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Facebook is banning all ads promoting cryptocurrencies (recode.net)
551 points by imartin2k on Jan 30, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 239 comments


I've been intentionally clicking ICO ads so that I get targeted for more ICO ads. It's been interesting.

- Many of them have the most buttery smooth introduction video that was just so compelling to stare at.

- Many has business lines like, "The total market for car loans / social media advertisement / game currency is N trillion...

- The "team" page for them are mostly Russian / Eastern European. Some of them have links to LinkedIn. I looked at their (I believe fake) profiles too. (I don't know why would anybody use their real identity to pull such a thing).

- Some ads are in Korean (understandable, I speak Korean and cryptocurrency is hot over there), some ads are in Chinese including their landing page. Do they expect people to land on those pages and drop money without reading anything?

I love your idea of clicking on facebook ads just to see what would happen for a person that did happen to be in that cohort. Other things I have thought of that would be interesting to do this experiment with is multi-level-marketing BS, political ads catering to the opposite side of the isle, and "Preppers". I would find that much more interesting than my current facebook feed that just feeds me more of what I am already into.

Tangentially related, I recently spent a week in Hawaii and listened exclusively to a local radio station the whole time. It occurred to me that my view of what people did for fun, or where they grocery shopped, or what issues were important to them, and generally "what the locals do" were largely determined by who happened to be paying that radio station to play their ads. And it was just an "ah-ha" reminder that in every group, culture, hobby, or community there are a few advertisers that have an outsize influence on what people think their own grass-roots culture is.

Because half-a-dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that of course they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Grasshoppers#Quotes


The few “squeaky wheels” making the most noise - determining the very face and presentation of a context (in this case a field full of cattle, in GP’s case a handful of advertisers on radio) - is an old idea that even has prose to describe it.

So, comparatively, a few bad screaming apples spoil the whole bunch? (should clarify, I'm not disagreeing, just trying to relate)

It's more that the apparent signal, whatever it is, is not the whole of reality. And often gives quite the mis-placed view of same.

And if the name Edmund Burke means nothing to you, you've a whole universe of enlightenment to attend to.

Ah ha, Ok, so the ones who are most vocal and/or visible are, more often than not, not accurately representative of the <subject> as a whole.

I think the Olde-English-y sound of the original quote threw me for a loop. In any case, I agree - that makes total sense.

Quite often not.

Attention is the ultimately rivalrous commodity, and it's very easily consumed. Where true significance is carried by what's hidden or indirect, this can be especially pernicious.

In the negative case, yes. In the positive case, a few well behaved individuals viewed in isolation could cause a misunderstanding of the wider population (“ideal minority effect”).

>And it was just an "ah-ha" reminder that in every group, culture, hobby, or community there are a few advertisers that have an outsize influence on what people think their own grass-roots culture is.

What makes you think that the locals listen to those radio ads and assume it represents their own grass-roots culture? I grew up in a small town and the radio ads were dominated by a few dominating businesses, but I was never under the illusion that they represented the culture at all.

I think you are right for what outsiders think the grass-roots culture is, but that's a completely different statement.

That happened for me with programmer T-shirts. That's all they showed for months and now it seems to have waned in intensity.


Can you please make your point in HN comments without being personally acerbic?


I may not be able to, without understanding why this one was apparently so offensive.

I provided two sentences. I'm assuming the second one was unobjectionable to just about everyone:

> Those advertisers weren't affecting your opinion of what your own culture was, they were affecting your opinion of a foreign culture.

The first one

> Maybe if you'd spent longer than a week there you'd have a more informed view of how one or more groups of locals really spent their time?

is overtly insulting inasmuch as it explicitly calls ryankshaw's view of local Hawaiian culture uninformed. But his comment is a story about himself in which he draws the moral that his view of local Hawaiian culture is uninformed. I don't see how my response can avoid referring to him personally, since the only content of his comment is a story about himself, or why it should avoid agreeing with his own assessment of his knowledge of Hawaiian culture.

Do you find the hypothetical

> Maybe the locals have a clearer view of "what the locals do" than tourists who have been there for a week do?

to be less acerbic or more in line with your guidelines?

