Project Veritas ‘Whistleblower’ Complains Fox Station Suppressed Bitcoin Reports

Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe at Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) 2020.

Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe at Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) 2020.
Photo: Samuel Corum (Getty Images)

Depending on your political outlook and/or how much paint you’ve huffed lately, the far-right activist group Project Veritas is either a groundbreaking conservative investigative outlet or a group of dweebs doing an unending series of pratfalls and faceplants for your amusement. Just kidding, it’s the latter, always. Point in case: Their latest “scoop.”

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For years, Project Veritas has employed conservative activists and enlisted backstabbing insiders for a pantomime of investigative journalism, using secretly recorded and deceptively edited videos to smear liberal groups, tech companies, and perceived opponents of the conservative movement and, in particular, Donald Trump. They’ve also propped up a series of bogus whistleblowers claiming to uncover liberal corruption and who all conveniently seem to have crowdfunding accounts, like a United States Post Office employee who fabricated a story about vote-by-mail fraud in Pennsylvania. In their latest effort, Project Veritas convinced Fox 26 Houston general assignment reporter Ivory Hecker to secretly record her colleagues in some sort of effort to discredit Fox News.

Now let’s get one thing straight: Fox News sucks. It’s a lousy propaganda machine for racists and other right-wing zealots, and the same could be said of many of its affiliates and local stations. But that’s not what Hecker sought to expose. Instead, she sought to portray the Fox owned-and-operated Fox 26 Houston as part of some kind of… liberal media conspiracy?

In a recent broadcast, Hecker told the station’s viewers that “Fox Corp has been muzzling me to keep certain information from you, the viewers” and that “I am going to be releasing some recordings about what goes on behind the scenes at Fox, because it applies to you, the viewers.” She was promptly and justly fired. Project Veritas then released the supposedly shocking recordings, which are not shocking in the least. The Daily Beast reported that one of her primary complaints is that station staff didn’t want a deluge of primetime Bitcoin coverage:

In one piece of surreptitiously recorded footage, Fox 26 assistant news director Lee Meier was seen explaining why the station does not do more stories on Bitcoin. In the clip, Meier said it’s “an editorial choice” to not cover the cryptocurrency because it likely would not appeal to the station’s early-evening broadcast viewership.

“I have passed on Bitcoin stories by almost every single reporter for our five o’clock audience, because that’s not our five o’clock audience,” Meier stated. “So, there are lots of reasons. If I know our numbers are tanking from five to six and in one particular segment… I may say, yeah, and Bitcoin for poor African-American audience at five, it’s probably not going to play. That’s a choice I’m making.”

In the Project Veritas video, the clip plays before Hecker tells founder James O’Keefe, “I want out of this narrative news telling! I want out of this corruption.”

That a local TV station is apparently “meh” about wall-to-wall primetime Bitcoin coverage is about the least juicy topic in the world. Local news, as the name implies, generally covers local issues that national outlets barely touch—a category that doesn’t usually include cryptocurrency. (Due to Project Veritas’s history of malicious editing, we can’t even be sure low-income Black viewers are the only demographic Hecker’s producer mentioned as potentially disinterested in wall-to-wall Bitcoin coverage.) What’s more, local states typically outsource much national news to wire services like the Associated Press or, in Fox 26 Houston’s case, Fox News. But this is apparently a moral outrage because cryptocurrency is popular with the type of libertarian convinced that people who don’t agree with them on everything fall into the two categories of either nefarious puppet master or gullible sheeple.

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Hecker also apparently took issue with the station’s unwillingness to play uncritical coverage of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-parasitic drug that Trump promoted as a sort of miracle cure for the novel coronavirus. There was never more than weak evidence that hydroxychloroquine worked in the first place, and scientific studies eventually demonstrated it is essentially useless as a pandemic treatment. Hecker videotaped a call in which she was apparently dressed down by station management for sharing a video interview on Facebook with Dr. Joseph Varon, who said he had used the drug to “good success.”

Meier, the assistant news director, and Fox 26 vice president/news director Susan Schiller told Hecker during the call she had “failed as a reporter” and did not look at the “latest research” before sharing the post. Shiller told Hecker, “You need to cease and desist posting about hydroxychloroquine.”

