Alex Winter Talks Bitcoin, Drugs and His New Film ‘Deep Web’

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CoinDesk managing editor Emily Spaven interviews director Alex Winter ahead of the release of his new documentary film Deep Web. Libertarian ideals, crime and citizens’ rights in the digital age – there are many themes running through Alex Winter’s latest documentary film, Deep Web, but by far the greatest focus is the story of Ross Ulbricht and his involvement in the online drugs marketplace Silk Road. Winter, best known for his role as Bill Preston in the Bill and Ted franchise, has long since proved his worth on the other side of the lens, having sat in the director’s chair on five films since 1993. His latest offering begins with a rousing speech by British libertarian and cypherpunk Amir Taaki, warning of corrupt fascists masquerading as “white knights”. Taaki enthuses that now is the time for the technological classes to take back their sovereignty. The movie goes on to explore the mysterious underbelly of the Internet – the hidden layer called the Deep Web and its anonymity-rich area: the Dark Net. It’s here that illegal drug marketplaces exist and where Ulbricht’s story begins. The film focuses on the arrest of Ulbricht, the charges made against him for his involvement in …

Bitcoin in the Headlines: Child Porn and Price Disregard

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Whils last week’s reporting was heavily US-focused, the coverage this week was more far reaching, with outlets from India and Russia mentioning bitcoin – even if in a negative light. Indeed the biggest lightning rod of interest this week was perhaps bitcoin’s alleged propensity for enabling illicit activities, with the use of the payment method in online child pornography transactions capturing the lion’s share of the media’s headlines. Interestingly this focus, however, did deflect from other negative coverage. For example, bitcoin’s relative price drop – usually a hot topic among the mainstream press – went mostly unnoticed. Child porn for bitcoin Allegations that paedophiles are now buying sexually abusive imagery on the web first surfaced this week following the release of the Internet Watch Foundation’s annual report. Unsurprisingly, it did not take long for the media to seize the opportunity to report on the link between the disruptive digital currency and the horrendous activities carried out by some alleged bitcoin users. A Google news search with the terms “paedophiles and bitcoin” brought up more than 80 results, significantly less than previous stories highlighted in this series, but still this week’s most widely covered topic. In his Guardian piece “Paedophiles sell child abuse images …

stellar The New Stellar Consensus Protocol Could Permit Faster and Cheaper Transactions

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Stanford professor David Mazières thinks he has a faster, more flexible and more secure alternative to Bitcoin, MIT Technology Review reports. Two independent reviewers, from Stanford and Cornell universities, agree that the new technology could make digital payments and other transactions cheaper, safer and easier. Alternative blockchains are often dismissed as worthless “me-too” copycats or scamcoins, which, unfortunately, has some element of truth. But Mazières’ approach deserves a place among the serious alternatives to Bitcoin that have been proposed, alongside Ethereum and Ripple. Public digital currency ledgers rely on distributed consensus protocols to propagate valid transactions. In the Bitcoin network, independent nodes (miners) work together without preferential trust relations. In other words, each node implicitly trusts every other node. In the new protocol, called Stellar Consensus Protocol (SCP), each node explicitly selects a set of publicly trusted peers, and forwards only the transactions that have been validated by a certain majority of its trusted partners. If correctly implemented with a critical mass of nodes with overlapping trust circles, valid transactions propagate in ripples through the network and eventually achieve systemwide consensus. “Bitcoin is good, but we wanted to start from scratch,” says Mazières. He is persuaded that the SCP can …

Bitcoin ATMs

QuadrigaCX to Install Bitcoin ATMs All Over Canada

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QuadrigaCX, the leading bitcoin exchange in Canada, is planning to install a large amount of SumoPro two-way bitcoin ATMs, manufactured byBitXatm in major cities across the country. In 2014, the largest Canadian bitcoin exchange back then (CAVIRTEX) attempted this feat by using ATMs manufactured by BitAccess, installing them in locations with a high amount of traffic by cooperating with Gateway Newstands, a franchise store. One notable location where one of these ATMs could be found is the famous tourist attraction, Niagara Falls. However, it was quickly removed in less than a month, and a similar fate faced the other ATMs installed in places like Toronto and Ottawa, which led to the company’s eventual bankruptcy. Even though the locations gave these ATMs a large visibility, their failure has been attributed to the fact that they were inadequately staffed and prone to malfunction, with little to no customer and technical support. A year later, QuadrigaCX, a company that has since taken over CAVIRTEX’s spot of largest Canadian bitcoin exchange, takes on this challenge and explains that their plan will be different, and that its fate will also be different. “We are excited to finally be bringing some functional and beautiful two-way bitcoin ATM machines to Canada,” …

Bitcoin Now More Currency than Commodity: BitPay

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Bitcoin is now being used more as a currency than as a simple investment commodity, according to data released by bitcoin payment service provider BitPay and IBTimes UK. Most BitPay transactions are for gift cards, followed by IT services, e-commerce, food delivery and a relatively tiny number of precious metals transactions. The total number of bitcoin transactions processed by BitPay more than doubled last year from 209,420 to 563,568, a 170 percent increase. The average order value dropped during the same period by more than 45 percent, from $513 to $281. More than 100,000 retailers now accept bitcoin, according to IBTimes UK, including Microsoft, Dell, Wikipedia, Twitch, Greenpeace, Expedia and PayPal. Fifty-three percent of all bitcoin merchants use BitPay, according to the newly released data. North America is still the largest bitcoin market for BitPay, with 57 percent of their global business. The top emerging markets are Brazil, India and Indonesia with rapid growth in BitPay signups. “We see bitcoin being used in emerging markets as a supplement to the current banking and monetary systems,” said Wouter Vonk, BitPay’s European marketing manager. “Bitcoin breaks down the barriers to financial tools that many people in emerging countries are facing.” Bitcoin mining …

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Since money was first invented many thousands of years ago, poverty has always been a social problem. Income inequality has always existed. A few select people have the majority of the wealth, while everyone else have a minority of the wealth available. The Industrial Revolution of the 19th century and the arrival of the internet at the end of the 20th century did nothing to change this reality. Many people remained poor, in spite of the revolutionary way in which standards of living changed for the blue collar day laborer. Precious minerals constituted a great part of this wealth. Among these were gold, silver, platinum, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. Each mineral has its own intrinsic value and thus its own unique price. Both governments and wealthy people recognize that precious minerals are a better way to secure long-term wealth than fiat currency, for fiat currency is subject to the whims of rulers. It may be inflated, or hyper-inflated. Its value is often determined by the decisions of those who own a nation’s printing press. This is not the case for cryptocurrency, however. Cryptocurrency is essentially digital money with no physical basis. It cannot be printed. It can be introduced all at …