👀 2022 off to the least-boring start possible // welcome to March, ACJR 👀
The best crypto and blockchain coverage from February 2022
Could you imagine a more turbulent start to the year? Oh wait, maybe the 2020 pandemic? Or the 2021 Bitcoin January all-time high? Anyway — welcome to March 2022 from the ACJR.
It’s only been two months, and the crypto world (and the world) has been thrown into uproar by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s hardly possible to imagine that we all thought that the Bitfinex arrests of wannabe rapper socialites would be the crypto story of February, or perhaps the alleged unveiling of The DAO exploiter — not how Ukraine has amassed millions of dollars in crypto donations to fight off the Russian army.
In our monthly newsletter, we will take a look at all of the best crypto and blockchain research and journalism of the month on any topic — in these times, it’s important to maintain as much normalcy as we can, while also doing our best to support those in need.
Tomorrow, March 1, is also the beginning of ACJR’s season four of Off the Record. If you haven’t yet registered, please do so here. Our panelists — Coindesk’s Nikhilesh De, Coin Center’s Peter Van Valkenburgh and tech journalist Elizabeth Coyne will walk you through how to report on regulatory agencies.
We are always accepting membership applications to the ACJR — if you’re a crypto journalist, researcher or someone interested in the field, please fill out the application right here.
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Top Crypto Journalism in February
“Exclusive: Austrian Programmer and Ex Crypto CEO Likely Stole $11 Billion of Ether,” by Laura Shin, Forbes
Arguably one of the biggest stories of the month, Laura Shin details how she took advantage of blockchain analysis to track down and allegedly name the man behind The DAO exploit failure of 3.6 million ETH back in 2016.
by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, Vice
On a more lighthearted note, this Vice story dives into the incredibly cringeworthy background of alleged Bitfinex launderer Heather Morgan. Not only was she an amateur rapper going by Razzlekhan, but her personal website included lines like “the infamous Crocodile of Wall Street strikes again!”
“Ukraine’s Defense — and Hacktivists — Have Raised Over $4M in Cryptocurrency,” by Andy Greenburg, Wired
Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, groups in the country have been utilizing crypto to raise funds for years — for hacker groups, military support orgs, and defense groups. This piece traces how using crypto is nothing entirely new for pro-Ukrainian activists.
“How Crypto’s Original Bubble Boy Rode Ethereum And Is Now Pulling The Strings Of The DeFi Boom,” by Steven Ehrlich, Forbes
In this piece, Steven takes us into the life of Olaf Carlson-Wee — one of the 2017 ICO era’s biggest winners. Unlike some of the big and bold names of crypto Twitter, Olaf is a lesser known personality in the 2022 crypto world, even as he apparently continues to “work the strings” of the current DeFi craze.
The world’s largest crypto exchange, Binance, posted half of the $400 million investment that Forbes recently announced. Forbes (to be listed as FRBS) plans to use the funds to merge with an SPAC early this year. The exchange’s investment makes Binance one of the top two owners of the media company, and will get two seats on the nine person board of directors.
“SEC Probes Trading Affiliates of Crypto Giant Binance’s U.S. Arm,” by Caitlin Ostroff, Patricia Kowsmann and Dave Michaels
The SEC is looking into the relationship between Binance’s U.S. operations and two market making firms that utilize the platform. Caitlin looks at the role market makers play within the broader crypto ecosystem, and how they could potentially fall under the SEC’s jurisdiction.
“The Wild Adventures of a Father-Son Duo That Go Searching for Stuck Bitcoin,” by Tim Copeland, The Block
Tim goes into the world of a family-run Bitcoin-saving business — and how the two have flown all around trying to recover lost Bitcoin, while never knowing what might be in the wallets they are being paid to open.
“FTX Takes Aim at the $300 Billion Luxury Goods Market and Hires a Beauty Entrepreneur to Head the Push,” by Adam Morgan McCarthy, Markets Insider
In another unexpected turn of lateral movement, the rapidly growing crypto exchange FTX announced plans to move into the luxury goods market. Adam breaks down how this move is the latest in CEO Sam Bankman-Fried’s aggressive cross-industry marketing strategy that helped the company grow to $32 billion in three years.
And now — let’s see some research!
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Top Crypto Research in February
Before we dive into some research reports, we wanted to give two shoutouts to new crypto publications out there. First off, Agorism in The 21st Century, a philosophy journal edited by @lunar_mining, ACJR board member Paul Dylan Ennis and an anonymous contributor. The journal will cover topics including the ideology and radicalism underpinning much of the crypto industry. Next, crypto PR firm YAP Global has released their own newsletter on crypto trends, The Context, with the aim of providing more “context” (get it?) on what’s happening in the news.