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At the time the video was posted on August 10, 2020, the original study promoting hydroxychloroquine had been debunked, the World Health Organization had ceased trials citing safety concerns, and the Food and Drug Administration had yanked its emergency use authorization in coronavirus treatment. Hecker’s rebuttal was that the scientific research showing the drug was not effective made Varon’s comments even more explosive, and she also cited Dr. Stella Immanuel, a religious minister who believes literal demons steal sperm from people while they sleep in order to breed via gay sex. Note that Fox 26 Houston was just fine with running Hecker’s coverage claiming Immanuel was a victim of censorship.

Varon, by all accounts a hardworking doctor, is part of a group known for promoting unsubstantiated and experimental treatments, and on August 2, the Texas medical board warned doctors not to promote hydroxychloroquine as a cure. Even more research showing hydroxychloroquine is not effective against the SARS-COV-2 virus came out in September 2020.

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As the Daily Beast reported, Hecker also offered an apparently secretly recorded conversation between Hecker and a station staffer on the business side. That staffer mentioned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was one of their biggest advertisers. This is the type of thing that absolutely no one but anti-vax losers would find alarming, and this is a group that apparently includes Hecker, who suspected the station could theoretically be advocating vaccines to get that sweet, sweet Big Epidemiology money. The Daily Beast wrote:

“So could the Ad Council call you and be like, ‘Hey, I want to run all these spots but I want to make sure your journalists aren’t running any anti-vax stories’?” the Project Veritas plant asked.

“If that happens, it’s above our [pay grade],” the promo producer replied.

“Does that stuff like that ever happen?” the Project Veritas operator pressed some more.

“It can, a lot of stuff can happen,” the sales coordinator responded.

It would of course be improper for advertisers to influence coverage. But the sales coordinator only suggests it’s theoretically possible advertisers could be pressuring Fox 26 Houston behind the scenes. This is something that any journalist can tell you happens all the time—the entire point is whether or not the bigwigs cave and order reporters to change their coverage, something the staffer explicitly said they weren’t aware of happening at the station. Besides, one would be hard-pressed to find a person working for a journalistic outfit that doesn’t have some vague suspicion that senior management could be up to no good. It’s fucking media!

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This is all beside the point, as no news station should be running anti-vax conspiracy theories as news in the first place.

Finally, Hecker claimed that she met with Fox News to discuss a job offer, but was told she would have to “get in line with the narrative” to receive it. A company spokesperson told the Daily Beast she was never offered a job and the meeting was, apparently outside Hecker’s understanding, a “courtesy.”

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This might have been a pathetic showing even for Project Veritas, whose past best hits included failing to trick the Washington Post into running additional hoax accusations against actually accused pedophile and former Senator Roy Moore and unsuccessfully plotting to get former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster drunk to record him talking shit about Trump. But that didn’t stop Hecker and O’Keefe from taking their best shot at cashing in.

At the tail end of the video, Hecker announces she wants a job where she can “tell true stories without fear of if it fits the corporate narrative.” O’Keefe added that she was “ready to pursue a career in independent journalism where she can report the news without fear or favor.”

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While there’s no news yet as to whether a job at Newsmax or One America News might be in Hecker’s future, taking up with Project Veritas seems to have been extremely lucrative for her in the short term. A fundraiser on the Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo stood at over $90,000 as of early Wednesday afternoon. (Two others on GoFundMe had only raised a total of $240.)

“FOX 26 adheres to the highest editorial standards of accuracy and impartiality,” the station told the Houston Chronicle in a statement. “This incident involves nothing more than a disgruntled former employee seeking publicity by promoting a false narrative produced through selective editing and misrepresentation.”

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Elon Musk Juices Bitcoin Price Yet Again With His Stupid Tweets

Tesla CEO Elon Musk sits in a car arriving to the construction site for a new Tesla in Gruenheide near Berlin, northeastern Germany on May 17, 2021.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk sits in a car arriving to the construction site for a new Tesla in Gruenheide near Berlin, northeastern Germany on May 17, 2021.
Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP (Getty Images)

Elon Musk sent the price of bitcoin soaring Sunday night after a positive tweet about the cryptocurrency, which has tracked closely with Musk’s tweets over the past six months. The SpaceX founder also revealed his electric car company Tesla has sold roughly 10% of its bitcoin holdings.

