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News Bytes for May 3, 2018

Use our news to inform cryptocurrency trading decisions, stay up-to-date on happenings in the industry, and more!

Crypto Exchange BitGrail Legally Forced to Shut Down Just Three Hours After it Opens

Yesterday BitGrail Tweeted “BitGrail is pleased to announce the re-open of our exchange!” only to announce three hours later that “We have temporarily disabled the BitGrail exchange pending further notice.” Users quickly became irritable, some pondering if they were “getting robbed”. BitGrail quickly responded with a post to their web site that they were “notified of a deed by the court of Florence requesting the immediate closure of BitGrail and this situation will persist until a decision is made by the courts…”

SEC Mulls Whether Ethereum is a Security Under US Law

US regulators are cracking down on non-compliant securities issuers, and senior officials are set to meet to discuss whether that group includes the founders of Ethereum.

Telegram Scraps Public ICO as SEC Cracks Down on Token Sales

The company behind wildly-popular encrypted messaging app Telegram has scrapped plans to open its initial coin offering (ICO) to the public, says an anonymous source close to the matter.

Goldman Sachs To Open Bitcoin Trading Desk

Goldman Sachs, hiring their first cryptocurrency trader, becomes the first major Wall Street bank to open a bitcoin trading desk. Trading will start in the next few weeks, accordingly to a New York Times report.

Reddit Likely to Bring Back Bitcoin Payments, Add Ethereum and Litecoin Support

Cryptocurrency payments will likely be returning to popular social media platform Reddit, a company executive said on Wednesday.

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Cryptocurrency payments will likely be returning to popular social media platform Reddit, a company executive said on Wednesday.

Reddit CTO Christopher Slowe made this revelation during an interview with financial news outlet Cheddar, explaining that cryptocurrency payments will likely return to the platform once Coinbase finishes upgrading its merchant platform to Coinbase Commerce and the social media giant completes a website redesign.

The company had accepted bitcoin payments for Reddit Gold for years but abruptly removed this payment option in March.

Slowe said that they did so for a variety of reasons, ranging from Coinbase’s payment platform revamp to rising bitcoin transaction fees to the fact that the company — which is currently doing a complete website redesign — does not currently have the time to upgrade its API to the new Coinbase merchant system.

“We just didn’t have time to upgrade our current API integration, and once the redesign… is landing, I think we’ll see crypto payments come back,” he said.

Notably, Slowe also said that Reddit — whose platform houses forums for nearly every cryptocurrency community — will likely add support for other cryptocurrencies as well.

In fact, he said that the company had looked into adding more cryptocurrencies in the past but that its Coinbase API version did not provide merchants with the ability to accept altcoins.

“We have been looking at other cryptocurrencies,” he said. “We are looking at Ethereum and Litecoin that are provided by Coinbase as well.”

Both ethereum and litecoin are available to merchants through Coinbase Commerce, and though Slowe did not specifically refer to it in his remarks, so is bitcoin cash. Consequently, it would not be surprising if Reddit users can soon purchase premium subscriptions using four cryptocurrencies instead of one.

However, Slowe did not provide a specific timeline for when Reddit will bring back cryptocurrency payments, merely stating that it would likely happen once the company finishes its redesign.

Featured Image from Pixabay

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News Bytes for May 2, 2018

Welcome to News Bytes with BlockExplorer, your daily cryptocurrency news roundup. Today we will discuss top auto manufacturers forming a blockchain coalition, the SEC urging caution on ICOs, Australia cracking down on ICOs, Ethereum being under regulatory scrutiny, and Bitcoin being a contender to replace cash payments.

BMW, Ford, GM and Renault Form Blockchain Coalition

Four of the largest car manufacturers have formed a consortium focused on applying blockchain tech in the automotive sector. The Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) launched with the fairly broad goal of making transportation “safer, more affordable, and more widely accessible using blockchain technology.”

Top SEC Enforcement Official Urges Caution on ICOs

A top SEC enforcement official, speaking at a conference in New York on “The Future of Financial Fraud”, said some ICOs could be putting investors at risk. “They’re raising a lot of money, but they’re not complying with the rules that are in place to protect investors,” says Valerie Szczepanik, SEC assistant director of enforcement.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission Cracks Down on ICOs

ASIC is investigating misleading or deceptive conduct in the selling of cryptocurrencies. “If you are acting with someone else’s money, or selling something to someone, you have obligations,” ASIC Commissioner John Price said.

Ethereum Falls Under Regulatory Scrutiny

Ethereum fell 6 percent yesterday after The Wall Street Journal reported it has come under scrutiny by regulators. The cryptocurrency’s creation in 2014 was “probably an illegal securities sale” in the eyes of some regulators, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing people familiar with the story.