Just not invoking any trope of stupidity (like "tourists who have been there for a week") would get you a fair way toward not being disrespectful.

Assume I'm saying that when you take one week of vacation somewhere, the view of local culture that you end up with is not even weakly informative as to the view of local culture held by locals.

I think that's a fairly relevant counterpoint to an observation beginning "I just spent a week in Hawaii".

You think it's hitting below the belt to observe that ryankshaw's opinion is based on one week in a culture he's not familiar with, just because "tourist making conclusions after spending one week in an unfamiliar culture" is such a well-known example of terrible reasoning that it's become a stereotype?

I didn't even make that point. I limited myself to observing that a longer-term experience would probably give a more reliable impression.

That's literally their entire point, you just repeated it back to them as an insult.

How is the point that advertisers can give locals a misleading picture of their own culture illustrated, or supported in any way, by a foreigner getting a misleading picture of local culture?

That was not insulting at all. It was also said that

>there are a few advertisers that have an outsize influence on what people think their own grass-roots culture is.

so no, not "literally their entire point" since he said it affected people's view of their own culture.

> Do they expect people to land on those pages and drop money without reading anything?

One technique scammers use in general is not to make things too legit because that would attract people with a clue. Make it just barely credible and get the most gullible people possible.

So those fantastical emails about a rich prince in Africa that needs your help to cash $20m is just scammers improving their signal-to-noise ratio (or ROI). I think it works for these ICOs too.

I never considered that scammers specifically tailor their message to be “dumb sounding scam” in a calculated way (to attract the right targets and repel others). I always thought it was just the nature of the intelligence level of folks who choose to scam rather than work to make something.

It’s just even more pure, distilled evil - with no benefit of the doubt of stupidity - when viewed from this angle :-(

There is even a research paper related to this phenomenon. Microsoft Research researched Nigerian scam e-mails. Turns out intentionally dumb messaging does help in filtering out targets that might be too smart to fall for the scam. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/publication/why-do-...

Hanlon's razor has not been proven for cases with money involved.

Why? There’s no manual component to accepting money for an ICO, is there?

I did the same. For people who haven't seen the ads, here are 3 I seen so far: https://imgur.com/a/tsOOe

"... Blockchain, Machine Learning, and Video..."

just add cannabis and kittens and you've really got something!

"Join out project and get book your place in the whitelist! "

Sounds awesome.

my favorite is the last one:

> Tokia.io token sale is live! Secure the -35% discount for early investors.

spot on given the (imo) insane speculation that's been building around block-chain currencies for the past year.

Haha, wouldn't a negative 35% discount be a 35% surcharge?

> Many has business lines like, "The total market for car loans / social media advertisement / game currency is N trillion...

I've heard this called "Chinese math", a near-fatal flaw in business plans, because of the follow up to that framing: "... if we only manage to capture 10% of the Chinese soda market, we'll be forever rich!"

Turns out capturing 10% of Chinas soda market is hard.

Also you can only really set value on the things you can/will capture, not what you wish you could...

The fallacy is not that capturing 10% of China's soda market is hard, but that even capturing 0.01% of China's soda market is extremely hard.

0.01% of the Chinese soda market is hard to capture, for you or I, but doesn't provide the necessary market cap to engage in the fallacious thinking and investment at the scale that people who talk about "Chinese math" care about...

And from that VC perspective: 0.01% of the Chinese soda market is not particularly hard to capture..

> Chinese soft drinks consumers prefer to purchase non-alcoholic beverages by brands of foreign origin... in 2013, only 20 percent of the purchase came from local brands. Coca-Cola, remains the dominate brand in China’s soft drinks market.

So, Pepsi Cola invested and got a Chinese partner with a market disadvantage, from 2007 to 2012, to grow their market share from 8.8 to 12%... That's __320__ captures of 0.01% of the market in just 5 years from a single player.

... 0.01% of the $69 Billion Chinese soda market is just about $7 million in sales revenue... That doesn't leave a lot of margin to fallaciously justify a business plan with. $7 million in revenue is harder than playing XBox, sure, but not exactly a moon landing either.

