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South Africa’s ANC Election Manifesto Cites Blockchain as Game Changer

South Africa's ANC Election Manifesto Cites Blockchain as Game Changer

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has revealed the ruling African National Congress (ANC) manifesto ahead of May’s elections which features the advancement of blockchain as an important tool for change.

After a ten-year period of chaotic government in South Africa under the Zuma government, a man now under pressure and facing trial for corruption, the country is looking at Ramaphosa and ANC for meaningful change, honesty and transparency.

At his latest speech in the Moses Mabida stadium in the coastal city of Durban, the president was described as delivering a speech more akin to that of a company CEO than a politician. He said that change was coming in South Africa via new technologies as part of the 4th industrial revolution. Blockchains, data analytics, and the internet of things would be the focus in a new South African government.

It appears that this is already underway with the government’s new assets regulatory working group currently investigating the potential of cryptocurrency and blockchain. The SA Reserve Bank (SARB) is in on the act, and the latest factfinder, Project Koha, has been put together by representatives from the Financial Intelligence Centre, Financial Sector Conduct Authority, and Treasury and the SA Revenue Service.

The SA reserve bank has recently detailed positive results from trialing the settlement of high volumes of payments via the blockchain. The implementation of blockchain in South Africa’s local banking and finance industries has accelerated over recent years and if Ramaphosa has his way, this will be the shape of things to come on the nation’s economic and financial landscape.

 

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Beijing to Enforce New Blockchain Laws to Monitor Internet Content

Beijing to Enforce New Blockchain Laws to Monitor Internet Content

Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the state body for internet censorship, has announced new guidelines for controlling the blockchain space in the country. The plan for tighter control over blockchain service providers was introduced in October of last year.

Beijing’s Blockchain Information Service Management Regulations will take effect from 15 February, showing how urgently the government wants to curb content which it feels might be detrimental to the state.

The new regulation has singled out blockchain providers, despite published comments over the past year coming from Beijing that blockchain has huge potential to streamline business. These regulations state that providers cannot “produce, duplicate, publish, [or] disseminate” banned content under state law.

More specifically, the new rules have defined blockchain providers as “entities or nodes” providing public information through desktop or mobile sites. Any companies providing these services will need to register with the CAC within ten days providing their names, server addresses, service types, and server addresses. No compliance with the CAC will face fines between USD 737 to USD 4,420.

The new regulations have a broad range, also incorporating news reporting, publishing, education, and pharmaceutical services, which would all be required to obtain licenses before registering with the CAC.

China has strict internet laws and the space is highly monitored by the state. It is thought that the tightening of control by the CAC is a response to those who have used blockchain tech in the past in order to circumvent Beijing’s control over the country’s internet content.

The most recent violation of China’s strict internet laws occurred in July 2018 when pharmaceutical company Changsheng Biotechnology was put in the spotlight online by bloggers who listed the firm’s transgressions on the Ethereum blockchain.

 

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Canada Debates Crypto Campaign Donations as Elections Loom

Canada Debates Crypto Campaign Donations as Elections Loom

With the Canadian General Election scheduled for later this year, Elections Canada, the body responsible for overseeing federal political fundraising, is polling the relevant parties on the question of whether campaign contributions could be allowed in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

Elections Canada have posted online that “with interest in cryptocurrency on the rise, political entities have requested guidance on accepting contributions and conducting other transactions in Bitcoin or altcoins”. This indicates that a change in the way donations are normally conducted may well be on the agenda, given the rise in Bitcoin’s popularity in the country.

With the relevant political parties being asked to forward their view before 21 January, there is time left. Elections Canada terms cryptocurrency donations as non-monetary, in-kind contributions, claiming:

“Like money, they can be used to make purchases from businesses that choose to accept them. But unlike money, they cannot be placed directly into a bank account. Instead, cryptocurrencies can be sold for traditional currencies that can be placed into a bank account.”

This, according to Elections Canada, puts cryptocurrencies more on a par with stocks and bonds which the body regards as “a form of property”, thereby making them a non-monetary contribution.

For its part, the draft note provided by the body takes the position that cryptocurrency donations are non-monetary, in-kind contributions. It points out this correlation to other authorities such as Elections BC (British Columbia) and the US Federal Election Commission, as well as the Canada Revenue Agency.