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Musk, the second wealthiest person in the world, was responding to a tweet from crypto news outlet CoinTelegraph that accused the billionaire of running a pump and dump scheme when he made his latest revelations.

“This is inaccurate. Tesla only sold ~10% of holdings to confirm BTC could be liquidated easily without moving market,” Musk tweeted on Sunday, using the abbreviation of bitcoin.

Oh, for sure. It’s perfectly normal to sell off millions of dollars in assets to… test the market. That’s just smart business and not a sign of trying to dump your Monopoly money.

Musk continued by explaining that he’ll let Tesla accept bitcoin as a payment for electric cars once the energy consumed to mine the cryptocurrency reaches about 50% renewable.

“When there’s confirmation of reasonable (~50%) clean energy usage by miners with positive future trend, Tesla will resume allowing Bitcoin transactions,” Musk tweeted.

Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are notoriously bad for the environment, consuming enormous amounts of energy to run properly. Musk started accepting bitcoin for Teslas back in March but stopped in May when the billionaire said he was worried that crypto was bad for the environment.

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The weird part, of course, is that nothing changed environmentally in that period when Tesla accepted bitcoin. Everyone knew it was bad for the environment when Musk started taking bitcoin and there’s basically no way that someone like Musk could’ve been ignorant of the environmental impact before he made that decision.

The price of bitcoin is currently sitting at roughly $39,200, up 9.64% over the past 24 hours, according to CoinDesk. That’s still quite a ways off it’s all-time high of $64,829, but bitcoin diehards have to be excited that it’s moving in a positive direction after Musk’s tweets from the past few months sent the price tumbling.

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Musk knows what he’s doing by manipulating the bitcoin market with his tweets, but he still has some level of plausible deniability, if only because the market isn’t regulated in any serious way. The only question left is whether Musk’s legion of followers realize it’s all a grift before they empty their bank accounts on the wrong side of Musk’s crypto rollercoaster. We’re not going to hold our breath.

Miami’s Bitcoin Conference May Be the Latest Covid-19 Super Spreader Event

Illustration for article titled Miami's Bitcoin Conference May Be the Latest Covid-19 Super Spreader Event

Photo: Marco Bello (Getty Images)

Several crypto fans that descended on Miami, Florida, last weekend for the largest bitcoin conference in history are now saying they’ve tested positive for covid-19.

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Larry Cermak, research director at the cryptocurrency news outlet the Block, said on Twitter Thursday that while he hadn’t personally tested positive, “everyone” whom he hung out with in Miami during the three-day Bitcoin 2021 conference. Several purported screenshots circulating on the platform showed other attendees announcing that they had since tested positive for the virus. “Looks like I’m joining the BTC Miami covid list,” said cryptocurrency podcaster Luke Martin in a now-deleted tweet, according to a screenshot shared by Cryptowhale, the pseudonym of a leading cryptocurrency financial analyst.

It’s little wonder the conference is starting to look more and more like a possible super spreader event given that 1) there was no mask mandate or proof of vaccination requirement to attend; 2) some 12,000 people packed into the convention center; and 3) Florida is one of five states that never implemented a statewide face mask requirement throughout the pandemic and was among the first to throw covid-19 restrictions out the window. While part of the event was held outside, attendees still crowded into auditoriums, private house parties, and other networking events with nary a mask in sight, Bloomberg reports.

“Vaccines have been freely available for months in the US, to the extent that anyone who wanted to be vaccinated could do so by the time of the event,” Bitcoin 2021 organizer BTC Media said in a statement to the outlet. “We provided all attendees with the current recommendations of the CDC and State of Florida and expressed to our audience that those who were high risk or hadn’t been vaccinated should consider waiting until next year.”

BTC Media did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s questions about what health precautions, if any, were in place last weekend.