> The "team" page for them are mostly Russian / Eastern European.

What's wrong with that?

1. It shows they are intentionally targeting people in the US. CPC rates for US consumers is much higher than for eastern europe / russia. 2. It is just shady. Investors in these schemes have no protections / legal recourse as these entities are outside the US. Not to single out Russian/Eastern European, investing money via ICO outside US is like asking to be robbed.

That's not based on Russian / Eastern European, it's based on SCAM levels across the whole cryptocurrency sector.

> targeting people in the US

Anyone doing >anything IT related<, will target the US, first. Everyone outside the US with a startup idea does that. People there have the biggest investors, biggest tech scene, biggest chance of success, etc. I don't see how Russian / Eastern European targeting US makes them scammers.

> investors in these schemes have no protections / legal recourse as these entities are outside the US.

And that's related to the entity, not the team. How about a team of Russian / Eastern Europeans with an American entity? Would then be not a SCAM?

Of course I think what is stated in the OP is pure prejudice.

There are multiple scams originated in every nation, so let's not put the guilt on origin of the team behind it.

Vitalik is a Russian-Canadian, as well as lot's of good guys working on Cryptocurrency.

Oh come on. He's saying people are based in Russia which most probably will not extradite them into the US if they turn out to be scammers. So it has nothing to do with being Russian, but has everything to do with being based in Russia due to legal implications.

Governance is lacking in those countries. And if you look at levels of corruption it it significantly higher.

So it's completely legitimate to be wary of businesses run from those countries.

That's a fair enough response. Still if someone on here said you should be wary of businesses run from China or India (which have the same issues), I don't think the response here would be so cordial.

Are you kidding? How would a US person possibly dream of enforcing a court judgment against any China entity?

Russians/East Europeans are more visible for their high tech/cheap talent. When I tell my friends that their startup idea is very complex, they say "I'll hire a Russian developer, pretty sure he will figure out something". Sorry, I've not seen them using China in the same context.

Makes a successful lawsuit and recovery near-impossible.

Intrinsically? Nothing. I think he's just making an observation, not insinuating anything.

How many pages had links to source code or white papers ? Or had any visible code at all?

> Do they expect people to land on those pages and drop money without reading anything?

Huh? I assume those are just aimed at people who speak/read the language.

Sorry, forgot to add that I don't know any Chinese and I don't have any reason to believe that Facebook thinks that.

Maybe the fact you keep clicking on Chinese ads is reason enough?

which would still leave the question why he was offered it in the first place

Exploration vs exploitation. If the ad has a high CPC and there isn't enough targeted inventory, it's worth showing it to random folks to see if a new target market can be identified.

> there isn't enough targeted inventory

Did I just get called 'inventory'? God, that's the next step after "human resources"...

I much prefer human capital, myself.

Still better than "natural resources"

be happy, at least you are targeted

If he's Korean, that's a huge market for all of the cryptocurrencies according to recent reports - even a tiny effect would be worth advertising to get in the door through network effects. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-42713314

Maybe there's another option the creators selected that they think correlates to reading Chinese. Maybe they went for some pan-Asian option. "Uh, anyone who reads Chinese, Korean, Japanese is probably fine".

Facebook thinks I speak Swedish, and I don't speak a word of Swedish.

I was recently served an ad in Swedish, and when I clicked the little "why am I seeing this?", it said it was targeting people who speak Swedish in my area.

Well, you keep clicking the ads.

The first ad I saw for Crypto was an ad for Bitmain -- it flashed through my ad blocker enough for me to turn off the blocker to see it. It was Bitmain, advertising a miner back in stock. Clicked it, saw it in stock, then thankfully went back to the fb comments to see someone mention it was a Punycode domain -- was a complete phishing site. There was an 'a' that was actually some other glyph that had a small, nearly pixel-sized dot that made it something other than an 'a'.

I am flabbergasted at why fb would allow punycode domains (especially when the domain listed under the ad was the 'real' domain).

