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Julian Assange’s U.S. Extradition and Bitcoin’s Battle for Freedom of the Internet

The extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be seen as a threat to free speech, and cypherpunk ideals, everywhere.

The post Julian Assange’s U.S. Extradition and Bitcoin’s Battle for Freedom of the Internet appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Republished by Plato

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is currently being held on remand in a London maximum-security prison, solely on the basis of a U.S. extradition request. Assange has been charged with 17 counts of espionage related to WikiLeaks’ 2010 to 2011 publications concerning the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, embarrassing U.S. diplomatic communications and evidence of torture in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Assange’s U.S. extradition case is recognized by free speech groups as the most important press freedom case of the 21st century. As the aggressive judicial overreach of this U.S. government is already creating a chilling effect on reporters and media organizations, some recognize consequences far beyond the future of journalism.

Julian Assange’s father, John Shipton, who regularly attends cryptocurrency conferences, has warned those who are involved in the development of new technologies that they are not immune to suffering the same fate as his son. 

How does the prosecution of Assange threaten the crypto movement? And why does the Bitcoin community need to be concerned about his plight for freedom?

Innovative Endeavor

At its heart, WikiLeaks is an innovative endeavor. Started as a project of Sunshine Press, it was an invention of a new form of journalism built on the platform of the internet. On its website’s “About” page, WikiLeaks described how it started with an online dialogue between activists around the world, who shared their aspiration to eliminate injustice and human suffering caused by the abuses of power of corporations and governments, especially oppressive regimes.

WikiLeaks also acknowledges the efforts of Philip Zimmerman, the creator of an encryption software program known as Pretty Good Privacy, or PGP, and how the vision of this lone computer programmer in Colorado instigated a global revolution for mass distribution of privacy technologies.

Inspired by this pioneer of private and secure online communication, the founding members of WikiLeaks sought for a way to deploy information technologies to create a robust system of publishing that protects the anonymity of sources and enables transparency of the powerful. This new journalistic organization aimed to make “document leaking technology” available at a global scale in order to better bring accountability to governments and other institutions.

The Crypto Wars

History has shown how new ideas and inventions are often met with opposition and fierce condemnation by the state. At the start of the 1990s, when Zimmermann released PGP, the U.S. government considered what he had done the equivalent of exporting munitions. It launched a three-year criminal investigation against him, creating a battle over encryption that became known to some as “The Crypto Wars.” The case was eventually dropped when U.S. courts ruled that software source code qualifies as speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Two decades later, WikiLeaks’ efforts to amplify information technologies to tackle the problem of government secrecy created another global revolution, this time disrupting the media landscape. Like its forerunner, this new free press of the digital age soon became a target of political retaliation.

After WikiLeaks released classified documents that revealed U.S. war crimes, the U.S. government decided that its editor-in-chief had damaged national security, though it produced no shred of evidence that the published documents caused any harm. It effectively declared war on the First Amendment, charging an Australian journalist under the Espionage Act in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Just as in the first Crypto War, where it tried to ban encryption, it was now trying to shut down WikiLeaks.

Cypherpunk Philosophy

What is this new Crypto War — now being waged against the whistleblowing site — all about? This battle is not just about Assange as an individual. While mainstream media fixates on Assange and his character, WikiLeaks is not driven solely by one charismatic man. Behind the organization, there are thousands of ordinary people worldwide who are dedicated to the principle of freedom of speech.

At the end of 2010, when WikiLeaks began publishing troves of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables, its website came under heavy pressure by the U.S. government and its allies. Insurgency swiftly emerged from deep inside the web to help WikiLeaks counteract distributed-denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks. By keeping multiple copies of its website, and setting up mirror sites, anonymous networks allowed information to continue to flow. 

Inspiring those collective acts of resistance in an underground subculture of the internet are shared values and ideals, embodied in the cypherpunk philosophy. Emerging in the late 1980s, the cypherpunk movement is a loosely tied group of mathematicians, computer scientists and online activists who advocate privacy through the use of strong cryptography.

