It was the spring of 2007. Akon and Fergie were at the top of the charts, nobody could stop talking about Zach Snyder’s 300, and the word was starting to get around about this weird new microblogging startup called… Twitter. CEO Jack Dorsey and co-founder Biz Stone described the site as something like a cross between traditional texting and long-form LiveJournal-ing. The New York Times ran a column questioning whether the “radical self-revelation” this setup invited was even healthy for people to engage with (spoiler: it’s probably not!). But we’re not here to talk about any of that. Instead, I just want you to take a good, long look at Dorsey’s face in that picture.
Is he smiling? Can you call that smiling? Are his eyes actually looking at anything in the room? Do you think he knows where he is right now? Do you think he had a sudden premonition about the cesspit his startup would one day become, and he’s just sitting there, screaming internally?
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.
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.
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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.”
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.
Let’s imagine a world before March 11th, 2021, before Beeple shook the earth and sold an NFT for $69 million, summoning a monsoon of NFT press releases. What did we consider an unreasonable purchase? What did we talk about? If you are not a tech blogger, artist, art critic, gallerist, crypto trader, or CNBC consumer, please let me know. About anything.
Back in January 2021, a collector paid $396,000 at Heritage Auctions for a $20 bill with a Del Monte banana sticker underneath part of the bill’s Treasury Seal and serial number. The provenance dates back to 2004 from an ATM in Ohio, which dispensed the note to a student and has now been auctioned three times.
“Collectors immediately fell in love with it,” Dustin Johnston, Vice President of Currency Auctions at Heritage Auctions, was quoted in a press release. Sorta not really explaining why this $20 bill is worth 19,800 pristine $20 bills, he added that “the placement of the ‘Del Monte Ecuador’ banana sticker is ideal.”
But why $396,000? Why not throw in an extra 4k for a smoother “four hundred thousand dollars” which rolls off the tongue at a cocktail party and is far more aesthetically appealing in a press release headline?
Twitter may have accidentally spilled the beans on its rumored subscription service Twitter Blue thanks to an update to its App Store listing. As you can see in the screenshot below, “Twitter Blue” is now listed as Twitter’s sole in-app purchase for $2.99 per month, though the feature doesn’t seem to be fully enabled yet.
The update was first spotted on Thursday by app researcher Jane Manchun Wong, who through reverse engineering has uncovered several details about Twitter’s upcoming subscription service and what exactly that $2.99 a month will get you. According to screenshots she shared, paid subscribers will get an “undo tweet” feature, customization options for color themes and app icons, and access to “reader mode,” which ostensibly converts winding Twitter threads into easy-to-read text. Previously, she also found evidence that Twitter Blue may let users create bookmark collections.
“For testing, I’ve become the first paying Twitter Blue customer,” Wong tweeted on Thursday.
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A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.
Earlier this month, Wong reported that Twitter appears to be working on a tiered subscription model. At the time, she speculated that higher-priced tiers could unlock additional paid features and a more clutter-free, premium experience for users.
Of course, I have to include the disclaimer that Twitter hasn’t officially confirmed any of these details at this time. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told Insider last year that it’s in the “very, very early phases” of exploring a subscription model, but the company has remained quiet about pricing or what specific features may be included. When Twitter acquired Scroll, a paid subscription service that gets rid of ads on participating websites, earlier this month, it also announced plans to enter a private beta as it integrates “a broader Twitter subscription later in the year.”
Technically even the name “Twitter Blue” remains speculation, but this updated App Store listing is the closest thing to confirmation that we’ve seen yet.
Have any of these leaked features sold you on buying a subscription for the bird site? Let us know in the comments. Personally, I’m not convinced. I’m pretty sure I could take those three bucks a month and spend it on something significantly more beneficial for my mental health like, say, these little squishy guys. Or candy. Yeah, no, candy sounds much better.
Twitter hasn’t released many details about the paid subscription model it’s cooking up, but thanks to app researcher Jane Manchun Wong we may have some clues about what it will cost and be called. On Saturday, Wong tweeted that the subscription service Twitter Blue will cost $2.99 per month and allow users to undo their tweets and create bookmark collections, among other features.