If they would have the same rules as browsers this basically wouldn't be an issue. Those rules are along the lines of "don't mix character sets unless under a ccTLD for that character set". See here: https://www.chromium.org/developers/design-documents/idn-in-...

> I am flabbergasted at why fb would allow punycode domains (especially when the domain listed under the ad was the 'real' domain).

The problem is that there are actual, real sites that advertise on Facebook that use Punycode domains.

e.g. Bücher.de for a while did so, although now their punycode domain redirects to buecher.de they still use the brandname "Bücher.de" everywhere in their advertising.

And then there's sites like Flüge.de where a competitor of them owns the non-punycode domain Fluege.de, so of course they can't stop using the punycode domain, but you also wouldn't want visitors to see the ugly punycode domain and get confused.

Requiring non-punycode domains is a very anglomerican view of the web. It's as arbitrary as restricting domains to be only in hexadecimal.

EDIT: I originally included links to the sites in this comment, but every time I try to edit them in, HN just responds with Error 502 - if I don't include them, everything works fine. So you'll need to copy-paste them to the URL bar

Learning dvorak and playing around with its compose key, I was amazed by the vast characters that there actually exists.

For a, you also have: äāȧą

I would fall for a domain like that.

Sadly, you can't blacklist all punycode domains as some are legits in languages where accents are used

The decorated letters are in the easy to spot side. Check some texts on http://unicode.org/cldr/utility/confusables.jsp to see more extreme examples.

Wow: paypal vs 𝗉𝖺𝗒𝗉𝖺𝗅.

So allow those for the TLDs where it makes sense. Keeping them out of .com seems like a reasonable trade off.

.com is supposed to be international. US-only content belongs in .us.

Each TLD registry is able to choose their own policy for IDN. Responsible ones all have homograph rules to avoid this issue. But what you're missing is that .com is not Main Street or the big Mall, .com is that sketchy market where you can buy anything and the operators just take a fixed fee for each stall and turn a blind eye. So the policies for .com are deliberately as lax as possible to get the most people possible paying a fee.

Thus, any policies about protecting consumers, avoiding security problems, anything like that, won't come from .com and indeed it's operators will fight such things because they mean less income.

You have pretty garbage ad blocker if it loads the ad then hides it instead of just never wasting resources to load the ad in the first place.

Some blockers are specifically created like that. Their rational is a combination of letting the website owners (who embedded the ads) get their money and hiding that they're using a blocker.

Do you have any examples of these types of blockers? I couldn't find any.

You can actually configure uBlock Origin to block like this, https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/wiki/Per-site-switches#no-...

I never was in that line of business but afaik websites pay to AD platforms per banners displayed. So looking at AD and not interacting with it in any way is a net loss for a website who placed that AD.

FWIW most (but certainly not all) ads are sold in a pay-per-click model, increasing the number of delivered ads only lines the ad network's pockets (who sells them to advertisers as pay-per-view).

I am guessing it has something to do with the fake ICO's taking advantage of uneducated users (see Vyral for a great example).

But Facebook has made their entire fortune taking advantage of uneducated users. So maybe they don't want competition?

I think that's close. Scam artists slaughter the sheep, while Facebook would rather keep shearing them.

As a sheep, I would prefer being shorn rather than slaughtered, so I'm with Facebook on that one.

Showing these ads has legal implications for FB. They could be on the hook for selling unregistered securities. So it's a very sensible policy for a juicy legal target to adopt.

How has Facebook taken advantage of uneducated users? Is there any evidence of this or you're just being edgy?

One(debatable) example is internet.org.


This is improbable for two reasons:

1. There is no reason why a user buying into an ICO should be correlated with it being on facebook.

2. If a user gets scammed by an ICO that should in no way affect if/how they use services that are free to them, facebook included.

This is just one of many things Facebook bans, including dating ads from sites that aren't preapproved, payday loans, sketchy supplement ads, and the list goes on. They even banned fantasy sports betting sites for a while (until the legality got cleared up in NY somewhat).

I am sure real, legitimate ICOs must exist, but I have yet to find one. Can anyone point to one that they strongly believe is legitimate?

