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Anti-Vaxer Conspiracy Theorists Have a New Surprising Target

“Don’t Blockchain Our Babies!” screamed a placard at a recent anti-lockdown rally in London. Here’s why.

Republished by Plato



In brief

  • Blockchain was targeted at an anti-lockdown rally in London last weekend.
  • But protestors’ placards, referring to the WEF “blockchaining” babies, created confusion.
  • The technology appears to be aligned with the aims of conspiracy theorists, such as QAnon believers.

LONDON—Conspiracy theorists mingled with X-Factor stars and Barbie lookalikes, amid a sea of people who did not like being told what to do, at the climax of the anti-lockdown march in Trafalgar Square last Sunday. 

Their sentiments, richly varied and strongly felt, were echoed across Europe. Similar marches took place in Berlin, Paris, Vienna, and Zurich last weekend, with tens of thousands of protestors turning out to express an assortment of gripes: disaffection with the handling of the coronavirus crisis, fears about compulsory vaccinations, anger about mandatory mask-wearing, and loopy ideas that the pandemic was a hoax propagated by 5G masts.

 Now we can add blockchain phobia to that list. 

“Don’t Blockchain Our Babies! World Economic Forum,” screamed one placard, belonging to a nonchalant-looking protestor, sitting atop one of the stone lions guarding Nelson’s Column. “We do not consent to your technocracy,” proclaimed another. In the foreground, former X-Factor contestant Chico, addressed the crowd.

Were these QAnon supporters, as the press alleged? Was it a prank spin on the anti-vax movement? What could it mean? Decrypt set out to discover what in the world is going on with the tin-foil crowd and blockchain.

An open door to digital identity

British entrepreneur and multi-millionaire Simon Dolan was one of the march promoters and is the founder of liberty-loving organization Keep Britain Free (KBF), a loose collective of individuals with a wide range of grievances, including compulsory vaccinations, and the government’s handling of the coronavirus. 

But blockchain? “No idea, I’m afraid,” Dolan told Decrypt

A Donald Trump fan, Dolan recently made headlines when he called for a judicial review on the proportionality of the UK Government response to the coronavirus, and he’s no fan of the prospective government-backed, digital ID scheme either. 

But blockchain isn’t in the frame there—or is it? 

“What is most relevant from the blockchain perspective is that [the UK government is] trying to identify and remove legal obstacles to the use of identity technologies, and that would include blockchain-based identity technologies,” said Ian Brown, a security and privacy IT specialist. Brown was part of the UK Government’s Privacy Advisory Group which explored digital identity during the call for proposals for its digital identity service Verity

He said that, while he’s not a blockchain enthusiast, the policy the government is pursuing will open the door to blockchain-based ID systems. The Times reported that these plans are part of Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister Dominic Cummings’s aims to “revolutionize the use of data across government.” 

Cummings’ views on blockchain are unknown, but the highly unusual job advert on his personal blog urging “super-talented weirdos” to join Her Majesty’s civil service would be a great fit for swathes of the blockchain and crypto industry. 

Babes in chains

But what of the World Economic Forum’s role in all of this? Aren’t they supposed to be the ones blockchaining babies? 

It turns out that there is indeed a World Economic Forum-affiliated project on blockchain-based identity solutions targeting young children.  

Necker Island, in the Caribbean, is privately owned by Virgin tycoon Richard Branson. Image: Flickr

The World Identity Network (WIN), a nonprofit advocating for blockchain-based universal identity, was launched in 2017 on Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island. It’s reportedly working on the world’s first pilot that will use blockchain technology to help combat child trafficking.

On its face, one would think the project would thrill conspiracy theorists. The QAnon cult is waging a war against elite Satan-worshipping pedophiles. So you’d think that they’d approve of a blockchain-based plan to stop child sex trafficking.