Twitter also appears to be working on a tiered subscription model, she added. She speculated that higher-priced tiers may unlock additional paid features and give users a more clutter-free, premium experience, similar to what you might find on a news aggregation service.
Wong has made a name for herself reverse engineering popular apps to discover what features Big Tech may be experimenting with or planning to add next. Rumors about Twitter incorporating more ways for users to monetize their content are not new. Earlier this month, Twitter soft-launched a “Tip Jar” feature that, as its name implies, lets users send and receive money from strangers on the internet using their choice of third-party services. However, while Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey confirmed to Insider in July 2020 that it’s in the “very, very early phases” of exploring a subscription model, the company has remained quiet about its plans since.
But it’s becoming increasingly clearer that there’s plenty of work going on behind the scenes. Last week, Twitter acquired Scroll, a paid subscription service that gets rid of ads on participating websites. Between the acquisition and Twitter’s announcement that it’s winding down Nuzzel, a news aggregator acquired by Scroll in 2019 that became popular for sending users a daily newsletter of the top stories in their Twitter feed, it certainly seems that Twitter is prepping to roll out its own subscription service. When we asked about Wong’s tweets on Saturday, a Twitter spokesperson declined to comment.
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A subscription service would be the latest in a slew of new features Twitter has been testing in recent weeks, including an improved image cropping algorithm and an updated warning system for potentially offensive tweets. It remains unclear when Twitter’s paid version would launch or who would be eligible, but if all these rumors and clues making the rounds are any indication, we may have an announcement on that front sooner rather than later.
Tesla has “suspended vehicle purchases using bitcoin,” CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Wednesday night, allegedly out of concern over the “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining.”
In the statement, which quickly went viral, Musk said that while cryptocurrency is a “good idea on many levels,” the resource-intensive nature of Bitcoin mining — which frequently relies on dirty power sources like coal — has caused the company to hit pause on its role in future transactions.
“Tesla will not be selling any Bitcoin and we intend to use it for transactions as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy,” Musk wrote. “We are also looking at other cryptocurrencies that use <1% of Bitcoin’s energy/transaction.”
The stress that Bitcoin mining has put on the planet has become undeniable in recent years as the amount of energy required to mine the cryptocurrency has soared. According to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, the currency’s energy use recently surpassed the annual footprint of Argentina. Around the world, countries are beginning to take note: In March, China’s Inner Mongolia province unveiled plans to halt all new bitcoin and other cryptocurrency mining ventures in order to reduce electricity consumption for its already beleaguered grid.
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But long after the devastating environmental implications associated with Bitcoin became apparent, tech honchos like Musk and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey continued to praise it as an environmentally friendly boon to the future of renewable energy. On April 21 — just one day shy of Earth Day — Dorsey’s company, Square, released a white paper in conjunction with CEO Cathie Wood’s ARK Invest that made a convoluted argument for an ecosystem in which “solar/wind, batteries, and bitcoin mining co-exist to form a green grid that runs almost exclusively on renewable energy.” Dorsey retweeted the claims, and Musk simply replied, “True.”
So it’s odd, to say the least, that less than a month after touting Bitcoin’s green bonafides, Musk would be realigning his company’s balance sheets in the name of saving the environment from dirty, fossil fuel-boosting crypto. It’s certainly something that he himself has a vested interest in: In a February SEC filing, it was revealed that Tesla had bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin, and was mulling plans to invest in more crypto coins down the line.
The prominent vote of confidence from Tesla sent share prices for the most popular cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and Musk’s personal favorite, Dogecoin, skyrocketing at the time of the announcement. Then last week, after a cringeworthy Saturday Night Live appearance where Musk referred to Dogecoin as a “hustle,” prices abruptly dipped again, to the tune of about a third.
Whatever Musk’s intentions are, it’s at least abundantly clear by now that the system is rigged so that when he says jump, the stock prices jump — or vice-versa. Seems like my guy is anti–Italian American Wario-laughing all the way to the bank.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo of his two goats on Monday, and the crypto world got pretty excited after hearing the names of Zuck’s four-legged friends: Max and Bitcoin. But are Max and Bitcoin pets or something a bit darker?