Shifting the Balance of Power

Assange is known to have joined the cypherpunk mailing list in late 1993 or early 1994. His engagement with those on the edges on the internet had a large influence on his intellectual development. The native Australian software programmer and expert in cryptography once summed up the core values behind WikiLeaks by saying, “capable, generous men do not create victims, they nurture victims.”

He acknowledged this is something that he learned from his own father and other capable, generous men in his life. This moral value, installed at an early age, found practical application in the cypherpunks’ core belief: “Cryptography can be a key tool for protecting individual autonomy threatened by power.” 

In his 2006 essay “Conspiracy as Governance”, a kind of manifesto from which WikiLeaks was conceived, Assange analyzed the structure of power and means to shift the balance of power between the individual and the state. By using cryptography as a “non-violent democratic weapon that gives claws to the weak,” Assange found a way to provide information to the public, to hold the powerful accountable, and to help ordinary people empower themselves with knowledge.

Ethics of Cryptography

Cypherpunks saw the political implications of their work and strove for proper use of the power inherent in cryptography. This attitude has shaped the ethics of cryptographers and defined cypherpunk cryptography as “crypto with values.”

Eric Hughes who, in 1992, co-founded the influential cypherpunk mailing list, together with Timothy C. May and John Gilmore, described those values as openness, the free flow of information and decentralization. In “A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto,” published in 1993, he declared that “code is free for all to use, worldwide.” Assange also articulated the moral values of cypherpunks, noting “the whole point of free software is to liberate it in all senses.” He added that, “It’s part of the intellectual heritage of man. True intellectual heritage can’t be bound up in intellectual property.”

Instead of claiming ownership of their knowledge, cypherpunks aimed to build software on a ground of free sharing and open platforms, in which everyone can participate and make contributions to the development and utilization.

Zimmermann gave PGP away online, making the source code free and freely available. Through people all over the world simply downloading and using it, the decentralization of that technology helped to secure the right to privacy at a large scale. By deploying an anonymous, secure drop box, WikiLeaks made it possible for people around the globe to speak out against their governments’ wrongdoing without fear of their identity being revealed. Courage of whistleblowers became contagious, creating waves of disclosures. WikiLeaks, powered by free software, began to liberate information that had been captured under the proprietary ownership of corporations and governments.

Shared Fate

It is with this cypherpunk vision of ethics that Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, also published its white paper online. The invention of Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, unleashed the revolutionary power of cryptography. This community-driven, free software project set in motion a decentralized movement to liberate money from the monopoly of central banks. By people across the world simply choosing to run full nodes, each containing a complete record of all Bitcoin transactions, a network secures this stateless digital cash as a form of free speech that belongs to everyone.

Years before the U.S. government’s assault on free speech escalated into the indictment against the WikiLeaks founder, the mysterious creator of Bitcoin recognized the potential fate that would befall the world’s first global Fourth Estate. 

In December 2010, WikiLeaks faced the unlawful financial blockade imposed by private payment processing companies, and the organization was considering using Bitcoin to circumvent it. Satoshi, who was concerned about the risk of drawing unwanted government attention to his then infant currency, appealed to WikiLeaks not to take such action.

In an online post, Satoshi noted that, “WikiLeaks has kicked the hornet’s nest, and the swarm is headed towards us.”

WikiLeaks eventually did turn to Bitcoin to achieve financial sovereignty. And now the swarm is now getting larger, bringing a new war on cryptography. 

Currency of Resistance

The citizens of the internet have been longing for another world, independent from the old world of exploitation, violence and control. Dreams for freenet, for the internet to become an emancipatory tool for building peer-to-peer systems, have united people around the world together in the frontier of cyberspace.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government’s prosecution of Assange is a direct attack on freedom of expression; people’s ability to form and exchange ideas and collaborate creatively. What is now being threatened is our shared values and a vision for the future of the internet at the heart of Bitcoin’s decentralized consensus.