This would mean that such offerings would be acceptable providing that cryptocurrency donations follow the same guidelines as set for other non-monetary contributions, exempting them from tax receipts.

Currently, none of Canada‘s major political parties currently offers the option for crypto donations and to date, no party has responded to the Elections Canada request.

 

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Iran Reinforces Its Stance Against Telegram Crypto

Iran Reinforces its Stance Against Telegram Crypto

The Iranian government has reinforced its position on the ban of Telegram messaging app in a recent post by the Tehran Times yesterday.

According to the news outlet, the Secretary of Criminal Content Definition Task Force Javad Javidnia said: “One of the most important factors in banning Telegram was a sense of serious economic threat from its activities.”

The authorities have also issued warning against those with intent to support the native cryptocurrency of the app Gram, saying that “any cooperation with Telegram messaging app to launch Gram, the messaging app’s cryptocurrency, in Iran constitutes an action against national security and will be dealt with as a disruption to the national economy.”

The Iranian government has been hostile towards the Telegram messaging app since the political rouse in December 2017.  It was also reported that head of Iran’s High Council for Cyberspace Hassan Firouzabadi, wrote in an op-ed that it was not in Iran’s interest to continue allowing access to Telegram inside the country. The government decided to ban its use or association with its tokens in the region since early 2018.

Telegram is well known for its high-end encryption model as well as for being the go-to app for crypto-related community building. It was involved in a seed funding round where it raised USD 1.7 billion, notably one of the most successful crowdfunding in 2018.

Iran had criticized the Telegram ICO giving the impression that it “undermined the national currency.” However, in a recent development, the Iranian government was in the process of developing its own cryptocurrency in an attempt to undermine the sanctions being imposed by the US which is currently taking a toll on the economy.

Iran is not the only one against the messaging platform. The Russian government has also made attempts to ban the messaging app when it refused to hand over its encryption keys. Efforts to that end have proven to be unsuccessful so far.

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Crypto Reading Catch Up? Now Could Be the Perfect Time

Crypto Reading Catch Up? Now Could Be the Perfect Time

With cryptocurrencies currently languishing ahead their next step major step forward as international interest continues to grow, now might be the time to grab something to read, do some research, fill a few educational gaps, and prepare for the future as the industry gathers new momentum.

Whether it be a fiction or a non-fiction read, there is plenty out there on bookshelves for the discerning reader looking to expand their crypto knowledge. Even screenplays are becoming more frequent, often attracting familiar names from stage and screen. So where to begin then?

If it’s blockchain that holds a fascination, there are two books which have undeniable popularity: “The Internet of Money” by Andreas Antonopoulos and Nathaniel Popper‘s “Digital Gold”. These two promise an insightful read examining blockchain and Bitcoin from two entirely different angles and two very different writing styles.

Antonopoulos takes the reader into the world of blockchain, examining every detail and every aspect of what the technology can offer and how it functions, including advice that an enthusiastic reader might soon find themselves passing on to others. His quote, “First they ignore us, then they laugh at us, then they fight us, then we win”, has already become an industry catchall quote among enthusiasts for explaining how blockchain technology has forged new ground, often against the predictions of detractors and the actions of legislators, to become one of this century’s more notable and significant new technologies.

Popper’s “Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money” is simply a good read. Described by many as a “page-turner” and certainly written like a novel, the book examines the origins of Bitcoin and the mysteries surrounding its anonymous founder and its adherents, through the eyes of some of its central characters such as the Winklevoss twins, with the enigmatic Satoshi Nakamoto taking on the book’s pivotal role.

Another book, this time promising an all-you-need-to-know guide to crypto trading and investment, is Chris Burniske and Jack Tatar’s “Cryptoassets: The Innovative Investor’s Guide to Bitcoin and Beyond”. Although it a may lack the flair of Digital Gold, Cryptoassets is classed as a masterpiece in crypto writing and an all-encompassing guide for the serious investor. The book covers a framework for investigating and valuing crypto assets, practical guides to exchanges, wallets, capital market vehicles, and ICOs, and portfolio management techniques, complete with comprehensive references, charts, and tables.