Obviously, cryptocurrency enthusiasts are trying to decipher whether Zuck’s announcement means the Silicon Valley billionaire is betting big on bitcoin, a move that might surprise bitcoin backers since Facebook wants to launch its own currency soon. Facebook’s long-stalled Diem digital durrency, formerly known as Libra and derisively called Zuck Bucks, could be trialed by the end of the year.
But we at Gizmodo have a more pertinent question than anything involving Zuck’s thoughts on the future of Monopoly money. We just want to know whether Zuckerberg will kill and eat Bitcoin.
It’s not a ridiculous question if you remember a story from just a couple of years ago about what Zuck has done with his goats in the past.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey revealed to Rolling Stone magazine back in January 2019 that Zuckerberg once killed a goat and served it during a dinner Dorsey attended. The incident happened back in 2011, when Zuckerberg had made a personal pledge to only eat animals he had personally killed.
[Rolling Stone]: What was your most memorable encounter with Zuckerberg? [Jack Dorsey]: Well, there was a year when he was only eating what he was killing. He made goat for me for dinner. He killed the goat.
In front of you? No. He killed it before. I guess he kills it. He kills it with a laser gun and then the knife. Then they send it to the butcher.
A . . . laser gun? I don’t know. A stun gun. They stun it, and then he knifed it. Then they send it to a butcher. Evidently in Palo Alto there’s a rule or regulation that you can have six livestock on any lot of land, so he had six goats at the time. I go, “We’re eating the goat you killed?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Have you eaten goat before?” He’s like, “Yeah, I love it.” I’m like, “What else are we having?” “Salad.” I said, “Where is the goat?” “It’s in the oven.” Then we waited for about 30 minutes. He’s like, “I think it’s done now.” We go in the dining room. He puts the goat down. It was cold. That was memorable. I don’t know if it went back in the oven. I just ate my salad.
Dorsey’s explanation caused plenty of confusion over what kind of “laser gun” Zuck might have on his premises. And we never really got a satisfactory answer about whether the wealthy have special goat-killing guns that the rest of humanity has yet to learn about. But that’s not important right now.
The important question is whether Bitcoin’s days are numbered. Bitcoin the goat, not bitcoin the cryptocurrency. Well, either one at this point, given bitcoin the cryptocurrency’s trajectory.
Do you have inside knowledge of Bitcoin the goat and whether he’s a pet or will soon wind up as food? Drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.
A new bill that hit the New York state senate on Monday is aiming to put a multi-year pause on crypto mining operations across the state until authorities can fully suss out what that mining is doing to the climate and local environment. Bill 6486 is being spearheaded by state Sen. Kevin Parker, who had previously sponsored other bills to help the state meet its climate goals.
Bitcoin mining has come under increasing scrutiny for the staggering carbon footprint tied to electricity use to keep operations running 24/7. An analysis by Digiconomist puts the global mining footprint at around 53 megatons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to all of Sweden’s emissions. Upstate New York has recently become a hotbed of mining activity, and there could be more mines in the works.
While Parker’s bill will likely go through a few edits before it (hopefully) gets passed, in its current state, it would institute a three-year moratorium on mining operations. During that period, officials would try to measure the greenhouse gas emissions tied to mining as well as the impacts on local wildlife, water, and air quality. Per the bill, the results of that assessment would be publicly issued and be subject to a roughly four-month comment period. That would allow for public input as lawmakers weigh regulations, of which there are more than a few they could implement to crack down on bitcoin-related pollution.
Small upstate towns, notably Dresden and Alcoa, are where mining operations have taken hold in recent years. There, bitcoin-hungry profiteers have repurposed decrepit power plants that haunt these towns into crypto mining operations. In some cases, the plants provide some power to the grid while using the rest to run their mining operations. They’ve been turning profits for the plant’s new owners and raised more than a few eyebrows among environmental advocates.