Bitcoin, from its inception, was a political act. This is shown in the highly politicized message in the genesis block, referring to a banking bailout. In the lively discussion of public cryptography in 1992 on the cypherpunk mailing list, the late Hal Finney, a noted cryptographer who is considered to be one of the earliest Bitcoin pioneers, reminded us of the ethical responsibility of cryptographers:

“The computer can be used as a tool to liberate and protect people, rather than to control them,”  Finney, who received the very first bitcoin transaction sent by Satoshi, wrote, urging Bitcoin early adopters to put their “unearned wealth to good use.”

Now, as Assange’s U.S. extradition battle intensifies, the internet is calling for the rise of cypherpunks ‚ Assange’s fellow “capable generous men,” who exercise their power for social good to unite once again and take up their moral duty. The future of the internet believes in Bitcoin, the potential of this “crypto with values” to become the currency of resistance to defend its freedom.

Author’s Note: WikiLeaks has launched the official campaign page, “Don’t Extradite Assange.” You can get information on how you can help stop Assange’s extradition. Please consider donating to the WikiLeaks official Defense Fund and take action.

This is a guest post by Nozomi Hayase. Opinions expressed are entirely her own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

The post Julian Assange’s U.S. Extradition and Bitcoin’s Battle for Freedom of the Internet appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

Source: https://bitcoinmagazine.com/articles/julian-assanges-u-s-extradition-and-bitcoins-battle-for-freedom-of-the-internet?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=julian-assanges-u-s-extradition-and-bitcoins-battle-for-freedom-of-the-internet

Blockchain

How did Bitcoin lending become so popular?

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The rising valuation of Bitcoin witnessed the growth of several sectors involved with the digital asset. The crypto lending market has exhibited extraordinary growth as institutions-focused Genesis registered a 245% growth in their outstanding loans in 2020.

While the BTC lending market is young, its swift adoption has created a billion-dollar industry, which is one of the benchmarks of development for the current Bitcoin ecosystem.

Total Bitcoin collateral grew by 1170%

Source: Arcane Research

According to Arcane Research’s recent Banking on Bitcoin report, the total active collateral in the BTC lending market has increased to ~$25 billion from $2 billion in 12 months. It was estimated that the number of Bitcoin used for collateral at the moment is around 420,000 BTC, however, this estimation is based on a modest evaluation that only 50% of the active loans are backed by Bitcoin collateral, whereas various industry experts believe it could be close to 70-80%.

While there are various Bitcoin lending companies in the current market, the impact of the institutional lending organization such as BlockFI and Genesis have been vital.

As mentioned earlier, Genesis’ active loans outstanding improved from $649 million in Q1 2020 to a whopping $3,821 million in Q4 2020. From Q3 to Q4, the growth was roughly 80%.

BlockFi registered similar impressive numbers, with a 50x increase in retail loans BTC collateral from Q4 2018 to Q4 2020; from $10 million to $500 million.

Bitcoin lending’s popularity grows

There are multiple factors that played into the expansion of the BTC collateral market. Over the past 12 months, the asset has received significant recognition after recovering at a rapid rate following the March 2020 crash. However, some of the most common reasons include leveraging on an existing position, arbitrage plays, and covering operation costs without selling any crypto holdings.

Source: Arcane Research

Some of its innate properties have improved over the few months. Bitcoin’s market has a 24/7 availability, which can be traded all year round and it is easily updated. Other assets such as Gold are only trading during the working days of the week, which is close to 30% less than Bitcoin.

Its store-of-value credentials have also improved drastically, with 75% of Bitcoin remaining in profit throughout its history.

However, one of the major reasons involves the ease at which BTC loans can be processed. Traditional loan methods require a certain amount of credit score, a tediously long process, and a lot of paperwork.

With Bitcoin, users do not need to establish a relationship with their banks to get a loan and they can easily lend from the emerging borderless Bitcoin lending market.


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Source: https://ambcrypto.com/how-did-bitcoin-lending-become-so-popular

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Blockchain

OLB Group enables crypto payments for thousands of US merchants

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OLB Group (OLB), a New York-based e-commerce merchant service provider, is making it easier for businesses to accept cryptocurrency payments.

