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“Krypto” Fights Back After Polish Government Attack on Crypto

The Polish crypto community has responded to a government-backed social media campaign against cryptocurrency with a video of their own.

On 6 May, crypto enthusiast Piotr Pacewicz screen wrote and directed ‘Krypto’, a short piece outlining the facts about cryptocurrency and blockchain. The video was produced by a small film company with the aim to “educate, educate and educate. Because [almost] no one knows the fundamentals about Bitcoin and blockchain,” explained Pacewicz.

The video was a direct response to a perceived campaign of casting fear, uncertainty, and doubt over the cryptocurrency in the country. It has been stepped up this month by the government’s latest plan to promote a social media campaign against digital currency, according to Cointelegraph.

The Polish Financial Supervision Authority (KNF) held a tender order on 10 May costing around USD 170,000 to disseminate the risks of cryptocurrency trading. This is the second of its kind recently; the last one in February of this year, this time commissioned by Poland’s Central Bank, in which anti-crypto video was produced for the sum of about USD 25,000 or PLZ 91,000 (Polish zloty).

The video, produced in partnership with Polish YouTube partner Gamellon, Google Ireland, and Facebook Ireland titled “I lost all the money” credited no endorsements to the government sponsorship or its co-sponsors. The film illustrated the rise and fall scenario of a Polish blogger who ends up fishing for fiat coins out of a public fountain after losing his newly-acquired wealth on crypto dealing.

Although Poland recognizes cryptocurrency trading, the trend is generally negative, including the recent dismissal of Anna Streżyńska, the former crypto-friendly minister of digital affairs.

The current situation seems to be, apply pressure on the crypto space until the public respond. Such was the case earlier this month when the government announced lifting income tax after an immediate public response through a Change.org petition, which gained over 5,000 signatures asking for tax exemption for crypto technology dealings.

Polish journalist and YouTube blogger Karol Paciorek, spoke out against the video release:

“There was a product placement deal between NBP and three large YouTube channels: Marcin Dubiel – 937,000 subscribers; Wiśnia – 818,000 subscribers; and Planeta Faktów – 1 mln subscribers. It’s an educational campaign paid from a government-based organization. Someone asked NBP how much they have paid for the campaign and got an answer.”

Jacek Walenski, the secretary of the Polish Bitcoin Association (PBA) branded the video as “unprofessional and stupid”, but doubts if it had the impact desired by the Central bank of Poland. Bitpay, Poland’s largest cryptocurrency platform, reported no loss of clientele after the video’s airing on YouTube.

Krypto‘s director says that the film is a “brick [for building] a better world, [one] with a financial system where everybody is equal”. At the time of publication, Krypto has just over 23,000 views on YouTube.

 

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“Show Me The Money”, Say Asian Crypto Investors

At the Blockchain Week recently held in New York, it emerged that two quite distinct differences exist between the Asian crypto market and the West.

In the US, initial coin offerings are about ideas rather than returns and vice versa when it comes to Asia, according to Coindesk interviews conducted at the conference. Asian investors want returns more quickly than US investors, who are in for the long haul, better invested in terms of financial knowledge than quick gains.

“At the very beginning, the information coming from Asia to the US was very limited. We didn’t know what’s really going on,” said Zhuling Chen, co-founder of Aelf, a Singapore startup.

With no real reference point, this resulted in the market evolving in Asia as a separate entity, not part of a Bitcoin or Ethereum ecosystem, but certainly informed by them, followed by Asian banks joining the fray in early 2016.

“Asians love to gamble,” commented Jason Fang from Sora Ventures at the Token Summit 111, one of the Blockchain Week events. Fan added that unlike Western projects, they don’t want to see long lock-up periods, but want their tokens out and realize quick returns.

Fang suggested that Asian investors have one eye on the market, knowing there will always be quick value increase after a coin is released, happy to let them go having made the quick return.”We’re money in, money out in crypto,” he said.

Ricky Li, co-founder of blockchain company Altonomy, told Coindesk that Asians rarely diversify their portfolios over time, again after that quick return:

“US and Europe ICO project teams are more well-invested in terms of financial knowledge… Chinese companies and their neighbors will raise funds in ether and largely maintain those positions, sometimes failing to lock in gain or riding volatility through their whole portfolio.”

“The general view is that a lot of American companies are pushing the boundaries of technological advancement,” Chen said. “In China, it’s slightly more balanced. More companies are looking from a business point of view.”

Nick Tomaino, of VC firm 1confirmation, thought that Asia was arguably the most important part of the world in terms of cryptocurrency, and that the Asian market does mirror Western protocols. He felt, however, that there was a willingness to find common ground between US and Asian companies within the space.