The jury’s still out on how many people may have contracted the virus or if Bitcoin 2021 will ultimately be labeled as a super spreader event. As of Tuesday, Florida now reports its tally of covid-19 cases and fatalities on a weekly basis rather than daily. The state pointed to rising vaccination rates to justify the move, adding that Florida “is transitioning into the next phase” of its pandemic response. This past week’s report has yet to be released. Nationwide, the current seven-day average of daily news cases is 14,349, a roughly 35% decrease compared to the week before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

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Chinese Authorities Arrest Over 1,100 People in Crypto Crime Crackdown

Illustration for article titled Chinese Authorities Arrest Over 1,100 People in Crypto Crime Crackdown

Photo: Philippe Lopez (Getty Images)

Chinese authorities are upping their crackdown on all things crypto by arresting more than 1,100 people suspected of using these digital tokens for money laundering. The news comes courtesy of a Wednesday Wechat post from China’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees law enforcement throughout the country.

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The bust spanned 23 different major provinces and cities, and rounded up more than 170 “criminal gangs,” the Ministry said. This is the fifth leg of what local authorities dubbed “Operation Card Broken,” which is meant to crack down on fraudsters peddling phone cards and credit cards across international borders. Back in late 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping pushed law enforcement to take a tougher stance on telco fraud, after more than 30,000 people were caught committing these sorts of scams in the first half of the year.

Typically, scammers involved with sim-swap fraud or similar schemes will use stolen bank account credentials when they need to launder money. In recent years though, that’s become a bit more difficult, thanks to Chinese authorities getting better at intercepting payments before swindlers can pocket them. To get around this, the Ministry explained, these actors turned to crypto to transfer their funds and convert them between multiple currencies to cover their tracks.

Per the Ministry’s statement, the people caught up in the latest crackdown weren’t only the telco fraudsters themselves, but also folks who offered bitcoin-laundering services to these criminal enterprises.

These arrests are happening amid Chinese authorities fighting to rein in crypto nationwide—last month, China’s State Council put out a statement noting that the country needed to “crack down on Bitcoin mining and trading behavior” as part of the country’s efforts to take on financial crimes. Naturally, Bitcoin’s overall price took a tumble in the immediate aftermath. It’s worth assuming that this latest crackdown won’t do much to help crypto’s recent slump.

El Salvador Becomes First Country to Recognize Bitcoin as Currency

The 39-year-old president of El Salvador Nayib Bukele in a file photo from Feb. 17, 2021

The 39-year-old president of El Salvador Nayib Bukele in a file photo from Feb. 17, 2021
Photo: Salvador Melendez (AP)

El Salvador has become the first country in the world to recognize the cryptocurrency bitcoin as legal currency, according to President Nayib Bukele in a tweet on Wednesday. Citizens will be able to pay taxes in bitcoin and, perhaps most importantly for bitcoin diehards, bitcoin won’t be subject to capital gains taxes in El Salvador.

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“The #BitcoinLaw has been approved by a supermajority in the Salvadoran Congress,” the 39-year-old president Bukele tweeted on Wednesday. “62 out of 84 votes! History! #btc”

The price of bitcoin, shortened as BTC, rose early Tuesday following the news out of El Salvador, up 4.3% over the past 24 hours.

The so-called Bitcoin Law acknowledges that roughly 70% of Salvadorans don’t have access to traditional financial services and proposes bitcoin as a possible alternative. The law suggests bitcoin is great as a digital currency because it, “answers exclusively to free-market criteria, in order to increase national wealth for the benefit of the greatest number of inhabitants.”

Retailers in El Salvador can now list prices in bitcoin, though the law states U.S. dollars will need to be used as a reference currency for accounting purposes. That’s almost a given since the price of bitcoin swings wildly on any given day—or at any given hour for that matter.

For example, bitcoin dipped to a low of $31,453 on Tuesday and is currently trading at $34,335 according to CoinDesk. With that kind of volatility, many retailers that accept bitcoin list their prices in U.S. dollars. Tesla did precisely that for the brief period when it was accepting bitcoin for its cars. The electric car company dropped the scheme after Elon Musk expressed concerns about the environmental impact of bitcoin—something that’s not exactly new information.