OLB’s more than 8,500 merchants are now able to accept Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), USDC and DAI at the point-of-sale through the company’s OmniSoft business management platform. Customers wishing to pay with cryptocurrency in-store or through their mobile phones can simply elect to do so with their cryptocurrency wallets. All payments are processed through SecurePay, a payment gateway that authenticates the transaction, converts the cryptocurrency to U.S. dollars and approves the final sale.

The decision to integrate cryptocurrency payments was partly driven by the growth of contactless and online orders during the Covid-19 pandemic. With the OmniSoft platform already providing merchants with several options to facilitate payments, cryptocurrencies were the next logical step. 

Ronny Yakov, OLB Group’s CEO, says the payment gateway and point-of-sale architecture are “familiar territory for merchants,” which makes integrating cryptocurrencies through such channels easy.

On the topic of cryptocurrency payments – a promising but underutilized use case for the industry – Yakov believes we are still in the very early stages of adoption.

“It’s very early in crypto-as-a-payment adoption, but we see increasing interest from merchants exploring this payment option as a means to meet their customers however and wherever they prefer,” Yakov tells Cointelegraph.

He also believes certain industries are more likely to adopt crypto payments before others:

“We anticipate that adoption will happen more quickly in higher-ticket transactions such as jewelry, B2B billing and real estate because the transaction fees for cryptocurrency processing are lower – often half of typical credit card fees.”

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have struggled to become a viable medium of exchange, inviting criticism about their utility. Charlie Munger, the billionaire investor and Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman, recently criticizedBitcoin for being “too volatile to serve well as a medium of exchange.”

With development work on scaling and sidechains still in progress, it remains to be seen whether cryptoassets will ever function efficiently as payment systems. In the meantime, assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum are valued for their store-of-value and development capabilities, respectively.

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/olb-group-enables-crypto-payments-for-thousands-of-us-merchants

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Blockchain

Litecoin, Monero, Dash Price Analysis: 28 February

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Litecoin witnessed a downwards breakout from a parallel channel and moved to its support at $156.75. Monero was projected to move sideways as trading volumes and buying activity was suppressed. Lastly, a descending triangle emerged on Dash’s chart but a breakout largely depended on the direction of the broader market.

Litecoin [LTC]

Source: LTC/USD, TradingView

On the hourly timeframe, Litecoin broke below its parallel channel and moved to another region of support at $157.5. The On Balance Volume dipped as the price broke below the bottom trendline, but the index was recovering at the time of writing. A bullish crossover in the Stochastic RSI added some more optimism as LTC picked up from the $157 support line.

However, it was hard to overlook LTC’s bear market and stronger cues could be needed to back a move above the immediate overhead resistance. A spike in the 24-hour trading volumes could be one such signal that could project an upwards breakout on the charts.

Monero [XMR]

Source: XMR/USD, TradingView

The 24-hour trading volumes on Monero were muted as the cryptocurrency failed to break out from the $224.5 and $196.3 range. The  Bollinger Bands showed that volatility remained on the lower side as the bands were compressed. This also meant that massive movements were unlikely and XMR could continue to trade within its current channel over the next few sessions.

A bullish twin peak setup on the Awesome Oscillator was negated as momentum tilted in the favor of the sellers at the time of writing.

Dash [DASH]

Source: DASH/USD, TradingView

Dash formed a descending triangle on its 4-hour chart as the price formed lower highs since snapping a local high at over $330. The On Balance Volume also steadily declined as the sell-off was heightened by a correction in the broader market. The Stochastic RSI continued its southbound trajectory after reversing from the overbought region.

Further weakness in market leaders BTC and ETH could continue to have a negative impact on Dash, and support levels at $166.8 and $135.3 could be tested in the event of a downwards breakout. On the flip side, Dash’s pattern could be invalidated if the price moves north on the back of a broader market rally.


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Source: https://ambcrypto.com/litecoin-monero-dash-price-analysis-28-february

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