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Facebook Puts Down Stellar Partnership Rumors

Amid the blockchain and cryptocurrency rumors surrounding social media giant Facebook, the company has now denied being in talks with cryptocurrency firm Stellar.

Just a rumor

On Friday, 10 July, Business Insider published a report claiming that David Marcus, former PayPal executive who leads Facebook’s blockchain team, had met with Stellar to discuss potential uses.

According to the report, the unnamed Stellar source claimed it would “make sense for Facebook to record payment transactions on a distributed ledger like Stellar”. The source added, “They’d be taking the rug out from under the banks… They can add a bank more quickly than a bank could build a social network.”

However, it didn’t take particularly long for the explosive rumor to reach Facebook, prompting a swift response. Speaking with financial outlet Cheddar, a spokesperson said, “We are not engaged in any discussions with Stellar, and we are not considering building on their technology.”

Market response

The crypto markets responded appropriately during the period of this report, while Stellar’s cryptocurrency called Lumens jumped up approximately 10% on the world’s largest crypto exchange, Binance.

The Stellar discussion alone is not the only factor to consider in the Facebook rumor mill; a day later it was reported again by Business Insider, that David Marcus had announced his departure from the Coinbase board.

Speaking with CoinDesk, Marcus explained, “Because of the new group I’m setting up at Facebook around blockchain.” A Coinbase representative also told CoinDesk that Marcus had resigned to “avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest”.

Developments

In early May, the social media giant announced the founding of its blockchain technology research team, the sole purpose of which is to research the potential uses of blockchain technology on Facebook.

It was again in the spotlight in mid-May, after another anonymous source had made claims that Facebook was indeed considering the creation of its own cryptocurrency.

However, at that time of reporting, Marcus denied those claims on the basis of cryptocurrency payments being “very expensive” and “super slow”, though he does mull the prospect of maybe doing something after Facebook had explored blockchain technology enough.

Moving into early July, Facebook announced the creation of a Director of Engineering Blockchain position, appointing its in-house head of Programmable Languages & Runtimes, Evan Chang to the newly established position. Cheng has also advised projects and startups like ChainLink and Zilliqa.

Then in a partial U-turn, Facebook announced that it would be allowing for Coinbase advertisements to run on the website and Instagram. The timely move came a few short months after Facebook, among others including Google, banned cryptocurrency advertisements on its websites.

The global blockchain and cryptocurrency communities will be watching Facebook very closely it dips its toe in blockchain; however, it is unlikely this will be the last of the whisperings to emerge and be dispelled.

 

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Facebook to Launch Its Own Cryptocurrency?

Leading social media site Facebook, which has billions of users, may be on the path to launch its own cryptocurrency, indicates the recent tidings.

Earlier this year, Facebook created a blockchain research team led by David Marcus, with a goal of leveraging blockchain technology, and possibly cryptocurrency, across its social network platform. David Marcus is well known for taking Facebook Messenger from a relatively small app to one of the most widely used chat apps in the world. Also, David Marcus has deep ties in the cryptocurrency world, he was on the Coinbase Board of Directors. Coinbase is the largest and most popular cryptocurrency exchange headquartered in the United States.

Now David Marcus has stepped down from the Coinbase Board of Directors. One astute Twitter commenter, Gagan Jain, said “This is like Eric Schmidt stepping down from Apple’s board prior to Android’s launch”. Indeed, stepping down from Coinbase’s Board of Directors ensures no conflict of interest if Facebook launches their own cryptocurrency. Now Coinbase can add Facebook’s cryptocurrency when it launches, massively increasing the spread of Facebook’s cryptocurrency.

Further, according to anonymous sources, Facebook’s blockchain research team has met with Stellar to discuss about forking the Stellar blockchain to create the Facebook cryptocurrency, similar to how the Kik messaging app forked Stellar to create the Kin crypto tokens. These anonymous sources say Facebook’s blockchain research team has also met with other cryptocurrency projects.

Stellar would be the best choice for a social cryptocurrency, since Stellar has extremely low fees, far less than 0.1 penny per transaction, allowing for micropayments. Stellar is highly scalable, so Lumen or any cryptocurrency based on Stellar can handle tremendous amounts of transactions without a significant rise in fees. Therefore, Stellar based cryptocurrencies are excellent for micropayments, which is preferred on social media. People can send each other 1 penny of FacebookCoin, or whatever it will be called, without losing any to fees.