Basic Attention Token


The Black Mirror episode "15 Million Merits" has something like this as its premise.


Some thoughts after going through the whitepaper,

> The BAT will, in early stages, be specifically tied to Brave browsers and Brave servers, along with verified publishers

Before this, they mention that other browsers are free to adopt BAT. However, no mention is made of a way to ensure the user attention data reported is legitimate. Presumably then only the Brave browser will be able to use this token. A novel, trustless/decentralised way to verify user attention would be of a paper on its own.

> Ad fraud will be prevented or reduced by publication of source code and cryptographically secure transactions. Ads served to individual browser/users will also be rate-limited and tied to active windows and tabs.

How will this be ensured without some kind of centralised whitelist of signatures/keys?

If the system is going to be centralised anyway, why use a blockchain? Blockchains are terribly inefficient append only DBs, and are only useful when there is not even a single server on the internet that you can trust. There is no point to using a blockchain if everything that can go on the blockchain is going to be mediated by a company/government/organisation.

> A 300 million endowment is for early adopters of Brave and the BAT at up to 5 BAT/user

followed by

> BATs are meant only for experts in cryptographic tokens and blockchain-based software systems

So they expect to get up to 60 million "experts in cryptographic tokens" to switch to their browser?

> However, no mention is made of a way to ensure the user attention data reported is legitimate.

Exactly. Looks like a race problem, again. Just looking at the diagram on their site (user gets tokens for attention), I immediately thought "Write and deploy attention signaling bots" ...

What is your definition of a scam?

Selling a large slice of the tokens to a small group of specific investors, such that they obtain a much larger price when these are listed. Because they were in so few holders from day0, and the 'auction' closed so quickly, price discovery entirely up to small group of 'investors'. Its birthing shark whales to steal from the little people.

This was back before the real real ICO scams, so it looks pure in comparison. 2017, what a year!

Wealth is always concentrated in the hands of a few. It's the same story with Bitcoin.


By that definition I guess all startups and IPOs are also scams.

The difference is that you can't do a IPO with just little more than a white paper, like most ICOs do.

"IPOs" happening separately from actually listing on an exchanges are always scams. Startups soliciting investment from the public rather than accredited investors are almost always scams.

Not tracking active ones, but participated in Qtum ICO. Has successfully launched and delivered. As a smart contract platform, Qtum itself has launched several dapps which were offered over ICO: https://eco.qtum.org/dapps

MakerDAO (https://makerdao.com/), Status (https://status.im/), BAT (https://basicattentiontoken.org/), many, many others.

It's amazing. are you Chinese boy ? how did you find Qtum ICO :)

Ycombinator has invested in a few, including Request Network: https://request.network

YC is invested in Coinbase, so "YC has invested" doesn't signal quality.

I haven't used Coinbase in years but isn't their only real problem that they don't seem to be hiring support staff as fast as they seem to need to?


For us onlookers could you perhaps attempt to elucidate the difference in your points of view rather than slinging insults?

Ethereum seems legit.

For modern answers: WTC, SNM are two that I like

Is there anything that it can exclusively do? I mean functionally in the real world, right now.

I put disposable income into a few ICOs where the ideas are amazing and the team looks capable of implementing it. It's like a kickstarter to me. Might not work, but if it does I get something cool. Like if SNM works I effectively get access to really cheap compute power.

So no, they don't work yet... which is why they need the money to build the product.

That cat-breeding/trading game is honestly the most compelling legitimate use case I've seen for any cryptocurrency.

Decentralized gambling like Augur

Why is that question important?

That is the most important question which all these ICOs and tokens can't answer. If they can't be used for anything useful or provide very value that means their price is just a bubble led by naive investors and speculators/scammers.

Everything you need to know about cryptocurrency is right here in this comment.

“What does it do?”

“Why would you ask that? Just BUY BUY BUY”

I once saw a hilarious answer to the question about unique uses of blockchain as a general concept. One user said that it is great for "tracking of diamonds". O.M.G. People expect other to pay money and invest time in development of a tool to enable even more closed-in and tightly controlled global monopoly by De Beers mafia cartel :)

At risk of taking the bait... why wouldn't that question be important?

i've been working on one related to climate change - i have perfected a self-replicating, solar-powered carbon recapture facility. i figure the coin can represent some amount of carbon offset. working on a white paper as we speak.