St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank: Bitcoin Could Be a Contender to Replace Cash Payments

Bitcoin could eventually become a contender to replace government-issued fiat money as a means of payment as it rapidly drives out the use of cash, according to a report from the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank.

crypto hope page

In late April 2018, UNICEF Australia’s home site began to invite visitors to a page called The Hopepage, where funds are raised for UNICEF through cryptocurrency mining. By opening the website and clicking, “Start Donating,” a visitor agrees to run a miner in their web browser and use their computer’s central processing unit or CPU to solve crypto-puzzles and earn digital currency for the international charity. The digital money mined is XMR of the Monero blockchain. It is converted into fiat and used to fund UNICEF’s humanitarian work with and for children, and specifically, refugees. The site text reads:

Give hope, just by being here … The cryptocurrency is automatically donated to UNICEF Australia and is turned into real funds that reach children through life-saving supplies like safe water, therapeutic food and vaccines … Mining is perfectly safe for your computer.

Crypto Mining to Help Young Refugees

Donors can choose how much of their processing power to commit to this process while leaving the browser window open – 60 percent is the default setting and the full range is 20 to 80 percent. While there is no further cost associated with participation, this use of significant computer power and energy does constitute a real donation.

UNICEF is using a JavaScript miner for XMR developed by Coinhive. Companies sometimes include this mining option in their browsers and offer users benefits like in-game currencies or ad-free media experiences in return. In this case, the funds raised will be used to support Rohingya youth. The Rohingya is an ethnic group, which is denied citizenship in Myanmar and has experienced decades of prosecution there. After surges of violence in 2017, many have fled to Bangladesh and there are about 400,000 children among the Rohingya refugees.

UNICEF, Blockchain and Charity Mining

UNICEF also turned to crypto-mining as a fundraising tool in February 2018. It asked gamers to install the mining software Claymore in order to send Ethereum to its electronic wallet. The charity’s other blockchain-related initiatives include funding blockchain projects like South Africa-based 9Needs, which uses distributed ledger technology to create digital identities for use in early childhood education programs. It also co-ran blockchain labs with U.N. Women and it led a blockchain hackathon in Kazakhstan. Similarly, the U.N. has used blockchain to launch an ID-project for refugees around the globe.

Other mining-for-charity projects exist in the cryptosphere. A group called Bail Bloc uses mining to pay people’s bail who are awaiting trial, much like a community bail fund. Charity Mine pools and donates browser-mining earnings to its community’s current charity of choice. Cudo Donate from Cudo Ventures aims to provide user-friendly mining-donation options to multiple charities.

Feature image from Hopepage.org.

OmiseGo Donation for Refugees

In late March 2018, decentralized payment provider OmiseGO and Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin teamed up with the nonprofit GiveDirectly to send $1 million to refugee families in Uganda. More than 12,000 households will benefit from this donation, which will be exchanged from the OMG ERC20 tokens into local currency.

“OmiseGO, with an additional generous contribution from Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, is donating the equivalent of $1 million USD in OMG tokens directly to refugees living in extreme poverty, and GiveDirectly will deliver those funds,” OmiseGO founder Jun Hasegawa wrote in a blog post, adding that as successful members of the growing crypto-economy, they “see an exciting opportunity to share that wealth.”

How GiveDirectly Works

Providing unconditional cash transfers directly to people dealing with significant poverty is GiveDirectly’s central mission. They have raised over $200 million since 2013 towards this end. GiveDirectly conducts field research before enrolling individuals in its programs and provides a live feed featuring the recipients on its site. GiveDirectly also offers extensive research on its site explaining how direct cash donations both benefit those in poverty and are usually well-spent.

This group states that 88.4 percent of its donations go directly to recipients. To learn more about how charities typically spend money, the watchdog site Charity Watch from the American Institute of Philanthropy is a useful resource. Their top-rated groups “generally spend 75 percent or more of their budgets on programs,” among other factors.

Why This Collaboration Makes Sense

GiveDirectly’s work aligns with several of OmiseGO and Buterin’s goals. OmiseGO is an Ethereum-based, decentralized and disintermediated network that offers self-sovereign and peer-to-peer financial transactions. It can be of particular use to those in developing countries who do not have reliable and equitable access to banking infrastructure. It’s “financial tools do not require users to go through centralized networks, which often put up barriers and impose unnecessary costs,” Jun said.

“Refugees are a perfect population to serve through this effort … We’re excited to plug them back in, transfer funds, and let them get to work,” Jun said of the recent $1 million joint donation.  

Vitalik has often called on members of the digital money-community to find meaningful uses for blockchain and cryptocurrencies, rather than just trying to accumulate wealth. He walks the walk as well – in February 2018 he gave $2.4 million to the SENS Research Foundation, a nonprofit addressing age-related disease.

Featured photo credit: CC via UNMISS on Flickr