“Assessment of Risks to Financial Stability from Crypto-assets,” by the Financial Stability Board
This report by the FSB — an international body tasked with monitoring the global financial system — looks into potential risks to financial stability Bitcoin, stablecoins, or DeFi might represent. Despite the group’s concern that crypto-asset platforms are becoming increasingly connected to legacy financial institutions, the report concludes with recommendations to increase research and observation of the crypto space.
“Giving in Crypto Boomed in 2021,” by Christine Kim, Galaxy Digital Research
Some good news! Christine Kim of Galaxy Research looks on and off chain to look at the state of crypto giving. The report examines at data from The Giving Block and Fidelity Charitable (the largest grant maker in the US) among others to break down the record-breaking volume of philanthropic crypto activity in 2021.
“Lunarpunk and the Dark Side of the Cycle,” by lunar_mining
An insightful look at the ethos behind some of crypto’s most privacy-conscious users and builders. This short but dense piece from eGirl Capital looks at the tradeoffs between usability and fragility in crypto systems, dressing them up with compelling lunarpunk imagery.
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Op Ed - How Crypto Journalists Can Overcome Selection Bias When Reporting On Africa
Part II — for Part I, click here.
Now that Africa’s crypto market has exploded 1,200% in one year, reporters should start wondering why they aren’t reading more stories about the continent, and if they have anything to do with it? Or, they run the risk of being passed by the rapidly innovating region.
By Michael del Castillo
So I reframed the talk to center around two main obstacles to Kenyan innovation being covered fairly, and read globally. First, was the dollar amount of capital raised. Because reporters need to earn a living and the number of readers is almost always attached to their outlet’s revenue, they tend to focus on stories with a proven audience, and there’s no better way to do that than to look at where the money is being invested.
And that’s fine. Investors typically vet their portfolio companies, do background checks on the founders, look at the code, and more, before they turn over their capital. Generally speaking, the bigger the check, the more the investors believe they’ll get a return on their investment, and the people behind that potential return (future customers) are a nice surrogate for a reporter’s future readers. The problem is, what a Silicon Valley startup can do with a team of nine people might require $27 million, for example, while a team of nine people in Kenya can do it for a million dollars.
To put it another way, if there’s two identical teams in Kenya and Silicon Valley working on the exact same project, the folks in Kenya will be able to do it for a fraction of the cost. And if reporters are using capital raised to gauge the potential interest in a story, the Kenya company, doing the exact same work for cheaper won’t get covered. While that in its own right is an injustice, the fact that the shoestring budgets of these companies actually makes them a better story means our neglect of these companies is just bad journalism.
Now don't get me wrong here. This isn’t meant to be a blame the rich white guy argument. The point is that we need the people on the ground in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa to go to these meetups, meet the crypto leaders, build the relationships and tell great stories. While one of the reasons we’re not writing the stories is because the dollar amounts associated are smaller, another reason is simply that we’re not there. We need the on-the-ground reporters to tell those stories, and if existing news outlets don’t set up offices in Africa, we need a new army of local reporters.
After all, in September, data site Chainalysis reported that the size of Africa’s crypto market had increased 1,200% year-over-year. If the expected explosion in adoption in Africa over the coming years proves a windfall to entrepreneurs, a proportional demand for reporters who know the culture and the history of crypto-business on the continent will soon follow. Pay attention now.
But at my talk I also highlighted a second obstacle to African crypto innovators reaching a global audience, which I call the Nigerian Prince problem. It’s hard to quantify the full negative impact of these email scams, where a perpetrator promises a big reward if the mark helps free a supposed Nigerian Prince relative from jail. But from personal experience I can say that if you speak long enough with pretty much anyone in the States about innovation in Africa the false Nigerian Prince red flag will almost always come up. An entire continent besmirched by a single scam perpetrated by people claiming to be from a single nation.
Of course, the trust issues between the so-called developed world and the developing world are myriad, complicated — go both ways — and won’t be solved by a bunch of reporters telling good stories, no matter how earnest and well-reported. But what we can do to help at least partially solve at least these two obstacles is be better reporters. Build relationships with people in Africa now before the market explosion happens in the coming years and we’re all running around trying to learn centuries of context. Go behind the dollars and look at the teams building the technology. Recognize our own biases when selecting stories.
A rising tide of journalism talent is gathering in Africa to prepare for when those 70 aspiring developers I met and thousands of others around the continent start writing their own smart contracts. Don’t be left out. We can either wait until the crypto projects in Africa finally capture the attention of mainstream investors and come out with tone-deaf, inaccurate articles while we learn a whole new way of viewing the world, or we can start now, join the writers already doing great work in Africa, and be a part of telling the story of how the continent that largely leapfrogged telephone lines to use cell-phones leapfrogs traditional banking to use crypto.
If you want to contribute an op-ed, please reach out to either Molly Jane Zuckerman or Anthony Mandelli on Telegram!
We’re looking forward to a calmer March — stay strong out there.
Meme courtesy of @wallstmemes
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