To be clear, there’s no evidence that bitcoin helps the poor people this new law in El Salvador claims it’s trying to help, but it’s a great move for any wealthy people in the Latin American nation who want to hide profits made from crypto under the guise of economic “freedom.”

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Will people around the world try to move their bitcoin profits to El Salvador in order to gain some kind of tax advantages? That’s entirely possible, but would still be a useless exercise for the average American. The U.S. tax code applies to all Americans no matter where they reside, so any American citizen would likely need to set up some kind of complex shell company in El Salvador in order to avoid paying capital gains taxes on bitcoin. Which is to say, you can’t take your bitcoin wallet physically to El Salvador and think you’re going to simply avoid paying capital gains tax on any crypto earnings—at least not without denouncing your U.S. citizenship first, and that comes with plenty of its own tax penalties.

President Bukele recently changed his Twitter avatar to include laser eyes, a modification that used to be associated with white supremacists but has recently been adopted by bitcoin enthusiasts. Bitcoin believers have been ecstatic ever since Bukele announced his intentions to adopt bitcoin as legal currency earlier this week.

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Bitcoin has plunged in recent months, responding to the whims of the world’s second wealthiest person, Elon Musk. The SpaceX founder changed his Twitter bio to read “bitcoin” in March and said he was a big believer. Musk’s company Tesla even announced in an SEC filing that it had purchased an enormous amount of bitcoin before Musk pulled a 180 that can only be interpreted as a very blatant attempt to move the crypto market up and down whenever he chooses. By May, Musk explained that he no longer wanted to accept bitcoin and the price of bitcoin tanked.

Yes, bitcoin isn’t officially beholden to any one government around the world, but for a supposedly “decentralized” store of value, it depends immensely on how Elon Musk feels on any given day.

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It’s anyone’s guess how El Salvador will fare with bitcoin recognized as an official currency, but we can safely bet on one thing: The rich will get richer and the poor will almost certainly suffer.

DOJ Seizes $2.3 Million in Cryptocurrency From Hackers After Colonial Pipeline Cyberattack

Illustration for article titled DOJ Seizes $2.3 Million in Cryptocurrency From Hackers After Colonial Pipeline Cyberattack

Screenshot: Lucas Ropek/U.S. Justice Department

Federal agents have tracked and seized over half of the $4.4 million ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline to the cybercriminal gang DarkSide following May’s cyberattack, the U.S. Justice Department announced Monday.

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At a press conference, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said that the operation was coordinated with the help of the Justice Department’s newly created ransomware task force and that the investigation had effectively recovered a majority of the multi-million dollar crypto payment. In a press release, the DOJ said that agents were able to track “multiple transfers of bitcoin” which led them to the discovery of a crypto wallet holding “approximately 63.7 bitcoins,” or approximately $2.3 million. The “FBI has the ‘private key,’ or the rough equivalent of a password needed to access assets accessible from the specific Bitcoin address,” officials said.

“The sophisticated use of technology to hold businesses—and even whole cities—hostage for profit is decidedly a 21st-century challenge. But the old adage ‘follow the money’ still applies,” said Monaco, during Monday’s presser. “Ransom payments are the fuel that propels the digital extortion engine, and today’s announcement demonstrates that the United States will use all available tools to make these attacks more costly and less profitable for criminal enterprises. We will continue to target the entire ransomware ecosystem to disrupt and deter these attacks.”

The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, which took place on May 7th, not only temporarily crippled the operations of one of America’s largest oil companies; it also spurred a mini-energy crisis throughout the Southeast, while also engendering a large political response and alleged turmoil within the criminal underworld.

It’s unclear how the FBI ultimately got ahold of the key to DarkSide’s crypto wallet—or why, over a month later, the ransom hadn’t yet been transferred into fiat via a crypto exchange or dark market. However, CNN reports that after paying DarkSide, Colonial also took “early steps to notify the FBI and followed instructions that helped investigators track the payment to a cryptocurrency wallet used by the hackers, believed to be based in Russia.” We don’t have details on how exactly those steps ultimately helped law enforcement to track and seize the payment after it was made.

