (July 9), the CSI 300 closed at 4840.77, which means that it had gone up by 17.78% since June 29, i.e. in just nine trading sessions.

On Monday (July 6), the CSI 300 closed over 250 points (i.e. 5.67%) higher at 4,670.09, reaching a level last seen in June 2015, after "a front page editorial in state-owned China Securities Journal" (published on July 6) talked about the “wealth effect of the capital markets” and suggested that a “healthy bull market" was important for the economy at this time (i.e. after the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic).

However, according to a report published by Bloomberg earlier today, it seems that the Chinese government may have decided that the country's stock market was getting overheated and that the government may have already started to signal its intention "to avoid a replay of 2015, when they were wrong-footed by both the scale of the stock market’s boom and severity of its bust."

Bloomberg says that the first signs of the government's discomfort with the extreme bullish market sentiment came late yesterday when two state-owned funds—China’s National Council for Social Security Fund (China's national pension fund) and National Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund Co.—announced that they were planning to "trim holdings of stocks that soared this week."

Also, per this report, at the start of the day, "the state-run China Economic Times warned about the dangers of a 'crazy' bull market, while Caixin reported that regulators had asked mutual fund companies to cap the size of new products."

Traders and other market observers in China seem to believe that these moves "amounted to a warning from Chinese officialdom that the country’s world-beating equity boom has gone too far, too fast."

The CSI 300 ended the day 87.64 (or 1.81%) to close at 4,753.13, as you can see in the one-month chart below from Google Finance:

CSI 300 Chart by Google Finance on 10 July 2020.png

Niu Chunbao, a fund manager at Shanghai Wanji Asset Management Co., told Bloomberg:

"The signal could not be clearer -- stocks have just become too hot for the regulators’ liking. A slight dip or so may put their minds more at ease at this point."

A gradually rising stock market in China is good for the Chinese economy since "the wealth effect could help revive virus-crushed consumer demand" and "higher share prices will make it easier for indebted companies to finance themselves."

However, a cooling of stock market sentiment could impact the price of Bitcoin due to the amount of Bitcoin purchased by Chinese retail and institutional buyers via Tether and OTC desks since the wealthier they feel, the more likely it is that they will speculate in an even riskier asset class such as Bitcoin.

Yesterday (July 9), Qiao Wnag, Messari's former Director of Product, talked about the correlation of crypto with the CSI 300:

As for the United States, there are three two factors that could affect the U.S. economy and thereby U.S. stocks:

  • the outcome of the U.S. 2020 presidential election in November; and more importantly
  • the management of the worsening COVID-19 crisis in the U.S.

Currently, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee Joe Biden appears to be leading in most polls, and some investors fear that if he were to be elected U.S. president, it could be bad for the U.S. stock market since he has said that he plans to increase corporation tax from 21% to 28% and to end "shareholder capitalism."

Soeaking at event in Pennsylvania yesterday, he said:

"Throughout this crisis, Donald Trump has been almost singularly focused on the stock market, the Dow and Nasdaq. Not you. Not your families.

"If I am fortunate enough to be elected president, I’ll be laser-focused on working families, the middle-class families I came from here in Scranton. Not the wealthy investor class. They don’t need me."

As for the COVID-19 situation in the U.S., according to CBS News, on Thursday 63,200 cases were reported, which was "another all-time, single-day high for new confirmed infections", which was up from the previous high (60,000) reported on Tuesday (the data came from Johns Hopkins University).

California, Florida, and Texas remain three of the worst affected states, and they have sadly "just recorded their highest daily death tolls yet."

Carl Quintanilla, who is a principal anchor of CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" tweeted earlier today:

CNBC reported yesterday that "nationally, coronavirus cases were growing in 40 states, as of Wednesday, based on a seven-day moving average."

Since not everyone in the U.S. can agree on the best way to control the spread of COVID-19, unfortunately, it could be some time before the situation significantly improves, and in the meantime, it may become necessary for several states to re-introduce lockdown measures that could further negatively impact U.S. consumer confidence and the financial future of U.S. companies.

At the time of writing (as of 17:10 UTC on July 10), the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq are at 25924.39 (up 0.85%), 3166.99 (up 0.47%), and 10551.32 (up 0.03%) respectively. 

As for Bitcoin, per data from CryptoCompare, as of 17:26 UTC on July 10, it is trading at $9,216, down 0.11% in the past 24-hour period:

24 Hour CC Chart for BTC-USD on 10 July 2020.png

As digital asset exchange Kraken reminded us in a blog post published yesterday, according to its Bitcoin Volatility Report for June 2020, last month, Bitcoin’s correlation with the S&P 500 strengthened ("flipping from 0.13 to 0.52"), which means that, assuming this positive correlation continues, if the S&P 500 takes a fall, Bitcoin could also end up with a bruise.

Featured Image by "1643606" via Pixabay.com