“Blockchain Basics”, Saifedean Ammous‘s “The Bitcoin Standard”, “The Truth Machine”, “Mastering Bitcoin”, Sam and Alex Tapscott’s “Blockchain Revolution” and “The Age of Cryptocurrency” by Paul Vinya and Michael J Casey are others worthy of note as Christmas approaches or even possibly for revitalizing those new year’s plans for launching an ICO or simply that long-delayed cryptocurrency portfolio.

Whatever the project, these reads will move you further down the road to a greater understanding of the world’s fastest-growing financial technology.

 

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Identification, Tax, Self-Regulation Named Emerging Trends in Crypto Regulation

Ex-senior official at the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Jeff Bandman recently shared his expectations on the future of cryptocurrency regulations, pointing to identity checks, a clearer tax obligation, and industry self-regulation as trending areas.

Bandman said that a turning point for cryptocurrency regulation came in 2013 when the US government auctioned off the substantial amount of confiscated Bitcoin seized in dark web outlet Silk Road’s closure.

”When the US government seizes narcotics they don’t auction it off to the American people, to me that was a real watershed moment,” he said, interpreting this as the government’s acknowledgment of it as something legal.

KYC, AML

The area where Bandman sees greatest conversions is that surrounding around anti-money laundering (AML) and terrorist financing. Although he acknowledged that people are laundering at higher levels with cash than cryptocurrencies, he cites that statistically GBP 100 billion is estimated as launder in Europe every year, with around GBP 3 or 4 billion of that laundered in cryptocurrency. ”That’s still a lot and governments around the world are focusing on that,” he clarified.

”It’s a big theme as we go through 2018 and in to 2019… country by country mainstream departments of finance and justice will be handling this alongside an international group called the Financial Action Task Force which will have new standards by June.”

For businesses in this space, compliance to tighter regulation will be a core theme; ”whether or not you think its appropriate considering other certain software or consumer products are subject to KYC (know your customer) or AML at this level, it will be the defining characteristic for these types of assets.”

Taxes

Bandman noted that taxing cryptocurrency came to the US government’s attention in 2013, 2014, although there was and still is no consistent treatment globally. Each country is trying to deal with taxation, albeit in different ways, he said with the common denominator being a lack of clarity and consistency.

He gave the example of France’s intention to impose a 20% capital gains task on cryptocurrency which taxpayers are still unclear of on the logistics; whether it relates to corporate income or just capital: ”If buying a coffee with Bitcoin is there going to be gains or losses in that transaction or is that an exemption?”

”Crypto businesses and retails need a clear taxonomy. Some products such as airdrops and forks are novel compared to other taxable assets,” Bandman shared, suggesting that a clearer taxation policy is crucial for supporting national industries.

Exchange platforms

With the trading landscape rapidly evolving, Bandman pointed to the US as going particularly quickly in this area of regulation partly because of the country’s extremely broad definition of a security and investment contracts.

Other regions benefit trading because their definitions are not so broad: ”In the EU, the definition of security generally excludes most cryptoassets. In the US, cryptoassets must comply with securities laws for the most part with exception of sufficiently decentralized coins like Bitcoin and Ether. Other countries have developed a bespoke framework, such as Gibraltar and Bermuda which have provided a specific framework for virtual currencies.”

Japan, however, is the nation that Bandman sees as setting the future trends for exchange regulations. He described Japan as ”leading the world” since giving specific authority to its financial market regulator to market cash or spot trading of cryptocurrencies. Now it has just authorized the first self-regulatory organization which gives trading platforms authority to police themselves.

”These are very important elements for trends in the landscape moving forward,” he concluded.

Bandom established and chaired the CFTC blockchain, virtual currency, and fintech working group from inception, serving with the CFTF from 2014-2017. He now lectures at Yale University and acts as Founder and Principal of Bandman Advisors.

His comments were made at Decentralized 2018, a blockchain conference that took place in Athens, Greece last week.

 

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MEP Eva Kaili: ICOs Needed When Banks Overregulate

Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Eva Kaili has revealed that a report on initial coin offerings (ICOs) was being prepared for the European Parliament that would promote their use as a crowdfunding tool.

”We really need [ICOs] when banks are overregulated and projects need liquidity… we must try not to overregulate them and stop innovation,” she said. MEP Kaili made this statement during her keynote address at the ongoing Decentralized 2018 blockchain conference in Athens, Greece.