Sponsor the 64 million trees of The Northern Forest in the UK with the Bitcoin Pine backed by pine trees. Make people get off their arse and visit their trees in person to cash out. Also have Bitcoin Oak, Bitcoin Ash and Bitcoin Rowan etc.

Work with a charity so Bitcoin Oak is fully tax deductible and not gambling.

well yeah, the self-replicating carbon-recapture devices are trees. way to spoil the business secret, Ted. didn't you sign an NDA?

D'oh! I have given the game away! I was just idly speculating about green shoots in the ICO jungle. However, my earlier brain fart is quite funny when described by yourself - 'self replicating carbon recapture device' - have you patented that or is it just a trademark that is protected by copyright law for 70 years?

Other words - 'windfall'. 'Guaranteed windfall every autumn!' 'Growth'. Really all the metaphors for business things work humorously - 'short selling'...

I believe the one for https://cosmos.network/ was legitimate, and that they’re on the verge of launching the platform they promised. Pretty interesting, actually.

Legitimate as in lawful? Maybe https://blockmason.io/? They have been quite keen on justifying that their ICO is lawful by publishing their legal advice. e.g. (PDF) https://blockmason.io/Blockmason_2017_12_19_Supplement.pdf and https://blockmason.io/Ethereum_Opinion_2017-08-14.pdf

Well, PonziCoin did what it said on the tin.


I'm still undecided on that one.

I have seen the website, whitepapers, and different videos.. from promos to some guy giving a talk.

But the only access you get to actually use it is a waiting list, unless you consider some of the underlying IPFS technology it uses that you can get from other sources (which is a different beast entirely).

It's likely I'm not meeting some prequalification requirement for the access, but this unfortunately means I can't get excited. If I can't test it anywhere and have never made it run myself, I have to withhold judgement.

I'm undecided too, and that's the only ICO I've seen that I consider possibly legitimate.

IPFS itself is supporting evidence - it shows that those people can create a working and actually useful product. Filecoin seems like a good fit for the "incentive layer" above IPFS, and from what I remember from the ICO, they did their best to make it legally in the clean.

I guess we'll see what happens when (or if) Filecoins get released.

Filecoin hasn't even been coded yet and no one has access to it. Once something is already developed they wouldn't need an ICO.

The tokens are trading over 10X higher than the ICO price (2.60 in the first hour). https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/filecoin/


Simple Token, led by Fab.com / Social Median's Jason Goldberg. CTO + team is Germany's most experienced blockchain developers. They are making a Stripe for tokenization.

There are a number of legitimate ICOs, unfortunately there are many more scammy ones. Quantstamp is an example of a legitimate one out of Y Combinator.

Quantstamp appears to be based on a "proof of caring" scheme where basically you get paid in their currency to promote them on sites like Reddit. What about that screams "legitimate" to you?

FunFair, led by Jez San.

I'm biased but I'm running one. I've been a long time member of the hacker/dev community, heck, you can even come to our office and visit with us.

I also run the Crypto Builders meet-up out of Noisebridge here in San Francisco. Come out and hack with us.

If it's Synapse.ai you're talking about, and it's "legitimate", why did you run a time-limited whitelist application process to drive scarcity for the coin you're selling? Are you registered with the SEC? If not, what's an interpretation of what you're doing where you're not promoting an unregistered security to the investing public?


I haven't seen these ads, but this is probably the right move. The irony is that Facebook has built its perceived value to advertisers, investors, businesses, and audience alike on its ability to use deep learning to process all these posts and images and ads and understand what they mean. But here they are explicitly admitting they are unable to do that. It's a healthy thing to do. But it's interesting that it's financial fraud for which they might be directly liable, and not political propaganda, mental health, or explicit racism that brings them to admit their limitations and draw a hard line.

