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Crypto baffles mainstream media, but should blockchain advocates care?

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The relationship between crypto and mainstream media (MSM) is complex, and it’s probably fair to say that some in the crypto community haven’t been overjoyed with the treatment they’ve received over the years. 

MSM has largely ignored Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies outside of occasional reports of hacks, ransomware attacks and other illicit activities. “They’ve done a fairly poor job of coverage for the last decade and it’s almost always negative coverage,” Samson Mow, chief strategy officer at Blockstream and CEO at Pixelmatic, told Cointelegraph. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a positive piece of news about Bitcoin.”

But recently, the media has found much to report upon. For instance, The Economistran its second crypto cover piece in as many months, while on Sept. 14, a member of The New York Times’ editorial board published an opinion piece that compared Bitcoin to “cosplay” (i.e., costume play) — probably not intended as a compliment.

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The crypto/blockchain space may finally be getting the attention that befits an emerging $2 trillion economic sector, though a segment within the community says the mainstream media still doesn’t seem to “get it.” The Economist, for example, while generally acknowledging the significance of decentralized finance (DeFi) — saying it is deserving of “sober consideration” with a “potential to rewire how the financial system works” — remarked elsewhere that “Bitcoin, the first big blockchain, created in 2009, is now a distraction.”

It raises some questions: Assuming mainstream media is now truly engaged in reporting on crypto, is it getting it right? If understanding is lacking — i.e., a failure to understand crypto/blockchain’s true benefits and risks — what’s the sticking point? Overall, should the crypto community be vexed by MSM’s treatment, as it potentially hinders widespread adoption, or should they view it, on balance, as a sign of public blockchains’ growing acceptance?

“A positive development”

“It’s not the first time we see broad coverage of crypto assets in MSM,” Fabian Schär, professor in the business and economics department at the University of Basel, told Cointelegraph. The media’s focus seems to be cyclical, and it may be correlated with crypto market activity. “What’s new is that newspapers and magazines seem to talk less about prices and are starting to explore the benefits of public blockchains and decentralization,” said Schär. “This is a very positive development.”

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MSM simply seems to be following the “influx” of mainstream financial institutions into the crypto space, which began to pick up in the second and third quarters of 2021, Sean Stein Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Economics and Business at Lehman College, told Cointelegraph, adding:

“The media is catching up to what financial institutions seem to have figured out earlier in the year. This catch-up is mirrored in the more aggressive approach recently seen by regulators.”

Kristin Smith, executive director of the Blockchain Association, agreed with Schär that MSM coverage tends to be “on again off again,” but it seems to be becoming more constant. “The increase in coverage of the regulatory environment, spurred on by the battle over the crypto tax provision in the current infrastructure bill, has reached a new level,” she told Cointelegraph, adding: “We expect that level of coverage to be maintained as crypto cements its place in the U.S. economy.”

The SALT Conference, a traditional hedge fund event that took place earlier this month in New York City, devoted a significant part of its agenda to crypto-related topics, noted Francine McKenna, adjunct professor at American University’s Kogod School of Business and publisher of accounting newsletter The Dig. “Now that you have the SALT conference with all the hedge funders taken up by the topic, it’s a must do” for MSM, she told Cointelegraph.

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Bitcoin as a “distraction”

The perceived slights are still there — like The Economistcharacterizing Bitcoin as a “distraction” or The New York Times opinion writer describing Bitcoin users as “basically a bunch of cosplay libertarians participating in a game of make-believe on the playgrounds of the nanny state.” To the latter, Mow responded: “If Bitcoin is cosplay, it’s very high level cosplay.” McKenna added with regard to the venerated United Kingdom weekly: “They are notoriously conservative, status quo, and will not go where the wind blows unless it’s a hurricane.”

“They seem to, mainly, be missing the point,” observed Stein Smith regarding The Economist’s characterization. “Bitcoin may indeed be slipping from its unquestionable leadership position in the sector, but it still is absolutely the bellwether for the space at large.” Schär added that he does not see “Bitcoin as a distraction,” continuing:

“Bitcoin has some interesting technological and socio-economic properties, which are very hard to replicate. Sure, most of the economic activity is on other blockchains, but this does not make Bitcoin obsolete. What might be a distraction, though, is the fixation on a purely monetary use-case and the unnecessary infighting between various members of the community.”

What’s the sticking point?

