Happy belated new year from the ACJR 🥳

Here's the scoop as of January 2021

Hello again from the Association of Cryptocurrency Journalists and Researchers! 👋

Welcome to 2021! We hope you all had a lovely holiday season. Per usual, there’s been no rest for the wicked when it comes to crypto markets and regulation scandals. In this season of “threats to Bitcoin,” we saw the notorious Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin try to sneak new industry rules in before the Trump administration ended.  But then, *cue drumroll*... Bitcoin advocates strike back, led by the nonprofit Coin Center. Now the comment period is extended, returning to the normal lawmaking process. 

There’s so much excitement across the space, especially with this backdrop, that it can be hard to keep track of the best crypto news. That’s where we come in. Let’s get to it!

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In terms of research, we want to highlight Matt Ahlborg of usefultulips.org, which aggregates information from peer-to-peer bitcoin markets and offers clear data visualizations. Data from the last 30 days, in particular, is very interesting. Looks like growth is continuing across North Africa and Europe (and especially Australia!), even with the recent market pullback. With regards to Ethereum, investment analyst Lyn Alden wrote a particularly thoughtful piece this month. 

As for reporting, here are some examples of outstanding work:

“How Technology Provides a Chance for Freedom in Venezuela” by Diana Aguilar, Caracas Chronicles

  • This piece shows Venezuelans are experimenting with a blockchain-powered voting app, without (incorrectly) arguing blockchain technology offers a solution to the nation’s systematic woes. The app makes people feel more comfortable, as a publicly auditable option, regardless of its flaws compared to paper ballots. Aguilar explains, the “main tool of Maduro’s regime, however, isn’t technology, it’s physical force.” Most experts caution against blockchain voting systems, yet the article shows why some people are desperate enough to try.

“Tron-Owned Video Platform Criticized for Hosting Extremists, US Capitol Rioters” by Tanzeel Akhtar, CoinDesk

  • Widespread post-election chaos still saturates most social networks with lots of American users, and the Tron-owned video streaming platform, DLive, is no exception. This piece doesn’t pander to either outraged side of the debate. It dispassionately shows the conundrum presented by decentralized media networks: They are difficult to moderate. We love how this writer covers politics without getting preachy.

“Massive blackouts have hit Iran. The government is blaming bitcoin mining” by Miriam Berger, Washington Post

  • This article does a fantastic job showing how the government in Iran regulates and scapegoats the growing Bitcoin mining industry. It quotes local experts and includes a nuanced array of statistics. We stan.   

“Embattled Administration Pushes Midnight Controls on Financial Tech” by Andrea O’Sullivan, Reason

  • We love how this article covers the above-mentioned Mnuchin frenzy to pass new crypto industry regulations. It’s voicey yet informative, without veering into sensationalism, approachable yet details. Kudos on every level. 

“What Explains Bitcoin’s Resurgence?” by Nic Carter, Intelligencer

  • Nic Carter goes into the history of bitcoin with no theatrics, providing a backdrop for the recent institutional investor interest in bitcoin without sounding pedantic. This is the kind of piece we’d send to our financially-savvy parents when they ask what’s up with crypto. Our favorite take away from Carter’s piece on the 2021 bitcoin rally: “It’s not bitcoin that has changed over the last three years, but rather the world around it.”

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Who do you think is making the best bitcoin coverage so far this year? We welcome prospective members to contribute suggestions via social media and check out our website.

Also, keep an eye out for our ACJR meetups! The third ACJR meetup on February 3 at 5pm EST, with Forbes editor Michael del Castillo and podcaster Laura Shin, all offering insights on how to cover the 2021 bull run. You can also suggest future meetup topics here.  

In the meantime, we’re cooking up other ways for participants to contribute. Let us know if you’re interested in volunteering, or, if you’ve come across a dank meme or fascinating article, drop the link in our Telegram with the 📩 emoji. 

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Next, we’ll turn to a guest column from Venezuelan journalist and veteran bitcoin user Luis David Esparragoza:

I’ll never forget the first time Hugo Chavez appeared on my TV screen in February, 1992, in the aftermath of a failed coup d’état. When Chavez finally rose to power in 1999, he did so with help of the biggest media corporations in the country.

Then, in April 2002, TV broadcasts pivoted from showing a bloody massacre in the streets to broadcasting a special message from Chavez, who ordered all TV transmissions to fall in line so he could speak to the country. The rest is history. I was reminded of that historic moment of censorship this past month when social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook banned then-President Donald Trump. Trump used his Twitter profile as the main channel for broadcasting his opinions and announcements. Both leaders managed to come up to power thanks to the media industry, yet then they resented how the media covered their movements.

For Venezuelans, Twitter is often a platform to broadcast stories without state censorship, but it isn’t an ideal model of a censorship-free space. It’s also an environment that facilitates the rampant spread of “fake news.” Also Twitter’s decision to silence some individuals and political groups might be reprehensible. On the other hand, it’s still a private media corporation with its own policies.

I know what you’re thinking. “Let’s create a blockchain-based platform where people can evade censorship and tip each other with a new and disruptive cryptocurrency.” That’s not the answer.

There’s hardly any real “adoption” of nascent blockchain technologies, so that would only amplify the echo chambers wreaking havoc in social media platforms like Twitter. Instead, we should learn to manage information across different apps, not pretending everyone will migrate to using a new “blockchain solution.” The first solution must be for us to become more discerning media consumers. Embrace your critical spirit! 

This won’t solve the censorship issue, but it will help reduce its negative impact on your own life. The more critical you become of the information you digest, understanding its source, the less vulnerable you are to emotional triggers and narrative manipulation. You, as a reader, will be more free because you will know how to find alternative sources of information, beyond the fake news and censored public squares. Expecting a platform like Twitter, with millions of users, to serve our individual needs as readers is delusional. 

It’s important for those of us who believe in the power of decentralization, inspired by Bitcoin but not limited to it, to combine our use of legacy applications with new alternatives. Keep the pros and cons of these various platforms in mind when you notice how they shape your experiences online. Ultimately, we are the result of the information we consume and the way we apply that through the decisions we make.

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This concludes our January newsletter — we hoped you liked reading it as much as we liked writing it! We still want your favorite memes, and we also want you to follow us on Twitter, join our Telegram group and check out our website. Can’t wait to update you all again in February! 

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