Can blockchain fix the worst thing about the internet?

Leo Zhang

By Leo Zhang

This morning an Ethereum transaction went viral among the Chinese crypto community:

Capture

(Link to the transaction on Etherscan)

The transaction includes a complaint from a Peking University student that has been censored and removed from the internet (original story here, in mandarin). Now her message is engraved into the Ethereum blockchain and will live as long as Ethereum itself. Blockchain enthusiasts have constantly brought up the immutability and censorship-resistance qualities as the the foundation to a decentralized internet. Now we have another interesting real world example.

News & Commentary

In trying to ban Telegram, Russia breaks the internet
(tech dirt, by Karl Bode)

"Russia's war on encryption and privacy has reached an entirely new level of ridiculous. We've noted for a while how Putin's government has been escalating its war on encrypted services and VPNs in the misguided hope of keeping citizens from dodging government surveillance. But things escalated dramatically when the Russian government demanded that encrypted messaging app Telegram hand over its encryption keys to the FSB. After Telegram refused, a Russian court banned the app entirely last Friday, and the Russian government began trying to actually implement it this week."

What's not included in Facebook's 'download your data'
(Wired, by Nitasha Tiku)

"Download Your Data is particularly spotty when it comes to the information Facebook taps to display ads. Typically, Facebook uses information it collects or buys to place users into categories that advertisers can target. This can include data a user provides explicitly (your age), implicitly (which browser you use) or unknowingly (information on purchases from loyalty cards)."

In search of Facebook's heroes, finding only victims
(NYT, by Max Fisher and Amanda Taub)

"Mr. Dhammaratne, meant to show how society’s gatekeepers guard against those forces, turned out to exemplified that even the well-intentioned are overwhelmed by these forces. This would not be a story of heroes and villains, we learned, but of victims on both sides of the violence."

Who has more of your personal data than Facebook? Try Google
(WSJ, by Christopher Mims)

"Recent controversy over Facebook Inc.’s hunger for personal data has surfaced the notion that the online advertising industry could be hazardous to our privacy and well-being. As justifiable as the focus on Facebook has been, though, it isn’t the full picture."

Can blockchains safeguard elections?
(In the Mesh, by Nelson M.Rosario)

"The main problem with applying a blockchain solution to the election system in the United States is that very few people understand how elections actually work in this country. This is why, in the wake of confirmed Russian interference in the 2016 election cycle, people would say things like, 'Russia hacked the election.' This conflates the two main components of running elections: registration and voting."

The era of hackers is over
(CACM, by Yegor Bugayenko)

"Second, the growth of open source is massive. The majority of software is available for free now along with its source code, including operating systems, graphic processors, compilers, editors, frameworks, cryptography tools, and whatever else we can imagine. Programmers do not need to write much code anymore; all they need to do in most cases is wire together already available components."

Technical & Updates

Excellent thread on blockchain application in capital markets

Difference between traditional and delegated proof of stake
(Hackernoon, by Shaan Ray)

"Block creation: in Proof of Stake systems, the creator of a new block is chosen in a pseudo-random way, depending on the user’s coins at stake. In DPoS systems, users vote to elect a number of witnesses. The top tier of witnesses (typically 20) are rewarded for verifying transactions and creating blocks."

Also read Vitalik Buterin's takedown on DPoS here.

Pieter Wuille comments on the schemes that could potentially break elliptic curve cryptography

Commentary on Bitcoin vs. altcoins