Following up with Bitcoin News at the conference, she reported that the Parliament had recently facilitated the release of EUR 700 million for startup projects that can show they provide ”great solutions” with blockchain.

However, she did acknowledge the number of scams that certainly exist within the ICO market but believes these can be avoided by properly analyzing the white paper: ”I have seen people buy for the hype but on the white paper, it states they own nothing… Fraud is fraud. We don’t need regulation to stop that.”

MEP Kaili also told Bitcoin News that she believes European countries like France and Malta have the most progressive and effective blockchain legislation, while others beyond Europe are emerging as strong contenders for leadership in the industry.

She said that through her travels, she has seen France impose itself as a significant leader in blockchain regulation, with the country ”trying to proceed very fast”. Malta is also producing progressive legislation, she added. Outside of Europe, both Barbados and Singapore are leading the way, as well as Switzerland which she described as ”a staple one; it has always been very fast in the financial sector to adapt to the changes”.

Discussing her recent legislative work, MEP Kaili that she has just finished the Blockchain Resolution – a work in progress since 2015 when she first became aware and interested in the technology. She pushed for the resolution in the European Parliment after becoming concerned with potential resistance to blockchain from ”the systems that failed us”, referencing the financial systems that contributed to the 2008 economic crisis and her home country of Greece’s own economic turbulence.

Now, Kaili’s efforts are focused on creating non-restrictive regulation for artificial intelligence (AI). She spoke about the potential of blockchain and AI synergy, to which she declared, ”I think will be very exciting.”

On blockchain, she noted that “It can solve problems but not all the problems, I would say it is more of a philosophy”, citing that there were still issues regarding scalability, energy efficiency, and the protection of data, although believes they will be “figured out quite soon”.

The Greek MEP was the keynote speaker at Decentralized 2018 hosted by the University of Nicosia. It ends tomorrow on 16 November 2018.

 

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US Politician Sets Record Straight on Crypto Campaign Donations

US politician Brian Forde published an article Monday criticizing the misinformation around cryptocurrency campaign donations, pointing to a number of areas where these contributions are far more transparent than they are portrayed as in the mainstream media.

Forde has a number of notable achievements in US politics, including serving as Senior Tech Adviser in the Obama administration where he was responsible for bringing the president up to date on Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency industry. During a recent run for Congress in California’s 45th district, he personally collected around USD 300,000 in cryptocurrency campaign contributions.

Clarifying transparency

Addressing claims that campaign donations via digital currency meant that they could not be easily verified by the public, Forde said that all donations were subject to the same standards as fiat. This means any money received must be published with the donors’ full name and address, although publishing the wallet address he says goes against their financial privacy. Although some people have allegedly been calling for the publication of wallet addresses, bank account or credit card numbers where donations are made from are not published.

Forde added that the most anonymous form of payment that could be made would actually be in cash, while the easiest way to make an illegal donation would be with a ”prepaid debit card bought with cash at a convenience store — not cryptocurrencies”.

Because wallet providers in the US are subject to strict know-your-customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) policies, Forde argues that that Bitcoin is not a privacy coin, nor is it anonymous.

Unfair claims of crypto’s illicit uses

Another area that he found problematic in media coverage of crypto donations is its portrayal as an asset directly connected to illicit activities, while cash and credit card frauds are left out of the conversation. Pointing to a list from the UK government which asses the different forms of money laundering that has been taking place, he noted that Bitcoin came at the bottom of the list.

”On that basis, the means of payment should not be our litmus test to determine how candidates, or anyone, can or cannot receive money,” Forde writes.

Media coverage suggesting cryptocurrency has been used by foreign actors to influence the US election is misleading, he says. Rather than being used to make direct campaign donations, it has been, in some cases, been used to purchase internet domain names and pay for servers. Saying that the government does not ban foreign actors from using the internet or social media which can also influence the outcome of elections, Forde reasons that this means they should also not be stopped from using cryptocurrency in the ways it has been proven to be used.

 

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US Study Reveals Contentious Opinions on Bitcoin Campaign Donations

A recent study that gauged voter opinions of cryptocurrencies in US political campaign donations has revealed positive yet cautious sentiments.

The survey conducted by research firm Clovr gathered the views of 1,023 registered US voters across a number of areas including financial stability, legality, foreign interference, and political misuse. The results were then further filtered down by political affiliation – Democrat, Republican or Independent.