Due to the huge user base of Facebook, numbering over 1 billion, a Facebook cryptocurrency would become extremely popular and has the potential to become one of the top cryptocurrencies quickly. Perhaps the social media giant has finally decided to launch a cryptocurrency after its stock market cap declined USD 100 billion in one night recently, motivating them to try and make money in any way possible rather than ignore cryptocurrency. Launching a Facebook cryptocurrency would easily and quickly bring billions of dollars of profits to Facebook, something they need after the large hit to their stock.

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Ukraine Election Trials Have Begun on NEM Blockchain

A Ukraine election official shared in a Facebook post on Tuesday that the commission’s experiments with the NEM blockchain voting trial for use in the country’s elections have gone live successfully.

The head of the country’s voter registry at the Central Election Commission of Ukraine, Oleksandr Stelmakh, commended the immutability of hosting elections on the blockchain, as well as the improved security benefits of the decentrally-hosted data. The social media post notes that the commission was continuing a series of trials that apply blockchain technology to electoral voting.

He noted that the test run utilized these properties in saving the responses to the ballots, as well as the voters’ personal information. The test vote used 28 nodes with the NEM blockchain.

A link to the timestamped NEM blockchain transactions was also shared in the post with a disclaimer that the pilot had been held in a test environment with trial coins that were donated by the NEM foundation in Ukraine.

To install blockchain voting in each Ukrainian police station, Stelmakh estimated it would cost USD 1,227 per unit, a price he sees as more than reasonable to assure the sanctity of elections is protected.

Crypto in Ukraine

Last month, the Ukraine National Securities and Stock Market Commission announced plans to further regulate the cryptocurrency industry. The commission responsible for minimizing risks in the financial sector has not endorsed legislation to legalize cryptocurrency in Ukraine, despite an increase of activity in the sector.

An internal legislative debate is reportedly taking place to codify laws around blockchain, and the storage and trade of cryptocurrencies.

In June, a government agency announced that it had no plans to regulate crypto mining. Miners, however, have been said to be keeping a low profile on their operations due to the unpredictability of the government’s reaction to cryptocurrency, with some speculating they may become subject to fines or confiscation of their mining equipment.

 

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Ripple Matches Madonna’s Malawi Fundraiser Dollar for Dollar

Singer Madonna is to launch an online fundraiser with Ripple to raise funds for her Raising Malawi Foundation.

Born Madonna Louise Ciccone, the singer is better known simply as Madonna, songwriter, actress, and businesswoman. Referred to as the “Queen of Pop” since the 1980s, she has gone on to become a star of both stage and film as well as numerous pop videos.

In 2012, Madonna launched a partnership between Raising Malawi and the global nonprofit buildOn. In July 2018, she traveled to Northeast Kasungu Province to officially open the four newest primary schools. In total, Raising Malawi has built 14 schools in rural Malawi, according to her fundraising website. As a part of the partnership, Raising Malawi and buildOn have educated community members about the importance of girls’ education, and as result, all schools have gender parity.

She has timed the fundraiser to coincide with her 60th birthday and says that Ripple will match every dollar donated to her website. The program will run until the end of August. Madonna announced the fundraiser on her site:

“I want to come together with my friends, fans and supporters to change the lives of Malawian children and let them know they are nurtured, protected and loved. Through their generous commitment to this organization, Ripple will match each dollar donated to this campaign.”

Ripple CEO David Schwartz confirmed the crypto company’s fundraiser matching commitment later on Twitter.

“From July 30 through August 31, @Ripple will match all public donations in support of the cause …” https://t.co/LEkzcIaux2

— David Schwartz (@JoelKatz) July 30, 2018

Facebook is also involved in the fundraiser for Madonna’s Malawi children through its “charitable giving tools” which charges no fees with 100% going directly to the charity. On Facebook, Madonna stated:

“I have an unwavering commitment to providing vulnerable children with a loving home. For my birthday, I can think of no better gift than connecting my global family with this beautiful country and the children who need our help most. Every dollar raised will go directly to meals, schools, uniforms and healthcare.”