Last month, Dresden’s Greenidge power plant announced plans to drastically expand its operation with four new single-story buildings, each planned to house nothing but the power-guzzling servers that this type of mining mandates, spread wall to wall. The owners plan to double its capacity by the end of the year, and boost the plant’s capacity to 500 megawatts by 2025.
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The review process in the new bill would mirror what we saw in the state more than a decade ago around fracking, said Roger Downs, the conservation director for the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club. Back in 2008, now-former Gov. David Paterson ordered an environmental review into the effects of fracking. What followed was a six-year window where groups on both sides argued the pros and the many, many cons, among them health hazards, rampant environmental damage, and irreversible wildlife harm. At the tail end of 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo formally banned the practice throughout the state, and that ban was codified into the state budget again last year.
“In this case, it’s an objective study on all the impacts of cryptocurrency,” Downs said. “At the end, there’ll be recommendations on how the state should regulate it, or if the state should allow it at all.”
Studies show that mining comes with a pretty hefty impact even as the bitcoin price keeps on surging. (And in fact, that may be one reason for the surge in carbon emissions as speculators jump into the market.) While the likes of Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk have falsely claimed bitcoin is good, actually, for the climate, the preponderance of evidence suggests otherwise.
“With the new climate law, we’re clearly trending away from fossil fuel generation and trying to build renewables,” he said, pointing out that the final coal-powered plant in New York officially closed last year. “And we’ve had decades of losses in manufacturing capacity, so those big hulking power plants are no longer needed.”
Yet as the new bill points out, “[c]ryptocurrency mining threatens not only New York’s climate goals, under the CLCPA, but also global energy policy, such as the Paris Agreement.”
The bitcoin boom is just the result of people “taking advantage” of what amounts to miles and miles of unused real estate, Downs went on. “And taking advantage of it for something that’s very carbon-intensive, but slips through the cracks in our regulations.”
Next week, policy executives from Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter will testify at a Senate Judiciary hearing on algorithmic amplification, Politico reports. Social media recommendation algorithms have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, and Democratic lawmakers have voiced concerns about how they can fuel extremism and the spread of misinformation online.
The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law is hosting the hearing, which is scheduled for April 27. It will feature testimony from Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of content policy; Lauren Culbertson, Twitter’s head of U.S. public policy; and Alexandra Veitch, YouTube’s director of government affairs and public policy for the Americas and emerging markets. The panel will also hear from two outside experts: Tristan Harris, president of the Center for Humane Technology, and Joan Donovan, research director at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy.
Congressional aides that spoke with Politico said the committee may call on big tech CEOs like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey for future panels. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, who chairs the subcommittee, said he was considering that option in an interview with the outlet last month.
However, by first hauling in the platforms’ policy executives instead of their CEOs, the panel aims to focus discussions on structural issues and content moderation and avoid “the typical airing of grievances” about the platforms at large that have dominated previous hearings, according to the congressional aides. They also hope to drum up bipartisan support by focusing on these sorts of systemic issues as opposed to how platforms handle specific content, such as political speech, Politico’s sources said.
Democratic lawmakers have been increasingly pushing to hold social media platforms accountable for how their recommendation algorithms amplify harmful and extremist content. In January, House Representatives Tom Malinowski of New Jersey and Anna Eshoo of California sent a series of letters to Big Tech CEOs calling on them to rework their recommendation systems, particularly in the wake of the Capitol Hill attack on January 6. Last month, Malinowski and Eshoo reintroduced legislation to amend Section 230 so that online platforms lose liability immunity if these systems promote content that leads to real-world harms, such as acts of terrorism or civil rights violations.
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On Friday, Coon reiterated his concerns about algorithmic amplification and outlined plans to make holding social media companies accountable one of his subcommittee’s top priorities.
“Social media platforms use algorithms that shape what billions of people read, watch and think every day, but we know very little about how these systems operate and how they’re affecting our society,” he told Politico. “Increasingly, we’re hearing that these algorithms are amplifying misinformation, feeding political polarization and making us more distracted and isolated.”
The hearing is slated to begin at 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday, April 27 and will be livestreamed on the Senate Judiciary’s website here.
