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EARN IT: The US Anti-Encryption Bill That Threatens Private Speech Online

There’s a new bill in the works to fight against child sexual abuse material and other risky services on the internet — but it will come at a cost to online privacy.

The post EARN IT: The US Anti-Encryption Bill That Threatens Private Speech Online appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

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There’s a new bill in the works to fight against child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and other risky services on the internet — but it could come at a cost to online privacy. 

Eliminating Abusive or Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) was proposed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and sponsored by senators from both sides of the aisle such as Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The bill is also supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation

However, this bill is problematic for both freedom of speech and privacy online according to Riana Pfefferkorn, associate director of Surveillance and Cybersecurity at the Center for Internet and Society. 

“This bill is trying to convert your anger at Big Tech into law enforcement’s long-desired dream of banning strong encryption,” argued Pfefferkorn in a blog post. Pfefferkorn’s detailed explanation says EARN IT appears less like a legitimate way to prevent the spread of child exploitation content and more like a covert attempt to ban end-to-end encryption, without having to ban it outright.

At the end of January 2020, a draft of the proposal was leaked and met with similar apprehension not only by Big tech juggernauts (Facebook, Google, etc.) but also their sometimes opposing counterparts, freedom of speech advocates. 

“We’re concerned the EARN IT Act may be used to roll back encryption, which protects everyone’s safety from hackers and criminals, and may limit the ability of American companies to provide the private and secure services that people expect,” Facebook spokesperson Thomas Richards said in a statement to the Washington Post.

Clearly, the issue could not be more sensitive. Patrick A. Trueman, president and CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, recently voiced this opinion, apparently advocating for EARN IT. 

“Right now, Big Tech has no incentive to prevent predators from grooming, recruiting, and trafficking children online and as a result countless children have fallen victim to child abusers on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok,” said Trueman.

Section 230: The Most Important Law Protecting Freedom of Speech Online

While everyone who has publicly condemned EARN IT has also stated a universal commitment to child safety online and in the real world, many say the bill’s far-reaching approach to content moderation could do more harm than good by essentially eliminating private conversations across the internet, particularly on social media platforms and messaging apps.

To fully comprehend what EARN IT proposes, one needs to understand the importance of two bills passed in the ’90s. These laid the groundwork for how privacy and free speech are supposed to operate for U.S. citizens.

First, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), passed in 1996, allows for the continued development of the internet as a free market and universal good for free speech. Section 230 says that online platforms or providers of interactive computer services mostly cannot be held responsible for the things their users say or do on their platforms. It uses the term “mostly” instead of “always” because platforms are still liable for exceptions that violate intellectual and federal criminal law. Essentially, this means if someone is defamed for being a fraud, that person can sue their defamer, but they cannot sue the platform for providing the space for free speech. 

Second, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), passed in 1994, requires telecom providers to make their networks “wiretappable” for law enforcement. However, it also ensured a “carve-out” for encrypted messages and information services where websites, email, social media, messaging apps and cloud storage fall out of CALEA’s jurisdiction. 

The purpose of these carve-outs was to reach a compromise between the competing interests of network security providers, privacy advocates, civil liberties, technological growth and law enforcement. In combination, Section 230 and CALEA prevent regulation from suffocating growth and development of the U.S. information economy.

Weakening Protections

Since the ’90s, more regulation has passed to undo Section 230. “Section 230 has been amended since it was passed: SESTA/FOSTA, enacted in 2018, pierces providers’ immunity from civil and state-law claims about sex trafficking,” wrote Pfefferkorn. SESTA/FOSTA is currently being challenged in federal court being unconstitutional and doing more harm than good.

There is also already a regulatory reporting scheme for online providers combatting CSAM. Also, Section 230 does not keep federal prosecutors from holding providers accountable for CSAM on their services.

While the current reporting scheme’s success is questionable, there is reasonable evidence to believe that EARN IT is an attempt to regulate communication on the internet more broadly. 

“The so-called EARN IT bill will strip Section 230 protections away from any website that doesn’t follow a list of ‘best practices,’ meaning those sites can be sued into bankruptcy,” writes Joe Mullin, a policy analyst with the Electronic Freedom Foundation. 

Mullin is referring to how EARN IT would target CSAM. It proposes to do this by creating a federal commission to develop a list of best practices for preventing CSAM that online platform providers would have to follow or else lose their immunity under Section 230 — meaning they could be sued into bankruptcy. This commission would largely be made up of law enforcement and allied groups such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

According to Mullin, “The ‘best practices’ list will be created by a government commission, headed by Attorney General Barr, who has made it very clear he would like to ban encryption and guarantee law enforcement ‘legal access’ to any digital message.” 

Although the word “encryption” does not appear anywhere in the EARN IT bill, Mullin is suspicious of how the federal commission might design best practices. For instance, in an earlier draft of the bill, the NCMEC Vice-President stated that online services should be made to screen all messages using screening technology approved by themselves and law enforcement, report what they find in messages to the NCMEC and be held legally responsible for the content of the messages sent by others.