 

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Ethereum Used to Break Chinese Censorship over Bad Vaccines

A vaccine scandal in China has driven social networkers to use blockchain as a way of bypassing the government’s strict internet censorship.

The news broke in China this week that drug manufacture Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology had sold unsafe vaccines, causing public condemnation across the country. The story which broke via a blogger’s exposé online subsequently went viral on the WeChat social network.

The investigative story posted by the blogger was based on a statement by the government confirming that the lab based in Shenzhen had supplied babies with inferior vaccines. Whooping-Cough and Tetanus immunity drugs were said to be incapable of boosting the immune system of its respondents who in this case were three-month-old babies. The company had been accused of using inferior drugs to boost profits.

China has strict internet policies and is highly state-controlled and monitored by government agencies around the clock. There are reportedly more than 40,000 internet monitors set up for screening out what the government regards as material not fit for public consumption. Google and Facebook are not available to Chinese citizens and only authorized Chinese news sites have public access. Even certain search words are screened out of the Chinese search lexicon.

This particular story was reportedly caught by the monitor screening system and deleted within hours, along with all of its accompanying post, thereby making it unavailable to the Chinese public. Subsequent efforts by bloggers to reblog the piece as the ‘King of Vaccines’, under the pseudonym ‘Beast’ were very quickly discovered by the monitors and also deleted.

That was, until a group of internet users had the clever scheme of taking to the Ethereum network and sending 0.001 Ether to itself with the news story attached… for all time. Due to Ethereuem’s decentralized nature, it then became out of reach of Chinese authorities.

By adding the story to the metadata of a crypto transaction, it appears that the Chinese public may have found a foil to censorship In China, although according to Technode this is not the first time that blockchain has been used in this way.

In April, a student published a letter about threats she received from her university regarding obtaining information over a sexual assault case. It was taken down by the monitors, then subsequently added to the Ethereum blockchain by the other students.

 

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Winklevoss Twins Story ‘Bitcoin Billionaires’ Out Next Year, Movie Possibly to Follow

Publisher Little Brown is to release a biography about crypto twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss called “Bitcoin Billionaires”. The book, which is to be published both in the UK and US next year, has been bought by Richard Beswick, Little Brown’s publishing director.

The brothers, renowned in sporting circles as a rowing pair who competed for the US in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, are perhaps better known for suing Mark Zuckerberg in 2014 for supposedly stealing their Uconnect social networking concept which went on to become Facebook. The case netted them USD 65 million.

The book will follow their various travails through the Silk Road website, their dealings with the SEC and the Facebook affair. According to a spokesman from the publishing house, their dubious connection with Zuckerberg damaged their potential to be investable, as investors were concerned about “alienating their nemesis”. Little Brown promises it will take readers on “a wild and surprising ride while shining a bright light on an economic event that continues to baffle the average reader”.

Once, as Little Brown pointed out, a chance encounter in Ibiza drove them to realize that Facebook had become “establishment”, they moved on very quickly:

“If they wanted to be disrupters and make a true killing they needed to get in on the ground floor of a brand new idea: cryptocurrency. They started buying Bitcoin when it was USD 6 a coin – it is now trading at over USD 7,000 a coin.”

As a result, on 26 November 2017, the twins became the first Bitcoin billionaires.

This isn’t the first time that the Winklevoss twins have featured in a book by Ben Mezrich. It was his 2009 book, The Accidental Billionaires, which was adapted into the Academy Award Winning movie The Social Network with actor Armie Hammer playing both twins.

There is a rumor circulating that the book is already being considered for a movie deal after a report by the New York Post. The twins have also appeared on this year’s “40 under 40” fintech movers and shakers.

 

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Nigeria’s Poor Turn to Crypto Bounty Hunting

Bounty hunting platforms are showing that cryptocurrencies are offering a way out of poverty for some, writes Coindesk.

A bounty is a simple task or job created by a coin developer that you carry out to earn coins or tokens, usually before and during an initial coin offering (ICO). The main areas are typically Tweeting about the project, posting on Facebook, creating blog posts, designing a logo for the coin, or participating in a forum with the logo signature. These are essential jobs for the coin developer to promote their coin during the ICO stage to fund their ambitions.