You’d be wrong: The QAnon crowd hates Branson. They believe he is a child sex trafficker and was listed among the hundreds of celebs in Jeffrey Epstein’s “little black book.” Just as bad is the fact that Branson is pals with Bill Gates—the biggest bogeyman of all, according to the tin-foil hat crowd. 

A favorite conspiracy theory is that Gates wants to use vaccination programs as a cover to put microchips into newborns, using RFID technology as a means of tracking and controlling them. Maybe the conspiracy theorists think blockchain will be added to the mix?

“Whether it’s the blockchain, Bill Gates or bots, it is simply an emblem of modernity that the QAnon crowd focus their anger on,” said David Birch, author of “The Currency Cold War: Cash and Cryptography, Hash Rates and Hegemony.”  

Conspiring to confuse

A Branson-based blockchain aside, it’s still a bit weird that the “don’t blockchain our babies” protestors are opposed to a technology that is so well aligned with their own desires for privacy, liberty, and zero censorship. 

Last week, news reports fingered Jim Watkins, owner of anarchist messaging board 8chan (now renamed 8kun), as the odds on favorite to be QAnon himself. And his son, Ron, loves him some blockchain—according to this fascinating Coindesk piece. (Watkins pere denies being QAnon.)

Watkins junior told Coindesk that he thinks blockchain could play a key role in a defensive infrastructure to prevent free-speech platforms like 8kun from being de-platformed. His experiments with it to date haven’t exactly panned out—yet. 

But he’s not giving up. His latest, Project Odin, involves 8kun’s users running front-end nodes that support the website. Indeed, it’s due to launch very soon, he told Decrypt

So does it use blockchain?

“I can’t remember if Odin has blockchain implementations or not. It’s been a few months since I looked at the code,” said Watkins.

Which is super confusing. But maybe that’s the intention.



China aims to let foreigners use digital yuan at Winter Olympics in 2022

Republished by Plato



China’s central bank is looking to enable foreign athletes and visitors to use the country’s digital currency during the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, according to a top central bank official.

Li Bo, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, said that the upcoming Winter Olympics could potentially become the first test of China’s central bank digital currency, or CBDC, by foreign users.

“For the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, we were trying to make e-CNY available not only to domestic users, but also to international athletes and like visitors,” Li said Sunday at a CNBC panel at the Boao Forum for Asia. The bank previously announced its plans on testing the digital yuan at the event in August 2020.

The official said that the PBoC doesn’t intend to replace the United States dollar’s dominance as the world’s reserve currency. Li reportedly noted that the central bank is focused on the domestic use of the digital yuan.

“For the internationalization of renminbi, we have said many times that it’s a natural process and our goal is not to replace the U.S. dollar or any other international currency. I think our goal is to allow the market to choose and to facilitate international trade and investment,” he stated.

Despite the PBoC’s focus on the domestic digital yuan, China’s central bank is still exploring cross-border CBDC use. “At the same time, working with our international partners. Hopefully, in the long term, we have a cross border solution as well,” Li said. At the forum, Li also said that China’s central bank now views the major cryptocurrency Bitcoin (BTC) as an “investment alternative.”

After launching its first domestic digital yuan tests in 2020, China started cross-border CBDC pilots in collaboration with central banks in Hong Kong, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates in February 2021. On April 1, PBoC director of research bureau Wang Xin announced that China’s central bank completed the first cross-border pilots of the digital yuan with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

Chinese authorities have stressed multiple times that the government is not seeking to replace existing fiat currencies including the U.S. dollar with the digital yuan. “We are not like Libra and we don’t have an ambition to replace existing currencies,” Zhou Xiaochuan, the president of the Chinese Finance Association and former PBoC governor, said in late 2020.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, the U.S. has taken a careful approach toward CBDCs due to the U.S. dollar’s status of the world’s reserve currency and other CBDC-related challenges like privacy. The European Central Bank is also still deciding whether Europe needs a digital euro, with ECB President Christine Lagarde expecting the digital currency to be adopted in four years, at the earliest.