In short, the commission could quietly give backdoor access to all U.S. hosted information services, undoing encrypted messages altogether. 

Centralized Control and “Techlash”

Mullin, Pfefferkorn and other outspoken critics of EARN IT all agree that the bill’s proposed execution is opening the door for the elimination of encryption: the fact that it is never explicitly addressed is especially concerning.. 

According to Mullin, it’s also possible that the current draft of EARN IT will be amended to undo the damage it could do to online privacy. “Could be as straightforward as putting a clause in[,] saying the bill doesn’t apply to encryption,” he writes.

However, until some amendment occurs, critics are wary of a federal commission consisting of fewer than twenty people, according to the latest reports, who would be making large-scale privacy and security decisions for the entire U.S. population. 

Such a potentially big power grab would seem a bit ridiculous, but Pfefferkorn also acknowledged that EARN IT rides on a wave of resentment or “techlash” the U.S. population has begun to harbor against many internet-based companies. This animosity is directed toward both U.S. tech juggernauts, whose business models run off of surveillance capitalism and online free speech platforms which, for the average person, can feel like the “concentrated font of human venality every time we open our phones,” according to Pfefferkorn.

Private Messaging: A Prerequisite to Democracy

In general, free speech on social media platforms is already a nuanced and complicated topic. Even under Section 230, social media platforms can still censor content when they deem it inappropriate internally. For example, Twitter has a keyword blacklist and the protocol for how it works can change on a dime. 

For Nozomi Hayase, social psychologist and writer, surveillance of encrypted messaging is a movement toward forfeiting democracy. By Hayase’s reasoning, privacy is a prerequisite for a kind of solitude that allows people to think and act independently and is, therefore, essential to a functioning democratic society. 

“Democracy requires sovereign individuals who are able to communicate with one another freely. This freedom comes with great responsibility,” said Hayase, who recognized EARN IT as the newest installment of a dangerous trend toward online censorship. “If we really want to have a truly democratic society, we have to accept the fact that it is the duty of each person to develop his or her own moral capacity to determine what is right and wrong, instead of depending on an external authority to tell us what we should or should not do.”

Currently, EARN IT has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Citizens can contact their congressmen directly or take action through the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website.

The post EARN IT: The US Anti-Encryption Bill That Threatens Private Speech Online appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Source: https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/earn-it-the-us-anti-encryption-bill-that-threatens-private-speech-online?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=earn-it-the-us-anti-encryption-bill-that-threatens-private-speech-online

Blockchain

‘Bitcoin maxis’ like Solana, but is there sound logic to that

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Recent changes in cryptocurrency market dynamics have fueled the popularity of altcoins like Solana [SOL]. It recently became one of the most trending blockchain platforms around on the back of its surging price.

The cryptocurrency, in fact, had a 1-year ROI of over 4,200%, despite dropping by 34% since its peak in early September. Despite the latest hiccup in value, however, market observers believe the project has managed “winning over a significant number of Bitcoin Maxis or near-maxis.”

Ikigai Funds’ Travis Kling offered this observation on Twitter when he said,

“After talking to a bunch of folks over the last couple months, it’s pretty clear that SOL is successfully winning over a significant number of BTC Maxis or near-maxis, which have previously owned zero ETH or very little ETH.”

While the crypto-space is competitive, the tech-twist to the age-old saying – “competition of your competition is your ally” also holds true. Solana is not competing with Bitcoin. Instead, it is competing with Ethereum’s position in decentralized finance, NFTs, and smart contract offerings. Given the fact that transacting on Ethereum is still a pain for some users, Solana’s cheap and fast transactions provide a better alternative to many.

Solana’s DeFi projects recently crossed $3 billion, despite Ethereum hosting the maximum number of DeFi and NFT projects. While Bitcoin “maxis” are also opting-in for smart contracts, they prefer SOL over ETH, according to Kling.

Why? According to the exec,

“I think maxis look at ETH vs SOL and think –

Well as long as its not going to be all that decentralized, might as well have a smart contract platform that can actually handle enough throughput with cheap enough fees where it can really scale, instead getting choked up like ETH.”

However, not everyone agrees with Kling’s opinions. Many believe the decentralization narrative to be wrongly used by Kling, with another Twitter user @mikemcg0 noting that Ethereum is “more decentralized than BTC.” Anyone can run an Ethereum validator,” he said, “but only a select few oligopolies can mine BTC.”

Even so, Bitcoin mining has spread out even more after the recent China crackdown. Although the process is extensive in terms of effort, time, and money, according to another user, “anyone can” mine BTC “if they have the entrepreneurial mindset.”