There is a difference between understanding the content (e.g. ICO) and understanding what happens a few weeks after the content is interacted with (e.g. someone runs off with the money). The first is doable, the second requires prescience.

Just like google banning rehab centers, if an industry is getting destroyed in the news or by government regulators its generally not a good move to allow people to advertise it on your platform.

They are about to launch their own coin[0]

"For example, one of the most interesting questions in technology right now is about centralization vs decentralization. A lot of us got into technology because we believe it can be a decentralizing force that puts more power in people's hands. (The first four words of Facebook's mission have always been "give people the power".) Back in the 1990s and 2000s, most people believed technology would be a decentralizing force.

But today, many people have lost faith in that promise. With the rise of a small number of big tech companies — and governments using technology to watch their citizens — many people now believe technology only centralizes power rather than decentralizes it.

There are important counter-trends to this --like encryption and cryptocurrency -- that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people's hands. But they come with the risk of being harder to control. I'm interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services."

[0] https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10104380170714571

Looking into != launching soon or even ever.

> There are important counter-trends to this -- like encryption and cryptocurrency ...

How does this translate to "they are about to launch their own coin"?

This would be a pretty interesting move actually. Something like Brave's BAT comes to mind.

these news sent the bitcoin charts below the magical $10000, a second time after the "crash that wasn't", two weeks ago

will we finally see a real dramatic crash, or will it just fade away?

as much as I feel sorry for those that were duped, some part of me is urging for the drama.

> these news sent the bitcoin charts below the magical $10000

Nah, I believe the "crash" is rather due to the Tether stuff and that one exchange that got hacked... and because there are people who have decided that they don't want to wait any longer to materialize their profits in dollars in the aftermath.

It will just fade out. We're already seeing companies that used to accept Bitcoin payments quietly dropping support. The "price" will stay high, but Bitcoins will circulate among fewer and fewer people; most people who hold some will forget about them and lose them rather than selling them. Look at what happens to collectibles, or land in Second Life.

> will we finally see a real dramatic crash, or will it just fade away?

Aside from global prohibition there's not much that would destroy the value that's created by this novel tool. Even then it would still have some residual value.

Well if all people decide to cash out, it will destroy the value.

I think that a global carbon emissons tax would do the trick.

It would just make the giant mining farms in China powered by hydro-electric generators that much more profitable.

"these news" didn't do anything. It was due to tether and South Korea.

Someone should make a cryptocurrency social platform that rewards it's users for sharing content and attention. Like the steemit of facebook. Anyone know of any projects like this?

I am guessing that would be the future of the social networks. Yes, lord zuckerberg helps you be in touch with your friends and family, but makes a ton of money while selling your data(/metadata).

A legitimate network which probably starts niche and share a token or a part of it for your activity would be a great start I guess.

> rewards it's users for sharing content and attention

You mean spamming content?

It's possible to tell the difference between genuine, authentic sharing, and automation. Rewarding the right behavior will make spam go away.

You're right! It's absolutely possible to tell the difference. And when it's known, bad behavior can be punished and good behavior rewarded.

What do you think it takes to tell this difference with a high degree of reliability (>4 nines) at scale (>1000/s)? How about in an environment where people are strongly incentivized to find and exploit the weaknesses of your approach? Is it just maybe possible that this might not quite be handwave-it-away trivial? Facebook has had a shocking level of success in cutting down spam with their investments in punishing bad behavior and rewarding good behaviour.

Thank you for your thoughts. You're completely correct! It's possible to tell the difference, and rewarding good behavior will drive out bad actors.

Either you're trusting the crowd to reward good content, which means that people will rapidly optimize for clickbait, or you need some sort of moderation, at which point you're just paying writers.

Existing social media reward mechanisms are bad enough, they need to be weakened, not strengthened. Imagine you could use hn karma to pay at Wal-Mart - would you expect the quality of discussions here to go up or to go down? I think it would be disastrous.

You might be looking for Reddcoin?


building one now, called Ethertain

will be publishing details in a week or two on http://www.ethertain.org/

not a social network though - more like "paypal for video", where you can send/request content, with proper verification

So... it's not what the OP was talking about all, then?