The announcement of the asset seizure comes as the federal government has signaled a much more targeted, strategic, and comprehensive approach to fighting the ransomware epidemic currently embroiling the country. Just last week, the Justice Department announced a new national strategy for investigating and pursuing leads in ransomware attacks.

“There is no place beyond the reach of the FBI to conceal illicit funds that will prevent us from imposing risk and consequences upon malicious cyber actors,” said FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate, during Monday’s press conference. “We will continue to use all of our available resources and leverage our domestic and international partnerships to disrupt ransomware attacks and protect our private sector partners and the American public.”

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Uh Oh, ‘Woman Dr. Bitcoin’ Says It’s ‘Judgement Day for Crypto’ in China

A man walks past cryptocurrency ATMs in Hong Kong in December 2017.

A man walks past cryptocurrency ATMs in Hong Kong in December 2017.
Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP (Getty Images)

The ongoing crackdown on cryptocurrency throughout China took one step further over the weekend, with popular social media site Sina Weibo terminating a number of major crypto accounts.

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Sina Weibo, which is often compared to Twitter, is by far China’s largest social network and is heavily monitored by state authorities that censor information that the Communist Party of China considers sensitive or harmful to state interests. Chinese authorities are also known to maintain propaganda networks and surveil dissidents across the site, while bans are often interpreted as being directed by the state. Reuters reported that over the weekend, a number of prominent Chinese crypto accounts are now inaccessible with a message explaining the content “violates laws and rules,” with one well-known user who goes by the handle “Woman Dr. bitcoin” posting that it was “Judgement Day for crypto [key opinion leaders].”

That user has also since been blocked. According to the South China Morning Post, at least a dozen major accounts were banned, with cryptocurrency journalist Colin Wu tweeting they collectively had over five million fans.

Local cryptocurrency exchanges and financial instruments like initial coin offerings have been officially illegal in China since 2017, although a May 2021 report by CNBC relayed how tough talk from regulators has not often translated into consequences for traders who have simply migrated to offshore, grey market exchanges. That may change. The Sina Weibo bans come as Chinese authorities have become increasingly wary of the extreme energy impact of bitcoin mining and the way it threatens to undermine President Xi Jinping’s efforts to position China as a leader on the climate. According to the Wall Street Journal, a recent peer-reviewed report by Britain’s Nature Communications found that large-scale bitcoin mining operations often exploiting cheap hydroelectricity now rank in the top 10 industries by electricity consumption in China, meaning they suck more juice than the entire nation of Italy.

On May 21, the Financial Stability and Development Committee of China’s State Council issued a strongly-worded warning that it intended to crack down on crypto trading as part of a broader push to fight crime in the securities markets and more tightly stabilize stock, bond, and forex markets, according to Reuters. Around the same time, three Chinese industry bodies moved to restrict the use of cryptocurrency by banks and payment providers. Reuters wrote that Premier Liu He, who oversaw the meeting where the decision was announced, is the highest-ranking government official to directly target cryptocurrency, and the State Council had not previously taken action to restrict mining.

Liu said during the meeting that authorities will “crack down on bitcoin mining and trading behaviour, and resolutely prevent the transfer of individual risks to society,” the Post reported.

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Analysts and a “financial regulator” told Reuters that more moves are anticipated, including changes that would place illegal cryptocurrency activities more directly under the main body of Chinese criminal law. The regulator explained to Reuters that currently, there is legal ambiguity surrounding “illegal operations” in crypto, and all crackdowns so far have been issued by administrative bodies. State-owned media organizations have also recently published a slew of material highlighting crypto scams and warning potential crypto buyers of the highly speculative nature of the market.

The bans were possibly, at least in part, responsible for a tumble in Bitcoin prices this weekend to under $36,000, according to the Post. As of Monday afternoon, the price of Bitcoin stood at just under $35,600.

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El Salvador Is Set to Become the First Country to Adopt Bitcoin as Legal Tender

Illustration for article titled El Salvador Is Set to Become the First Country to Adopt Bitcoin as Legal Tender

Photo: Dan Kitwood (Getty Images)

El Salvador may soon become the first sovereign nation in the world to adopt bitcoin as a legal tender, Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele announced Saturday.