As Bitcoin News reported recently, such work is offering opportunities to some that wouldn’t have considered becoming involved in the cryptocurrency industry, illustrated by women in Afghanistan now learning to write code for a bounty posting network for Ether payments.

Such sites are becoming far more visible on the net and for some, in dire circumstances, the opportunity to work for these has become a lifeline, joining companies such as Bounty0x, which now has 30,000 active bounty hunters.

Nigerian ‘Crypto Shaolin’ is one of those who has profited from the opportunity to create a new life for himself through the cryptocurrency space. He claims his life has improved, despite the recent downturn in market prices.

Shaolin’s was a soft drink seller following tourists to Africa with his box of iced soft drinks until he came upon a tourist who suggested there might be a better way of getting ahead. The rest for him is history.

Bounty0x CMO Pascal Thellmann explains:

“People in low-income countries are often excluded from global freelancing marketplaces due to a lack of formal education and banking requirements… hunters… can complete micro-tasks like retweeting a tweet or writing a review for a product, in exchange for a couple dollars in crypto.”

However, opportunities are not simply limited to working for companies such as Bounty0x, as Nigerian writer Ayobami Abiola illustrates. He claims he’s making far more money now writing by completing “bounties like article writing, posting on Reddit, Facebook like and share, Bitcoin Talk [forum] comments and joining Telegram groups for many projects”.

Crypto Shaolin is happy. He claims he’s now made USD 1,000 by collecting bounties in 2018 alone, which may not sound like a significant sum, but it’s reported to be double what most Nigerians earn in a year, with the number of Nigerians in extreme poverty increased by six people every minute.

 

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Cryptocurrencies Are Helping Venezuela’s Poor as Conditions Worsen

A Venezuelan, using the alias “Hector” to protect his identity, has spoken out against the Madura regime illustrating how the country’s poor is increasingly relying on cryptocurrency for survival, writes Bitcoin magazine.

As Bitcoin News reported recently hyperinflation is rampant in Venezuela and as a result, Bitcoin trading volume keeps hitting new records each week. Meanwhile, authorities are scratching their heads on how to rein in the burgeoning, albeit underground industry, including attempts to crackdown on the import of cryptocurrency mining equipment.

Despite the government’s recent social projects to support student programs through crypto mining at schools and universities, and the building of more than 2 million homes for the homeless, paid for by the Petro, Venezuela’s economy continues to suffer.

The country’s poor have found Bitcoin to be a foil for the country’s hyperinflation which at last count had reached $18000 percent, creating a bizarre situation where locals are now making carrier bags out of the national currency, the bolivar, in order to carry their money in for making a shopping trip.

Hector realized that Bitcoin was the way out of total poverty when he recently received 0.5 nano as a gift, at the time worth $1.80, which was more money than he had made in a month. Four days later Hector saw his money swell after informing the community that he now had opened a wallet. He discovered he had amassed 360.68 nano (nearly$950 at time of press) which allowed him to buy 224 lbs of food for just 29 nano, according to Reddit.

Hector’s story is becoming typical, as Venezuelans turn to cryptocurrency. He explained:

“We were almost running out of food some days ago; it was common for that to happen every six or seven days after getting paid. With the 3 NANO (around $8 USD) we were able to buy food for the whole week and that’s only something to be very happy about, something that doesn’t happen very often.”

As Hector went on to explain, Facebook has become a medium which now attracts thousands of people discussing airdrops, with foreign nationals increasingly becoming involved in these types of benevolent activities. Former Goldman Sachs employee turned developer Jonathan Wheeler recently announced plans to help Venezuelans get their hands on Bitcoin via his massive airdrop and has assembled a team of foreign nationals and Venezuelans to make it successful, even quitting his job in the city. He explained:

“To give it the greatest likelihood of success, it has to be done en masse. We’re trying to make this a large-scale collaborative mission to help people suffering from financial tyranny.”

Hector has the last word, thanking all those that are working towards making the lives of Venezuela’s poor a more positive one. He said:

“Venezuela is what a country with almost zero economic freedom looks like, and many are at risk of ending up like us. One important focus the cryptocurrency community has is to fight for our freedom and I congratulate you guys for standing for what is yours.”