Admittedly, blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies aren’t always easy to grasp. Andrew Smith Lewis, chief innovation officer at Cais — an alternative investment platform for financial advisers (FAs) — has created education courses for FAs, including a course on blockchain and crypto fundamentals that was developed with Galaxy Digital. The concepts in this course have proved more difficult for advisers to grasp than those in Cais’ other financial courses, Lewis told Cointelegraph. For instance, it takes roughly three times longer to master key elements in the blockchain course than in the firm’s hedge fund course, he estimates.

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The Blockchain Association’s Smith agrees that some of crypto’s concepts can be problematic: “DeFi is a good example, it’s a relatively new space and these protocols can be complex to understand, even for those who are relatively savvy on the regulatory and technological front.”

“The most difficult aspect of Bitcoin to grasp is that it’s completely unique — nothing like it has ever existed,” said Mow, adding: “There’s nothing for the media to compare it to, and they’re unable to fully understand the magnitude of the coming paradigm shift that Bitcoin will bring.” McKenna added that it is “is the virtual nature of it all” that poses challenges:

“So much of it is in an inscrutable technology space that most liberal arts major journalists will never understand. I mean they can not understand concepts like goodwill and impairment with regard to traditional accounting. I hear it all the time, ‘Too technical.’ Can you really expect them to conceptualize forks and staking if they can not understand restatements?”

Until recently, the people who were very knowledgeable about cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology confined their public remarks to focused, niche-type publications, continued McKenna. “Mainstream media didn’t even know who they were.” One consequence is an education deficit with regard to crypto among MSM and regulators. “I still don’t think the SEC or any mainstream media know what an airdrop, a fork, staking or even the mechanics of the issues with the Lend product really are. But they have to try.”

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Would more education help? “More education is always better than less,” answered Smith, going on to add: “People are busy, they have preconceived notions of what crypto is, no matter their age, and we have to meet them where they are. I’ve rarely had a conversation with someone in the mainstream media where the reporter or editor has emerged more critical of crypto after we’ve talked.”

Mow, for his part, is skeptical. “More education won’t likely be helpful. The root problem is Western media is financially privileged and looks at the world from that privileged lens.” According to him, rather than dismiss Bitcoin as a Ponzi scheme, they would do better to visit places like Ethiopia where nascent entrepreneurs pay their workers in Bitcoin because those funds can’t be debased or confiscated. “They [MSM] cannot see why Bitcoin is needed because they cannot see the problems in the world.”

“Coexist and move forward”

So, should the crypto community continue to voice their frustration each time a lukewarm article on Bitcoin or DeFi surfaces on one of the extremely popular mainstream publications? Will going off on a rant on Twitter even have the desired impact of remedying the situation?

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On the whole, most probably agree with Schär that the increased MSM scrutiny is positive — another sign that cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology are here to stay. “Now it is our job, as a community, to provide the resources and create an open and welcoming environment that allows MSM journalists and people who are interested in the technology to understand what is going on,” Schär told Cointelegraph.

“We cannot discount the power of the mainstream media to shape public opinion, or the opinions of regulators and lawmakers, for that matter,” added the Blockchain Association’s Smith. “We have no choice but to try to coexist and move forward, both in our work evangelizing through the media and our work with lawmakers and regulators.”

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Ethereum

Coinbase Adds Support for Two Ethereum-Based Altcoins Across All of Its Platforms

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Top US crypto giant Coinbase is adding two Ethereum (ETH) powered altcoins to its arsenal of tokens.

After their initial launch on Coinbase Pro, BadgerDAO (BADGER) and Rarible (RARI) are now available to buy, sell, convert, store, send and receive on the company’s retail trading platform Coinbase.com and its iOS and Android applications.

BADGER is a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) with the purpose of building infrastructure and products that help spur Bitcoin’s growth as a usable asset across other blockchains.

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At time of writing its BADGER governance token is trading at $28.47, down by 7.5% on the day according to CoinGecko.

RARI is the token that powers digital artist and creator community-owned non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace Rarible.

Rarible is a non-custodial platform, meaning users always have control over their tokens, which are not held by Rarible. So far, the Rarible marketplace only supports Ethereum-based cryptos.

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At time of writing, RARI is trading at $23.49, down 4.6% on the day according to CoinGecko.

Both altcoins recently surged in price after they were added to Coinbase’s professional trading platform.

