Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bitcoin Foundation Expands Global Media Opportunities

By Jon Matonis
Monday, April 22, 2013

The Bitcoin Foundation is an excellent template for a decentralized nonprofit project and I am proud to serve alongside the other dedicated board members on such a historic effort.

Established seven short months ago, the foundation has recruited bitcoin’s lead developer (transparency of compensation is important), launched a grant program for funding bitcoin-related initiatives, and coordinated a showcase conference in San Jose. About 60% of our membership comes from outside the U.S. and we are currently seeking partners for local chapters in foreign countries which will increase global effectiveness.

Additionally, the foundation maintains an active relationship with various press entities seeking information about Bitcoin and the role of the nonprofit foundation. Since these inquiries come from around the world, we strive to be inclusive and we enlist the voluntary support of foundation members and regional affiliates for certain questions because they would best know their local bitcoin markets. We also refer many technical questions on cryptography and bitcoin mining to contributing developers. Frequently and on short notice, the press wants examples of bitcoin users in a particular country that are willing to speak openly with the media and sometimes on camera so we do our best to accommodate that.
Media opportunities often lead to conference opportunities. Ultimately, this work expands the market for bitcoin education. Conference organizers and media outlets also reach out directly to executives at existing bitcoin businesses and other professional analysts that are known from previous appearances. If a publication or television station seeks a certain individual for political commentary, that can be found quite easily on Twitter or the Bitcoin Forum. Social media has vastly increased the opportunities for people willing to speak.

It’s not always about taking a position on political or human rights issues. Mostly, it’s about freedom of choice in currencies and economic education on bitcoin price movements, bitcoin exchange markets, bitcoin merchants, potential regulation, and the differences between Bitcoin as a payments network and bitcoin as a monetary unit. Or, it’s about specific use cases such as asset protection in Cyprus or maintaining donation payments in support of freedom of the press.

The foundation itself is nonpolitical, so when an inquiry comes from an industry regulator, our role is to explain what is and what is not possible in terms of potential regulation. I believe this approach to be the most effective stance to take when confronted with regulatory queries. Fortunately, Bitcoin transcends the conventional philosophy of regulation by reducing certain aspects to irrelevancy.

For instance, bitcoin exchange endpoints where bitcoin interfaces with national fiat money and the banking system is a possible point of regulation due to current AML and KYC guidelines in most countries. However, due to the nature of distributed computing, ongoing transactions between individuals and companies would be technically outside the scope of potential regulatory action as long as there is electricity and internet connectivity.

Debates around gambling and personal drug use are moral issues. An apolitical currency like bitcoin is simply a network protocol, like email or telephone, so it is unable to express a morality.

To date, this educational approach has been effective because only four jurisdictions and one central bank have published any formal statements on the Bitcoin cryptocurrency — Norway, Australia, France, United States, and the ECB. With the exception of the recent U.S. FinCEN regulatory guidelines, all of the reports have been explanatory in nature.

Open source development projects while extraordinary in many respects are actually not very good at “staying on message,” whatever that means. And with Bitcoin, there’s no reason that they should be because there isn’t a single message. The diversity of what attracts different people to Bitcoin is one of its greatest strengths. Free market economists admire the separation of money and government while audit-minded accountants relish its public traceability. Even Paul Krugman secretly covets bitcoin’s abstract nature for a future Federal Reserve digital currency.

However, being against dissenting viewpoints on regulation, being unwilling to confront any form of taxation, or being anti-financial privacy does not make one a neutral bitcoin advocate as some have suggested. Those positions are the worst sort of bias because from the outset they wrap ideology in what is politically correct and easily digestible by the masses. Furthermore, it can be disingenuous and manipulative.

Either way, Bitcoin is the honey badger of currencies and the protocol rolls on. Hat tip to Gavin Andresen for locating this media theme song.

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