Asian markets very much follow a common theme that is recognizable to all Chinese, that of family, or in terms of business, community, and localization:

“The best way is to have your own project that’s local,” Li concurred. “That’s very appealing to investors in China culturally.”

This, of course, has been affected by the Chinese ICO ban which is now driving companies to towards global business ventures, although this is seen as somewhat of a double-edged sword, giving benefits which weren’t considered before, due to the localized nature of Chinese business.

 

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Over $1 Billion in Crypto Stolen Since 2017

Recent reports from the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) show that USD 1.2 billion in cryptocurrencies has been stolen since the beginning of 2017. Less than 20% of the stolen funds have been recovered.

Bitcoin received a massive influx of popularity in 2017 due to price increases up to USD 20,000, which has brought attention to this sector. Over 1,500 alternative cryptocurrencies have emerged as well, with some of the biggest thefts coming from altcoins.

“One problem that we’re seeing in addition to the criminal activity like drug trafficking and money laundering using cryptocurrencies is the theft of these tokens by bad guys,” Dave Jevans, CEO of cryptocurrency security firm CipherTrace, told Reuters in an interview.

Ethereum alone has seen millions lost in hacks. The Ether stolen from the DAO hack would now be worth USD 2 billion but was an event in 2016. Even so, the Ethereum community went through many hardships in 2017 due to Parity hacks.

Also Read: New EU Privacy Laws Brings Parity’s PICOPs to a Halt

Despite the massive losses, Bitcoin has taken quite a beating as well. Last year saw Nicehash being hacked and many users are still experiencing the aftermath of Bitfinex and Mt Gox.

But NEM takes the cake with the Coincheck hack earlier this year, which saw USD 500 million worth of the tokens being stolen from a Japanese exchange.

The EU’s new GDPR will make it harder for Bitcoin companies to function in the future, and will also enable further thefts and hackings in the future Jevans said.

“GDPR will negatively impact the overall security of the internet and will also inadvertently aid cybercriminals,” said Mr Jevans. “By restricting access to critical information, the new law will significantly hinder investigations into cybercrime, cryptocurrency theft, phishing, ransomware, malware, fraud and crypto-jacking,” he added.

The chairman for APWG predicts more cybercriminals will move to Europe and exploit GDPR. Many cryptocurrency projects are based in Europe, due to the United States’ strict and sometimes ambiguous regulations regarding crypto. This makes them easy targets for hackers, due to proximity to servers.

 

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US Department of Justice Opens Criminal Case into Bitcoin Price Manipulations

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has opened a criminal investigation into whether traders are manipulating the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, according to a report published Thursday by Bloomberg.

The most notable concern coming from the DOJ relates to a suspected potential that the volatility of the market creates an opportunity for investors to push price valuations in a way to favor themselves.

Additionally, authorities feel cryptocurrencies are particularly susceptible to fraud due to a concern over the lack of regulations, as well as skepticism that every exchange actively pursues those deceiving the rules of the platform.

Spoofing and wash trading

People familiar with the situation told Bloomberg that the DOJ is specifically looking into spoofing and wash trading from colluding traders. These two illicit tactics are forms of market cheating that have been combated by regulators in the futures and equity markets for years.

Spoofing involves a trader submitting a number of orders, then cancelling them once they are satisfied they have affected the prices enough in the desired direction.

Wash trading involves a cheater creating trades with themselves to create a false impression of market movements, which influences others to move in a specific way.

It was reported that both Bitcoin and Ether are being investigated for this, but the DOJ declined to comment on the case at Bloomberg’s request.

Protecting investors

After a Bitcoin price surge last year spanning between USD 1,000 and USD 20,000, the cryptocurrency industry has found a host of new supporters and investors. The number of ICOs has also skyrocketed, with a growing number of people aware and involved with altcoins.

Regulators across the globe are now seeing the industry as a growing concern, as investors enter the market without a clear understanding of what cryptocurrencies are, and the risks involved.

Cryptocurrency exchange platforms operate internationally, with many remaining unregistered with any government agencies, leading to a heightened fear of fraudulent activities in general.

Of course, the vast majority of platforms maintain there own strict security measures to protect users and are willing to pursue fraudsters, if not only to protect their own reputation.

 

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Economic Savant Martin Weiss Claims Crypto Safer Than Banks

Martin D Weiss, founder of Weiss Ratings Agency has made new predictions concerning proposed legislation aimed at making changes to the Volcker Rule, according to Weiss  Cryptocurrency Ratings.