Now, the latest outage faced by Solana did raise questions about the level of centralization. However, that has not really discouraged those who want to indulge in DeFi, NFTs, and smart contracts. As Solana forges new contracts with Hacken Foundation and Gate.io, others institutions like Osprey Funds and Grayscale are in a race to include Solana in their respective bouquet of products.

In fact, Osprey Funds has already registered Osprey Solana Trust with the SEC.

‘Ethereum killer’ or not, Solana is en route to gaining more interest from the booming crypto-market. Even turning so-called BTC maxis in the process.

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Source: https://ambcrypto.com/bitcoin-maxis-like-solana-but-is-there-sound-logic-to-that

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Europe Now World’s Biggest Crypto Economy: Boasts Over $1T Worth of Transactions

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Central, Northern, and Western Europe (CNWE) has grown into the world’s largest cryptocurrency economy since July 2020. The region experienced a massive increase in trading activity since then– particularly in the DeFi space.

The European DeFi Boom

Data from Chainalysis shows that CNWE received over $1 trillion in cryptocurrency over the last year alone. This represents 25% of global trading activity. Furthermore, it is responsible for at least 25% of all crypto value received by other regions, including 34% of the value received in North America.

This makes the EU the most concentrated in the world in terms of cryptocurrency trading volume. This is partially due to increases in all forms of trading activity over the past year, coming mostly from institutional investors.

Large institutional transaction value grew from $1.4B in July 2020 to $46.3B in June 2021, coming to take up half of all CNWE trading activity. The most pronounced increases were seen on DeFi protocols, where over 80% of these large institutional transactions were sent in June.

The impact of DeFi is further established when ranking coins in terms of transaction activity in the region. Despite being the largest cryptocurrency by market cap, Bitcoin heavily trails Ethereum in transaction volume among large institutional investors. Additionally, DeFi protocols took up a majority share of funds received by cryptocurrency services in CNWE in June 2021.


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The Decline in Eastern Asia

CNWE has seen significant absolute increases in its crypto trading volume. However, its new place as the world’s largest trading hub is partly due to a sharp decline in market share held by Eastern Asia– the previous world leader.

In early 2019 the region held over 30% of global transaction volume. This figure has since fallen sharply to about 15% – less than CNWE, North America, and even Central and Southern Asia.

This may be related to China’s continued push to prevent and discourage crypto trading within its borders. China re-announced their ban on crypto trading in the country days ago, and have been moving to prevent all access to exchanges within the country.

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Source: https://cryptopotato.com/europe-now-worlds-biggest-crypto-economy-boasts-over-1t-worth-of-transactions/

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Blockchain

Here’s why a multi-CBDC bridge is being tested on Ethereum

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The race to launch the first CBDC is one the world is following intently. While most have their eyes fixed on China’s digital yuan pilot, a group of countries has come together to take CBDCs a step further.

Phase 3 of Project Inthanon-LionRock saw BIS Innovation Hub Hong Kong Centre, the Digital Currency Institute of the People’s Bank of China, and the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates experiment with a multi-CBDC bridge or an mBridge.

What does this mean?

The mBridge initiative would ideally allow central banks in different countries to issue and redeem their own CBDCs across borders on a common platform – without having to depend on correspondent banks.

Meanwhile, commercial banks would be able to “submit peer-to-peer CBDC push payments.”

The BIS September 2021 report stated,

“If successful, an efficient, low cost, compliant and scalable multi-currency, multi-jurisdiction arrangement can provide a network of direct central bank collaboration, greatly increasing the potential for international trade flows and cross-border business at large.”

The report further clarified,

“The prototype demonstrates a substantial improvement in cross-border transfer speed from multiple days to seconds, as well as the potential to reduce several of the core cost components of correspondent banking.”

Here, it is also interesting to note that the project’s Phase 2 prototype was built on Ethereum. This was because the core layer of the prototype contained the blockchain ledger and smart contracts.

Notes on features

As a multiple CBDC project, regulation and compliance were functional requirements. Central banks would be able to monitor transactions in real-time, set balance limits, control the balance held by their commercial banks, and use data for surveillance.

Scalability was also part of the design to later onboard more participants and jurisdictions.

However, one complication was the wide difference in remittance charges across countries. While the global average was calculated to be 6.38% of the remitted sum, the report observed that even a percentage as low as 1% would be costly for payments in the millions of dollars.

An update from China

Alongside the mBridge project, China has also been steamrolling ahead with its CBDC program.

Changchun Mu, Director-General of the DCI of the People’s Bank of China. confirmed that e-CNY pilots have been taking place in 10 areas.

Mu added,

“Payment methods such as QR code and tap-and- go have been well-supported and innovative services such as dual-offline payment and wearable device payment have been tested for safety and efficiency.”

Meanwhile, Howard Lee, Deputy Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, suggested that an e-HKD could also be in the works.

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Source: https://ambcrypto.com/heres-why-a-multi-cbdc-bridge-is-being-tested-on-ethereum

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