Acceptance

Of those surveyed, 60% believe that cryptocurrencies and US fiat should be treated as equals for federal elections; the article also makes note that 21% of respondents were opposed to this view.

In 2014, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) established some loose guidelines for Bitcoin donations; summarily, they are permitted, although only in the form of an “in-kind” contribution and limited to an amount of USD 100. By these definitions, digital currencies do not fall on par with fiat currencies as they are treated the same as other in-kind donations such as donated items, equipment and subsidized rent.

With regards to security, a majority (54%) of respondents have faith in cryptocurrency being secure enough to be used for political purposes; a view that was held by relatively similar numbers across political affiliations.

Under half (42%) of respondents reported that cryptocurrencies were stable enough for political purposes, however, 35% believe that cryptocurrency markets are too volatile for political use.

Concerns

Contrasting to those bullish outlooks, a majority of respondents (60%), are of the opinion that cryptocurrencies would make foreign interference in elections more common. Additionally, 62% are concerned that cryptocurrency is more likely to be used illegally within politics, a view that was expressed almost equally across all political affiliations.

In the survey, 64% of respondents agreed that politicians would “take advantage” of the looser regulations surrounding crypto donations; voters from all political parties overwhelmingly voted yes, 26% were unsure and 10% disagree.

The above sentiments are not particularly hard to believe considering that bitcoin was recently linked to the interference of Russian hackers during the 2016 Presidential Elections. Furthermore, political donation opinions in the United States are wrought with complexities, controversies, distrust and other fascinating issues that systemic in US politics.

Crypto-campaigns

In the US this year, there have been some efforts to not only increase the use of digital currencies in political campaigns, but also the use of blockchain technology in mobile voting apps.

In July, a Libertarian Party member who was campaigning for state Governor of Wisconsin announced his acceptance of Bitcoin donations. This move prompted a negative response from the Wisconsin Ethics Commission (WEC) who doubt the legal validity of such a donation. Regardless, the candidate has said that he will “push all the way back” should his announcement be contested.

In August, the North Carolina electoral campaign finance board firmly denied a Republican candidate the right to receive cryptocurrency donations for his campaign. Also that month, a 2020 presidential candidate announced that he would be accepting Bitcoin, Ethereum and any other ERC20 compliant tokens.

 

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Bitcoin Used by Russia To Hack 2016 US Elections, New Indictment Reveals

A 29-page Indictment has been released recently, stating Bitcoin’s huge role when it came to Russian interference in the 2016  US presidential elections.

The documents accuse 12 Russian agents of hacking into Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s computers and stealing information of over 500,000 voters. Aides close to Hillary Clinton were then tricked into handing over this information by the Russian intelligence officers.

11 of the 12 accused are being charged with breaking into computers and releasing documents with the intent of influencing the last presidential election. The 12th was charged with conspiring to penetrate organizations that directly handled the elections.

“…had multiple units, including Units 26165 and 74455, engage in cyber operations that involve stage releases of document stolen through computer intrusions. These units conducted large-scale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election.”

Bitcoin was mentioned extensively in count 10 (Conspiracy to Launder Money). Money was required for the Russian operatives to acquire infrastructure needed for later actions.

More than $95,000 was laundered through Bitcoin, which was then used to buy servers, register domains, and other online payments. The documents state other currencies like the USD was used as well, but it seems Bitcoin was used primarily due to the enhanced levels of privacy it affords over other payment methods.

Some of the funds were also used to purchase computing hardware to mine Bitcoin, to help supplement their income for hacking activities. Bitcoin mined by the GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff) were used to purchase the domain dcleaks.com through a Romanian company.

Besides the purchase of the domain and hardware to mine Bitcoin, other notable purchases described in the pages was a VPN to log into the @Guccifer_2 Twitter account, a Malaysian server to host the dcleaks domain, as well as the leasing of another server for X-Tunnel malware injected into DCCC and DNC networks.

An additional two servers were also acquired to hack in the DNC’s cloud network.

The effects this will have on a meeting between the two presidents planned for next week are yet to be determined. Trump and Putin are scheduled to meet Monday in Helsinki, and nothing has changed despite the emergence of this indictment.

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