Next week, US Congress is expected to move towards changing parts of the Dodd-Franks Law, known as the Volcker Rule, writes the New York Times.  The bill, aimed at watering down the legislation named after American economist and former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, would allow thousands of small and mid-size banks to avoid tougher oversight.

Similar legislation has already been passed by the Senate which will allow President Trump to amend the law if the new amendment is passed. The US president also signed a law on Monday nullifying a consumer rule intended to prevent discrimination in auto lending.

The Volcker Rule refers to a part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, originally proposed by Paul Volcker in order to restrict United States banks from making certain kinds of speculative investments that do not benefit their customers.

According to Weiss, this will open the door for banks to take the kind of risks and trade the same sorts of assets which helped lead to the 2008 financial crisis, predicting that if the bill were passed, and the amendments come into law, investors would be compelled to move their money away from traditional banking.

Weiss suggests that this is the worst possible time for such a change in legislation, with risk-taking reaching new levels. He cites the JPMorgan Chase index as an example which has revealed that the debt of American companies has just posted one of their worst 100-day returns since 2000.

Weiss reflects on the apparent short memories of the US banking community, given the events of the global banking crisis when financial institutions helped create a historic speculative bubble in real estate, mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. Rich rewards were available for those banks and insurance companies prepared to take excessive risks.

In view of a revisit to the 2000s and a financial meltdown, Weiss suggests that banks will become once again unsound. He compares the bankless economy of many in the Third World who shun banks, often due to the corruption that comes hand in hand with institutionalized local banking, to the sound man’s thinking, “Better to park your money under the mattress or some equivalent”.

Weiss argues that “cryptocurrencies do such a fundamentally better job as a safe depository, it’s difficult to envision a world in which this technology does not become a game-changer for money and banking,” and adds a reminder that Bitcoin was invented in direct response to global government bailouts.

“This is why Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor of Bitcoin, wrote on the very first Bitcoin block: ‘The time is 03/Jan/2009. Chancellor on brink of the second bailout for banks’,” he adds.

“At the very core of its design stands this one guiding principle: Everyone should own their money directly. Everyone should trade directly with whomever they please. No third party, no custody, no trust in a central authority.”

Weiss suggests there are two clear reasons why he thinks that Bitcoin hasn’t been more widely adopted today. Volatility remains an issue, which he feels will stabilize in time as liquidity grows, and a general lack of knowledge and information about the space, and “even fewer understand the advantages of cryptocurrencies in a wallet over money in a bank”.

 

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Crypto Skeptic India May Apply Tax Laws on Crypto in Possible Turning Point

Anonymous sources in India are suggesting that the crypto-sceptical nation may be at a turning point with the possibility of a goods and service tax (GST) on cryptocurrency trading.

Bloomberg reported that the government might be applying an 18% GST as there is a chance that the Indian government could classify cryptocurrencies as a supply of “intangible goods” and, therefore, making them subject to the tax levy with separate laws to be introduced that address the use of cryptocurrencies for illicit activities.

The proposal is reportedly being considered by Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs which, according to the anonymous source, will be presented before the GST council one it is finalized.

The source makes the case that the income tax department had realized critical nature of taxing digital currencies sooner than later. This is due to the digital asset markets growth which can build up significant liabilities, making recovery difficult in the future.

Early turbulence

The news is oddly contrasting with previous reports that have emerged from India, with April a particularly turbulent period. Earlier in the month, Bitcoin News reported that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was prohibiting all banks and financial entities from “facilitating transactions involving cryptocurrencies”, a move that sparked a petition that received 17,000 signatures, backed mostly by younger users who were employed in the blockchain industry.

Bitcoin bull Tim Draper chimed in during the April maelstrom, suggesting that the Indian government’s prohibitions against cryptocurrency would be “stifling innovation”. With that said, in May, Bitcoin News reported that despite the clampdowns, India has a wealth of crypto-savvy software developers that are more than capable of pushing innovation in the country. A study made by Indian HR company, Belong, brought to light the 5,000-strong developers who could drive the industry forward for India.

Efforts to create the taxation and regulatory frameworks were underway in late March when the largest tax filing platform began making inroads toward building appropriate regulations; the attempt to clarify cryptocurrency laws came shortly after exchanges and cryptocurrency traders came under significant pressures from the RBI and other banks.

Tackling cynicism

The decision to apply the taxation laws on cryptocurrencies hinges largely on the outcomes of the ongoing regulatory efforts being made by the department of economic affairs. Indian crypto exchanges believe a complete ban would be “futile” as the RBI not allowing for banks to transact with them would force buyers and sellers to other means of settling trades. This could contribute to illegal activities and, therefore, cause the ban to come down even harder on the industry.