 

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Facebook Creates Director of Engineering Blockchain Position

Facebook has confirmed that they have created a new position, Director of Engineering Blockchain, and have appointed Evan Chang. This is the latest in a series of developments that show social media powerhouse Facebook is considering blockchain technology integration.

Evan Chang was the head of Programmable Languages & Runtimes at Facebook for the past 3 years and is a well-respected computer programmer. He has been an advisor to blockchain projects and startups including Zilliqa and ChainLink. He will be joining a team led by David Marcus that is exploring how to best leverage blockchain technology across Facebook’s platform that was announced in May 2018. David Marcus is the former head of the Facebook messenger app, and under his guidance, its user base exploded to over 1 billion people. He is also on the Board of Directors of Coinbase — one of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges headquartered in the United States.

Facebook recently created yet another blockchain position, VP of Product Blockchain, and appointed Kevin Weil who was formerly Instagram’s VP of Product. As can be seen, Facebook is appointing high-level employees with powerful skillsets to blockchain positions, which indicates they are taking blockchain technology seriously. Seems like it is only a matter of time until Facebook puts blockchain technology into operational use.

Launched in 2004, Facebook is headquartered in the United States and is the world’s largest social media platform with 2.2 billion active users as of January 2018. Facebook’s income was USD 40 billion in 2017, and its stock has a market cap of USD 575 billion as of this writing on 6 July 2018. This is 5 times Bitcoin’s market cap of USD 114 billion. When Facebook inevitably implements blockchain technology it is expected to spread the new technology to more people than ever before.

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Crypto Marketing Gets Creative Amid Ad Bans and Tighter Regulatory Scrutiny

A new Wired report finds that US companies are experimenting with new marketing channels within the crypto space, especially after recent high-profile bans on crypto-related advertising on social media channels and with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) starting to take a closer look at unregulated token sales late last year.

This has also created new opportunities for those willing to take on the challenging task of differentiating genuine startups from fraudulent ones.

An example is Sally, an executive assistant living in British Columbia, who created a 34-page beginner’s guide to crypto investing and shared it online, very quickly gaining 18,000 subscribers on YouTube and 14,000 followers on Twitter. Within a few months, she was making a living from her new-found life and eventually quit her job. She commented:

“I’m like a nobody in traditional marketing terms, but because this space is so new and it’s so crazy right now, there aren’t a lot of crypto influencers yet, and especially female ones.”

Although she has clearly made a success from the crypto space, now receiving up to ten requests a week to promote ICOs and post coin reviews, such opportunities need to be weeded out among the numerous similar sounding projects, many of them far less reputable.

A recent Wall Street Journal investigation has highlighted this problem of how to choose a bona fide opportunity amongst the numerous scam traps waiting for its next victim. The investigation found that nearly 20% of 1,450 projects were obvious frauds and increased scrutiny from the SEC has dampened entrepreneurial enthusiasm.

This requires that projects need to be far more innovative, particularly in the light of recent advertising bans by Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Bing. Startup fundraising was largely superseded by ICOs as an effective way of raising funds, but now ICOs are looking far less secure among the confusing mix of promoters, scammers, spammers, and regulators.

“Scams and pump-and-dump schemes have turned off many potential investors. Meanwhile, a sustained drop in the prices of major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether has left crypto investors with less capital to risk on new tokens. Making matters worse,” writes Wired.

The market is becoming expensive as it becomes primed for growth hackers, PR agencies, telegram managers and bounty hunters. Jonas Karlberg, CEO of AmaZix, a Denmark-based firm that manages Telegram communities, explains that bounty programs give products a voice and are also time-friendly, but they have a downside. He warns that numerous mindless social media shares create little value for the project. “These bounty hunters are only doing this to get their hands on some quick reward,” he says.

A Google company spokesman has said that its ban is not operational yet. Until it does, writes Wired, crypto companies will take advantage of the lag. Searches for terms like “buy ico”, “token sale” and “invest crypto” will turn up numerous ads for cryptocurrency projects, white papers, and ICOs.

Sally’s 34-page guide may be even more useful to the uninitiated about to step into this vibrant and complex space; it may possibly help them to avoid a misguided next move and make a productive, financially rewarding decision.

 

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