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“Next week I will send to Congress a bill that will make bitcoin a legal tender in El Salvador,” he said in a video broadcast at the Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami. “In the short term, this will generate jobs and help provide financial inclusion to thousands outside the formal economy.”

Officials there are partnering with digital payments application Strike to hammer out the logistics and build the necessary financial infrastructure to support bitcoin technology, according to Strike CEO and founder Jack Mallers, who presented Bukele’s video at the event. The blockchain-based application facilitates global transactions over the bitcoin lightning network, a payment protocol that speeds up bitcoin transactions by moving them off the blockchain, which also lowers associated fees.

Mallers, who said he was tapped by the government to help draft the bill, characterized Saturday’s announcement as a “shot heard ‘round the world for bitcoin.”

“What’s transformative here is that bitcoin is both the greatest reserve asset ever created and a superior monetary network,” he told conference-goers according to a Strike press release. “Holding bitcoin provides a way to protect developing economies from potential shocks of fiat currency inflation.”

In a series of tweets, Bukele said bitcoin could give a sorely needed boost to El Salvador’s economy, which is predominantly based on cash and remittances, or money sent home from migrants abroad. Currently, the U.S. dollar is the nation’s official currency. Roughly 70% of the population doesn’t have a bank account, he said, and adopting bitcoin would improve financial inclusion. He noted that the cryptocurrency could facilitate faster transfers for the billions of dollars in remittances that pour into the nation every year while also circumventing fees from intermediary services.

Remittances account for 23% percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and hit a record high of nearly $6 billion for the year 2020, according to the Associated Press.

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“By using Bitcoin, the amount received by more than a million low income families will increase in the equivalent of billions of dollars every year,” Bukele tweeted. “This will improve lives and the future of millions.”

Additional details about the plan were not disclosed at the conference, and neither Bukele nor Mallers addressed the potential environmental impacts this bill may have. Cryptocurrency mining has come under increasing scrutiny for its massive carbon footprint, which an analysis by Digiconomist estimated to be roughly 59 megatons of carbon dioxide annually, putting it on par with all of Morocco’s emissions. New York officials have moved to ban the practice pending further study of its impact on the climate and local environment. Iran’s government instituted such a ban last month in the wake of widespread power outages in the Iranian capital of Tehran and other large cities.

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Square Will Invest $5 Million to Build an Open-Source, Solar-Powered Bitcoin Mining Facility

Illustration for article titled Square Will Invest $5 Million to Build an Open-Source, Solar-Powered Bitcoin Mining Facility

Graphic: Blockstream

Square, the digital payments firm led by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, is teaming up with blockchain technology provider Blockstream Mining to build an open-source, solar-powered bitcoin mining facility at one of Blockstream’s U.S. sites.

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Square will invest $5 million in the facility, which will be a “proof-of-concept for a 100% renewable energy Bitcoin mine at scale,” Blockstream announced in a company blog post Saturday. The partnership, which Square confirmed via Twitter on Saturday, is part of Square’s Bitcoin Clean Energy Investment Initiative, an effort it launched in December to support companies working to reduce the bitcoin ecosystem’s massive carbon footprint.

A few bitcoin mining operations have already begun transitioning from fossil fuels to more renewable sources of energy such as solar and hydropower, but Blockstream said it hopes the “open and transparent nature” of this facility will encourage others to follow suit. Its operational costs and return on investments will be made open to the public, and Blockstream will maintain an online dashboard that shows real-time metrics about the facility’s performance, including its power output and bitcoin yield, accessible 24/7 from any internet browser.

“We hope to show that a renewable mining facility in the real world is not only possible but also prove empirically that Bitcoin accelerates the world toward a sustainable future,” states the company’s blog post. 

It takes a ton of electricity to power bitcoin mining operations, though scientists have struggled to determine its exact carbon footprint. Some researchers estimate that the carbon footprint of bitcoin mining alone could push us over the critical two-degree Celsius threshold within a few decades. A study published in March in the science journal Joule estimated that by the end of 2021, bitcoin mining could consume nearly as much energy as every data center in the world combined.