Treating cryptocurrencies as goods and services may allow for the undeniably lucrative market to stay in force in India. Classifying them as currencies, however, would require changes in the law.

Should a positive consensus be reached through the appropriate classification, taxation and consequently, regulation standards, then India could soon follow in the footsteps of other countries embracing the technology.

 

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Russian Bear Poised to Pounce at Fintech Crossroads

Recent statistics published by the Russian Association of Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain (RACIB) shows that Russian investors appear to be at a crossroads in the fintech space.

The future of Russian cryptocurrency adoption is very much dependent on what lies ahead, particularly with regard to the Kremlin’s past stance which has never been favorable towards allowing the public to become active participants, despite government murmurings suggesting the adoption of CBDC or ‘cryptoruble’.

RACIB statistics indicate the degree to which the cryptocurrency space has been affected by scandals and corruption and a lack of clear government leadership. The resulting status quo sees half of the ICO funds raised in 2017, which amounted to USD 300 million, going to pyramid schemes, according to Bitcoin News.

While the West is predominantly concerned with finding the right balance as it discusses cryptocurrency regulation on an almost daily basis, the major eastern powers such as China and Russia look towards prohibition, over-regulation or limiting digital currencies for government use only, despite blockchain’s rise and rise in commercial enterprises.

In the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) continue to debate the securities versus utility issue in order make final decisions over adoption, whereas in blockchain-friendly Europe, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has become a point of focus as more companies line up for conducting business using everything that fintech may have to offer.

As Bitcoin News reportedly recently, Russia is in no way short of fintech expertise and blockchain technical know-how with a major CEO presence now working in Moscow, but the cryptocurrency industry been apprehensive due to the government’s lack of direction regarding digital currency.

This could change if the Russian State Duma’s Committee for Legislative Work supports the first reading of an initiative that will add the basic norms of digital economy to the Russian Federation Civil Code. Such a move though would not automatically allow digital currency to become a legitimate means of payment, as this would require a separate law, although the initiative plans examine smart contract application.

A change in direction may be on the way after President Vladimir Putin’s recent push for blockchain technology to be part of his new “digital economy” program, saying that the country can’t be “late in the race” for blockchain dominance.

A recent Moscow cryptocurrency summit was attended by 200 speakers and over 3,000 participants, showing that the impetus for change is there in the new technology race. It remains to be seen how the Kremlin progresses and contributes towards Russia ’s technological advancement.

 

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Crypto CEOs Are Making Moscow Home

Moscow has the highest percentage of CEOs or founders of ICO-seeking projects working from the Russian capital, claims international technology investment company Atomico.

In figures acquired in 2017, Atomico cited Russia at the top of a list of major crypto-active locations around the globe, followed by Silicon Valley, New York, and London. No Asian capitals appeared in the statistics which were posted on news website Quartz earlier this week.

Quartz writer John Detrixhe claims that Russia’s programmers leave a significant footprint in the world of cryptocurrency, particularly in ICO markets. He suggests that Russian accents are always a feature of ICO pitch competitions, although when it comes to actually raising funds, the US, Singapore, Switzerland, and the UK top the charts. Germany, the UK, and France each have more professional developers than Russia, according to Atomico. The Netherlands has many more developers on a per-capita basis.

Tech professionals, according to Detrixhe, are quick to point out that Russia is rich in programming skills and cryptography, a legacy of the old Soviet Union’s focus on science. The USSR still ranks second, behind China, in International Mathematical Olympiad wins, even though it sent its last team in 1991.

Crypto innovation is coming out of Russia because it has some of the best intellectual capital in the world, said Oliver Hughes, chairman of Tinkoff Bank, a digital lender based in Moscow. Even Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank, behaves like a fintech firm, according to him. Sberbank reportedly has more than 11,000 developers, which is more than all the employees at Snap, Square, and Twitter combined.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, a plethora of scientists became available and startups were an ideal home for some of these, and those with any knowledge of digital systems were ideally placed in the newly computerized Russia.

Russians today have become cryptocurrency savvy, and even Vladimir Putin is being advised to break new ground and embrace a technology which could indeed prove be a useful panacea to the ongoing US and European sanctions.

Quartz claims that there are concerns in Russia that Moscow is trying to influence the blockchain and cryptography standards in a way that allows the state to undermine it. Putin met with Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin last year, and since then the Russian government has started to take the possibility of a central bank digital currency a little more seriously, despite a crackdown on private sector use.