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Binance

Binance to Support the Incoming Polkadot Parachain Slot Auction

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  • Binance exchange will support the Polkadot (DOT) parachain slot auction.
  • The company plans to start the event in November, this year.
  • Doing this will help Polkadot achieve its ecosystem development.

Amid the waves blowing around the incoming Polkadot (DOT) parachain slot auction, Binance exchange has also announced that they are ever-ready to support the Polkadot’s parachain event.

With this synergy, Binance emphasized that it will soon start its Polkadot parachain slot auction program mainly in November 2021. Additionally, the month set to begin the event by the Binance team moves in line with the proposed Polkadot parachain slot auction date.

Meanwhile, Binance didn’t officially give the exact day and time that it will start the event. At the moment, the only news we have is that the team aims to start the parachain event in November.

To clarify, Binance intends to do its part and what it can to help influence Polkadot towards achieving its ecosystem development milestone. In turn, doing this will also push up the growth and adoption of the Polkadot parachain slot project to the mainstream.

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Also, for further info about the event, the Binance team noted that they will keep their eyes on it and provide the community with more updates.

Until then, the team assured that the community should expect a separate announcement in no time and more details than what they have disclosed now. In addition, Binance advised that the community should stay tuned as they are bringing more initiatives ahead.

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Crypto Exchange

CFTC slaps Tether and Bitfinex with $42.5 million fine over misleading statements

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  • Tether is hit with $41 million in fines to settle allegations of misleading statements. 
  • Bitfinex was fined $1.5 million for facilitating retail transactions for American citizens. 
  • Tether has been under the lens of financial regulators over claims of stablecoin reserves for years on end. 

Financial regulators have investigated Tether and Bitfinex for criminal probe into bank fraud and misleading statements. Currently, over $62 million worth of Tether is in circulation, which is likely to impact the broad cryptocurrency market. 

Tether and Bitfinex hit by CFTC fines; there may be an impact on the crypto market

US regulators have accused Tether of making untrue or misleading statements. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) slapped a penalty of $41 million on Tether and $1.5 million on Bitfinex. 

Bitfinex was fined for allowing American citizens to transact on its exchange. The CFTC announced the penalties earlier today.  

Tether has played a key role in the crypto ecosystem, and the US Justice department’s focus is on the stablecoin’s activity in nascent stages following its launch in 2014. Federal prosecutors investigated transactions that were linked to crypto, and banks were unaware of their nature. 

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Former probes remained confidential, according to sources close to the Department of Justice (DoJ). A criminal probe is one of the key developments in the crackdown on cryptocurrencies by regulators. 

Over $62 billion worth of Tether tokens are in circulation; proponents believe it is too big to fail. In a statement, Tether stated:

Tether routinely has an open dialogue with law enforcement agencies, including the DOJ, as part of our commitment to cooperation and transparency.

In light of recent events, however, Tether is faced with a more significant challenge, safeguarding the interests of the crypto community by not failing. Traders across fiat-crypto exchanges and peer-to-peer platforms exchange their fiat for stablecoins to access the cryptocurrency ecosystem. 

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If Tether fails, the inflow of stablecoins to exchanges could be impaired, triggering a drop in capital inflow to Bitcoin. 

In their concurring statements, CFTC was quoted:

The settlement with the Tether respondents finds that there were misrepresentations regarding the assets backing tether, specifically that the USDT tokens were backed 1-to-1 by US dollars. The evidence establishes that this assurance provided to tether customers was not 100% true, 100% of the time.

Tether officials are held accountable by the CFTC. Further, the CFTC has applied a commodities’ definition to stablecoins. Regulators are concerned that enforcement actions may confuse their role in cryptocurrency and stablecoin regulation. 

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The CFTC’s statement reads:

In a recent speech, SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce asked an important question when it comes to the US regulators’ review of stablecoins: Are we fighting for investors or are we fighting for jurisdiction? This question is front-and-center in my mind as I consider these settlements.

Tether believes that,

As Tether represented in the Order, it has always maintained adequate reserves and has never failed to satisfy a redemption request.

Tether has suggested that the CFTC’s findings regarding Bitfinex are related to its activities before December 2018. The stablecoin issuer is focused on resolving the matter and moving forward. 

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The statement reads as follows:

We are grateful that the market has consistently demonstrated its trust and confidence in Tether. We will continue to earn that confidence and lead the industry in innovation and transparency.

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