Earth Day is prime time for brands and people to promote their pre-existing products to the masses, swaddled up in a green package. So perhaps it’s no surprise that area shaman Jack Dorsey and meme enthusiast Elon Musk are pumping bitcoin, a cryptocurrency both men hold and that their respective companies invest heavily in, as environmentally friendly.
Dorsey’s firm Square released a white paper on Wednesday (technically not Earth Day, but hey, it’s Earth Week now) in conjunction with ARK Invest “to argue for bitcoin as a key driver of renewable energy’s future.” Dorsey quote retweeted it, Musk replied with an endorsement, and the uncritical hype cycle was on. Cathie Wood, the CEO of ARK Invest who I have been informed is into a book supposedly penned by Jesus via auto writing, also hopped on the hype train by quote retweeting Dorsey. Choo choo!
The paper’s argument is that bitcoin mining uses a lot of energy, yes, but that’s good for renewable adoptions, actually. The paper points to a concept in the energy sector known as the “duck curve” where energy demand peaks in the mornings and especially evenings when people are home while renewable generation tends to peak during the day when the sun is shining. The resulting lines look like a duck.
The mismatch in supply and demand means battery storage is a primary solution to ensuring a world that runs on 100% renewable energy can keep up with demand. Batteries, of course, cost money. Their costs are falling and will keep falling tremendously this decade. But the white paper argues the world will never possibly be able to install enough batteries and keep costs low. The solution is, of course, bitcoin mining with rigs nibbling on what the paper somewhat grossly refers to as “whatever remains of the ‘duck’s belly.’” Basically, ARK Invest and Square are saying miners should pick over the carcass of the energy system and generate bitcoin revenue for operators.
Of course, there are a few rubs with this grisly plan. The first caveat the paper notes is that “it wouldn’t be entirely green from day one.” Indeed, renewables only power about a quarter of the grid globally (and the majority of that is hydropower, a source that doesn’t need much in the way of battery storage). So the idea of installing more mining rigs—which are designed to run 24/7 since going down means no profit—now just means they’d continue to be a huge source of emissions by using fossil fuel-generated power.
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That also points to a fallacy around them scooping up excess power in the day and then just shutting off for the night. The whole point of running a mining rig is to make money. The best way to make money is to be permanently switched on trying to mine bitcoin. The idea that miners would somehow just nibble at the “duck’s belly” (ew, again, I’m sorry) and be content is not borne out by data.
Then there’s the issue mining supposedly solves. The idea that there are only two options—mine bitcoin or let the energy go to waste—is laughable. Once a bitcoin mining operation uses energy, that’s it. It’s gone. Rigs can’t magically spit it back out on the grid. Installing more batteries is one possible solution. So, too, is putting the energy generated to other uses. Why isn’t Dorsey hype on making cement or renewable hydrogen, technologies that have more widespread beneficial uses than bitcoin such as “building stuff?” Or what about charging EVs midday, energy that could actually be put back on the grid in the evening if needed to meet demand?
The most comical part of this is Dorsey’s statement that “#bitcoin incentivizes renewable energy.” Bitcoin does absolutely nothing of the sort. If it did, the network would be migrating to places with the cleanest energy already. What bitcoin incentivizes is massive energy use, of any form, at the lowest cost possible. That’s why it’s shown up in coal-friendly provinces of China and in Iran after sanctions left that country with a glut of oil to burn. That’s why the mining network’s energy footprint is equivalent to the entire Netherlands, according to cryptocurrency monitoring site Digiconomist.
Look, I get it. Musk and Dorsey love bitcoin. It’s cool, it made them richer! Congrats to them and the owners of bitcoin and the people who love mining and all that. Maybe bitcoin bulls are right and it will one day be the currency the world runs on! But to try and pretend it’s anything other than a financially lucrative endeavor at this point, let alone one that could some lead to a clean energy revolution, is laughable.
What incentivizes renewable energy are regulations that wind down the fossil fuel industry and public investments that help drop the cost of renewables and battery storage even further. The idea that bitcoin alone is the solution is akin to the NRA saying the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. This is not that hard, people.