If cryptocurrency is adopted in Russia by the central bank, it remains to be seen if it simply becomes a feature of overseas trade, utilized for sanction busting by the Kremlin, or made available to all. If it’s the latter, clearly, if these statistics are correct, Moscow has the technical capacity and know-how to make its domestic crypto space a success.

 

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 2017 Bad Year for Aussie Crypto Scams as US Launches ‘Cryptosweep’

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced on Monday that consumers lost more than USD 2.1 million to cryptocurrency scams last year, CoinDesk reported.

Of this figure, the ACCC reported, consumers lost approximately USD 100,000 per month between January and September of 2017. These losses increased in December to USD 200,000 when Bitcoin price rose to nearly USD 20,000, recording losses of more than USD 700,000. The commission noted that these figures showed a correlation between the number of scams and the price of Bitcoin.

The common cause of consumer losses was due to scams involving fake ICOs, cryptocurrency pyramid schemes, and ransomware payments.

Although the figure is high, it was noted that scams overall last year Australians lost more than USD 340 million, with USD 64 million being lost to investment scams specifically last year.

Cryptocurrency fraud is by no means limited to Australia, with fraud occurring in all countries which have a crypto market. In North America, seven scams and hacks last year netted around USD 490 million of consumer funds for the criminals. The Wall Street Journal has reported that of the 1,450 ICOs it reviewed, 271 had “red flags that include plagiarized investor documents, promises of guaranteed returns and missing or fake executive teams”.

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) has launched its own task force to attempt to clean up the crypto space in the US and Canada, primarily by conducted thorough investigations of ICOs and cryptocurrency related products, according to CoinDesk.

The investigation, labeled ‘Operation Cryptoweep’ according to statements, has involved to date “nearly 70 inquiries and investigations and 35 pending or completed enforcement actions since the beginning of the month”.

The Texas State Securities Board (TSSB) conducted its own survey on cryptocurrency crime recently in an investigation involving 32 cryptocurrency investment plans over four weeks.  The report indicated that almost two-thirds of these promoters did not give investors a physical address and that five out of the 32 promoters did not disclose any investment risks, as well as the risk of cybersecurity threats and hacks, and instead simply promised gains of up to 40% every month.

Joseph Rotunda, the TSSB’s Enforcement Division director, commented that “the market for cryptocurrency investments is saturated with widespread fraud, and our work is only revealing the tip of the iceberg”.

 

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Bitcoin Predicted to Dominate Future of Online Marketplaces

Bitcoin is becoming the world’s number one internet currency. This is according to Jack Dorsey, the owner of Square. He says that Bitcoin will emerge with time to become the Internet’s “native currency”, with the increasing popularity of the currency to overrun other internet currencies and become a preferred medium of exchange.

Bitcoin’s predicted future dominance

Jack Dorsey predicted the future dominance of Bitcoin back in March 2018 during an interview with Elizabeth Stark of Lightning Labs, where he expressed belief that when native internet currency emerged, Bitcoin would be at the fore..

Speaking during the Consensus 2018 Conference in New York, he said that the internet deserved a native digital currency that would become the mode of all payments for all transactions running across the web.

The digital marketplace

The concept of digital currency is entrenched in the world of online trade. In many instances, new digital currency such as Bitcoin has been the subject of discussion.

“Similarly, a day never lapses at Square without people discussing the idea of Bitcoin dominating the future of all internet transactions,” added Dorsey. Despite some people being skeptical about the digital currency, the open access policy will inspire its quest for dominance in all internet payments.

Payments solutions boosting the rise of Bitcoin

Additionally, the payment solutions developed for blockchain recognizes the significance of Bitcoin.

“At Square, any payment that comes across our table, the seller should be able to accept it,” remarked Dorsey. Square is in the payment industry and applauds Bitcoin’s role in ensuring swift and safe payments through the internet.

Square has a system that accepts Bitcoin payments. According to Mike Brock, an engineer at Square, the reason why they settled on Bitcoin is because of its simplicity.

Simple payments

Mike and Dorsey were eyeing simple internet payments that would work like any other common dollar payments. With Bitcoin, simple transactions like coffee purchases would not look any different as a transaction, so much so that cashiers might not even notice that the payment was in Bitcoin.

Square will build systems that will accommodate the payments for consumers and merchants. It wants to push for the acceptance and the dominance of Bitcoin payments by developing payment solutions. However, according to Dorsey, the goal for all these payment solutions must remain the same – just like walking into a coffee shop and making payments with Bitcoin.

 

Image Source: Max Pixel

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