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UK government establishes central bank digital currency task force

Republished by Plato



Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Bank of England have begun preliminary central bank digital currency studies that could result in the creation of a national digital currency.

In a document published by HM Treasury, the exchequer announced the creation of a CBDC taskforce in collaboration with the U.K.’s central bank.

Jon Cunliffe, deputy governor of the Bank of England and Katharine Braddick, director general of financial services at HM Treasury will co-chair the task force.

According to the terms of reference document, the task force will synergize the efforts of all relevant statutory bodies in the U.K. regarding CBDC development.

As part of its duties, the task force will explore preliminary issues associated with the design, implementation, and operation of a CBDC in the U.K. The task force will also interface with stakeholders across academia, fintech and other relevant industries to identify the technological hurdles involved in creating a sovereign digital currency.

The joint HM Treasury and BoE task force will also monitor CBDC-related developments on the international scene especially as other nations are actively exploring their own central bank digital currency projects.

According to a BoE press release issued on Monday, the central bank will also run its own internal CBDC unit headed by Jon Cunliffe.

The establishment of the task force is yet another indication of the U.K. government’s focus on digital currencies and fintech in the aftermath of Brexit. In November 2020, Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the Exchequer said that Brexit offered an opportunity for the U.K. to revamp its financial services sector.

Since Brexit, Sunak has overseen a significant policy shift towards harnessing novel fintech innovations like CBDC and stablecoins. As previously reported by Cointelegraph, U.K. financial services minister John Glen has identified stablecoin regulations as the major focus of the government in the area of cryptocurrency regulations.

According to a report by Reuters, the U.K.’s financial market focus is also extending towards distributed ledger technology firms. Speaking during a financial industry conference on Monday, Sunak announced that the government plans to establish a fintech sandbox for blockchain startups.

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China ‘endorses’ BTC investment: 5 things to watch in Bitcoin this week

Republished by Plato



Bitcoin (BTC) is beginning a new week grinding back to $60,000 as the shock of a weekend price crash settles.

After dropping to as low as $52,000 in a snap sell-off event, Bitcoin has spent the past two days slowly recovering its losses. What’s next?

Cointelegraph presents five factors to consider as a new trading week gets underway and cryptocurrency holders across the board nurse their wounds.

Stocks primed for “up only” short term 

The macro picture is fairly stable in Asia and Europe, with United States markets yet to open.

A mixed picture greeted investors at the open, but volatility has been broadly absent, with only oil showing signs of more pronounced weakness.

As such, little impact on Bitcoin is to be expected from equities moves, these forecast to continue building on record highs in the coming weeks.

Russel Chesler, head of investments and capital markets at the Australian branch of crypto-friendly investment manager VanEck, captured the mood in a note quoted by Bloomberg.

“Our current view is that with short-term interest rates set to remain low for the medium term and our expectation that earnings will continue to increase, it is unlikely that the increase in long-term interest rates will trigger an equity market fall,” he wrote.

Coronavirus concerns still linger despite stocks’ relentless surge higher, with more reported official cases last week than ever before worldwide.

Economic responses continue to vary, with a patchwork of openings and closings characterizing countries’ latest attempts to control the outbreak.

Bitcoin recovers from $52,000 crash

In Bitcoin circles, the main talking point naturally remains the weekend’s events, which saw a sudden cascade of selling send BTC/USD down by $7,000 in a matter of minutes.

Bouncing at just above $52,000, the crash echoed several similar events this year, and Bitcoin managed to regain around 50% of its lost ground within hours.

BTC/USD 1-hour candle chart (Bitstamp). Source: Tradingview

Responses, however, are split between those who consider the volatility “business as usual” and more conservative voices calling time on the latest bull run.

As Cointelegraph reported, suspicions are focusing on a Chinese power blackout hitting hash rate, as well as rumored legal action by U.S. regulators against unnamed financial institutions related to money laundering.