Yet another study from Digiconomist, the researchers behind the widely cited Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, found that, on average, mining a single bitcoin consumes 1,553 kilowatt-hours of electricity, about what your typical U.S. household would burn through in 53 days. Each year, bitcoin mining consumes roughly 125 terawatt-hours, on par with the annual power consumption of the entire country of Pakistan, and its annual carbon footprint is comparable to that of Morocco, according to Digiconomist.

As such, several businesses in the industry are pursuing more sustainable methods for mining or, alternatively, forgoing participating in the ecosystem until its environmental costs are mitigated. Earlier this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the automaker will no longer accept bitcoin for car payments out of concern over the “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining.”

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Dorsey, head of both Square and Twitter, has been an outspoken bitcoin fanboy, positing in 2018 that it will become the world’s single currency within 10 years. Square revealed in February that it had purchased $170 million worth of bitcoin as part of a larger investment in cryptocurrency. On Friday, Dorsey tweeted that Square is “considering making a hardware wallet for bitcoin” built entirely in collaboration with the community.

NFTs Are Crashing and Who Could Have Seen This Coming Other Than Basically Anyone?

A truck parked outside of Christie’s in New York on May 11 displaying a CryptoPunk NFT.

A truck parked outside of Christie’s in New York on May 11 displaying a CryptoPunk NFT.
Photo: Dia Dipasupil (Getty Images)

The crypto world saw a dizzying surge this year of NFTs being used to sell ownership of everything from works of online art to random tweets, though it was never clear just why NFTs were commanding such staggering prices. Bragging rights? Status symbols? Or just pure speculation driven by skyrocketing cryptocurrency prices and its attendant mythos of get-rich-quick fantasies?

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The current answer to the question “What is the value of an NFT” appears to be “not much and dwindling fast.” Crypto news site Protos reported on Wednesday that NFTs peaked on May 3, when it tracked $102 million in NFT transactions in a single day. The seven-day period surrounding the peak brought in $170 million in transactions. But in the past week, that number collapsed to $19.4 million in NFT sales, a 90% drop from the peak.

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are digital collectibles encoded onto a blockchain, the same technology that powers cryptocurrencies, creating a unique digital watermark signifying ownership of the digital rights to an asset.

While eye-popping NFT art sales drew the lion’s share of media attention, the market was and continues to be dominated by crypto-collectibles—i.e., small pixel art faces called CryptoPunks, portraits called Hashmasks, and Twerky Pepes (based on the popular frog character that has become synonymous with both imageboards like 4chan and the online far right). According to Protos, $9.2 million in crypto-collectibles sold in the last week. “Metaverse” NFTs, such as an app that allows people to buy digital real estate, sold $3.3 million in the last week. Sports memorabilia, such as basketball trading card-like NBA Top Shot, have also bypassed art, with $3.16 million in sales over the same time period. Art came in behind them all at $3 million.

Just as worryingly for the NFT market, participants appear to be reconsidering whether internet collectibles are a good use of their money:

The number of active NFT wallets has also dropped from over 12,000 at each NFT category’s daily peak to just 3,900 yesterday (nearly 70% less).

NFTs were always about speculation, and interest in both the big-ticket art items and the cheaper collectibles is fading rapidly. Sales are plummeting. The NFT bubble has popped. Whether another NFT bubble rebounds in its place may depend in part on whether the above applications sound more to you like gem mint comic books or Pokémon cards (which retain value thanks to rarity and their association with legendary brands and nostalgia) or… Beanie Babies and Franklin Mint medallions.

The ongoing Bitcoin crash certainly isn’t helping. There’s also rising attention to the disproportionate environmental costs of cryptocurrencies and NFTs, which suck up huge amounts of electricity to fuel the cryptographic algorithms that run blockchains, and crackdowns on crypto in countries like China. The downward trend in Bitcoin prices could reverse itself as it’s done innumerable times before, although the frenetic boom-and-bust cycle of cryptocurrency makes it all but impossible to guess whether NFTs will do the same or remain a flash in the pan.

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In any case, you can’t say no one warned you this was rubbish.