07 March 2019

The New York Times: “Facebook and Telegram are hoping to Succeed where Bitcoin Failed”

The internet outfits, including Facebook, Telegram and Signal, are planning to roll out new cryptocurrencies over the next year that are meant to allow users to send money to contacts on their messaging systems, like a Venmo or PayPal that can move across international borders.

The most anticipated but secretive project is underway at Facebook. The company is working on a coin that users of WhatsApp, which Facebook owns, could send to friends and family instantly, said five people briefed on the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements.

Nathaniel Popper & Mike Isaac

The messaging overhaul at Facebook continues, this time with more rumors of a coin for making personal payments. My first reaction was that this is bound to facilitate all sorts of illegal activity on a magnitude rarely seen before, from money laundering, to payments for drug and sex trafficking, even tax evasion. Leaving aside Bitcoin’s numerous problems, I find it very hard to believe that any respectable country would allow a private company to operate an independent, parallel financial system through encrypted messaging, which would make transactions virtually untraceable.

It’s easy to present this as a positive for a lot of people, especially in the developing world, as ‘democratization for payments’. The trouble is, we already experienced a ‘democratization’ of communication and sharing intermediated by Facebook, and it has caused a lot of negative developments as well: the spread of propaganda and ‘fake news’, degenerating into hate speech and outright violence. Given Facebook’s abysmal track record, nobody should trust the company, or Mark Zuckerberg, with such a sensitive task.

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