In his own breakdown of what happened, popular statistician Willy Woo highlighted both China and skittish moves by futures investors as contributing to the losses.

“We just saw the single largest 1-day drop in mining hash rate since Nov 2017. The hash rate on the network essentially halved, causing mayhem in BTC price as it crashed,” he told Twitter followers.

In a sign that the future could see fresh sustained upside, Woo reiterated the “reset” in an on-chain metric, the spent transaction output ratio (SOPR), showing that long-term investors will likely soon stop selling altogether.

“The on-chain SOPR metric near a full reset. A classic buy the dip signal,” he added.

“In simple terms, profit taking by longer term investors is completing, very little sell power left unless investors want to sell at a loss from their entry price. Unlikely in a bull market.”

Fundamentals point higher

It’s not just SOPR — a whole range of Bitcoin network indicators and fundamentals are buoying bulls’ cause, even as BTC/USD remains below even February’s high of $58,300.

For Woo and others, particularly important are the transfer of funds to investors who have traditionally hodled, not sold — another classic trait of Bitcoin’s rise in recent months.

Bitcoin liquid supply change chart showing transfers to strong hands. Source: Willy Woo/ Twitter

“Serious strong-handed holders are buying this dip. In the last 24 hours, over 200,000 Bitcoin became illiquid, a 3-year record,” fellow analyst William Clemente added Sunday.

“This illiquid supply increase is not only just dip buyers with no history of selling, but partially accumulation from 5-6 months ago of which those wallets have just crossed the ‘illiquid’ threshold for this metric.”

Lastly, around 13.5% of the total available Bitcoin supply has been active above $53,000, something which Woo says is confirming its status as a trillion-dollar asset. At around $53,800, Bitcoin’s market cap becomes a solid $1 trillion.

“This dip happened while unprecedented numbers of new users are arriving onto the network per day. There’s been a retail influx in the last 2-3 weeks,” Woo additionally noted, with total wallet numbers nearing 10 million.

Difficulty takes care of miner woes

A closer look at hash rate, which at one point dipped by almost half, shows that a recovery in line with price is underway.

According to rough estimates from on-chain monitoring resource Blockchain, Bitcoin network hash rate is already back above 150 exahashes per second (EH/s), having broken through the 200 EH/s barrier for the first time in history last week.

Bitcoin hash rate chart. Source: Blockchain

Miners leaving the network due to power problems leads to Bitcoin’s network difficulty decreasing to incentivize more to come online.

Further confirmation that the weekend’s issue was firmly temporary comes from difficulty forecasts — in two weeks’ time, when it next adjusts, difficulty will only drop by around 4%, a modest move which could yet be cancelled out altogether as miners return.

This balance between hash rate and difficulty is arguably the most important aspect of Bitcoin, one which allows it to govern itself and preserve security and functionality regardless of sudden events impacting network participants.

Chinese central bank praises Bitcoin and stablecoins

In another unanticipated event which is arguably yet to be fully appreciated by the market, China has given an unprecedented stamp of approval to cryptocurrency as an “investment alternative.”

Speaking at a conference organized by CNBC, Li Bo, deputy governor of China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), broke ranks to validate both Bitcoin and stablecoins.

“We regard Bitcoin and stablecoin as crypto assets… These are investment alternatives,” he said.

The comments are surprising as despite being a center for Bitcoin mining activity, China has had a blanket ban in place on trading and transacting in cryptocurrencies since September 2017.

“Every country that bans Bitcoin eventually reverses that ban. You simply cannot be competitive in the 21st century economy without it,” Charles Edwards, founder of investment firm Capriole, responded.

“China is playing 4D chess. The last 3 days have made very clear they still dominate global mining. Slowly, slowly then all at once.”

The market barely reacted to this high-level affirmation of Bitcoin’s long-term potential. At the time of writing, Bitcoin is still hovering at $57,000, as yet failing to see an attack of familiar resistance levels.

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