I was responding to the "reward users for sharing content ... and attention" part, just not as a social network. Those already have been established (one could argue YouTube is a good functional example of that), I don't anticipate much innovation happening there.

But, the concept of content value, no matter where it resides, intrigues me.

[deleted; I didn't read the parent carefully]

Cynical much? This kind of response is one reason I rarely mention ideas on HN. They all seem to be met with instant criticism and/or suspicion.

That reminds me of the Web of Trust a browser add-on only without the actual monetary reward.

I've never heard of steemit.

edit: without not with

Have you seen https://www.yours.org?

...but they're totally OK with political ads paid in rubles. Fuck Facebook.

Are those worse than political ads paid in dollars?

If only hacker news would follow suit

Thank god. My neighborhood has a forum run by the HOA. It's flooded with posts about neighbors running their own "crypto-businesses" trying to get other people in on it. Based on a quick read, I'm pretty sure none of them are in tech (not that that's prerequisite to understanding the technology) and most seem to think BTC is magic internet money. If/when BTC tanks, the ensuing bloodbath is going to be nasty.

Assuming rumours FB is developing their own cryptocurrency, along with Amazon and Google, as has been suggested on various forums, isn't there a risk here for them?

Banning potential competitors in what you could generously describe as the dawn of the next internet (in many ways the crypto wild west is v similar to early dot com days, complete with all the shysters and con artists) seems unethical and may bring up anti trust issues eventually?

You are correct, that would be a risk for them (especially for FB) because of how big they've become.

Anecdote: in 2014, I registered an account on Twitter called "tweetcoin". I felt social networks would start developing their own currencies. I posted one comment, "exciting things in the works". I was promptly locked out of the account, and a new tweet appeared there (dated 2012!), stating "this is not your account."

You can see it here:


Assuming you're being truthful, that is pretty weird actually. I'm going through explanations for this in my mind and none of them make much sense.

very interesting...

And oddly enough, it says the account was created in 2008. Very strange indeed.


reminds me that the internet is really just a cave wall with shadows on it...

When I clicked the link I was served an ad promoting cyptocurrencies haha

Doesn't "misleading or deceptive promotional practices" generally apply to the entire business model of an advertisement platform disguised as a social network?

Finally! The most annoying ones were James Altucher's... I found them particularly fishy. (don't know him so not sure what's behind them).

I'm going to miss the "crypto genius" ads.

I am not a fan of 'the city' and I am not a Facebook user. However, today Facebook have earned a small bit of respect from me. As for 'the city', regulation now seems a very good idea, sure we have all been ripped off by the fat cats of 'the city', however, the toxicity of traditional investments is along the levels of 'sweets laced with sugar' instead of 'heroin laced with fentanyl' which seems to be what the ico-scam-coin-nonsense is peddling.

I would like to see a crypto-addict brain under a MRI scan to see if those graphs in tiddlywink prices light up the same bits of the brain that physical addiction to a chemical makes.

In some way this story reminds me of when Lance Armstrong was discovered to be cheating. Some people wouldn't believe it until he came on Oprah and spoke about a few things. The evidence was overwhelming and yet there were some devoted fans that held out. They didn't even have skin in the game (taking PED's) but still they wanted to believe the comeback from cancer fairytale. It did not matter to them that all of his team mates thought him to be toxic, dedicated fans held out.

I don't think it is time to tease crypto-obsessed-people but once they have lost all their monopoly money and tiddlywinks then I am sure they will start to get the story. Fear and greed gets the better of people, so I am looking forward to on-going 'so where is your lambo then, did you leave it on the moon'? comments. Shame I didn't quit my job and spend all day investing in tiddlywinks tethered to monopoly money. Oh well.

This is worrisome, mainly for one reason. Maybe one of the many ICOs might turn out to derail Facebook's centralised + ads approach. With this Facebook is basically attempting to prevent competition - or am I totally off?

That hypothetical one magic ICO to derail Facebook would surely not have to rely on Facebook ads to succeed. And besides that, I'd consider Facebook to be "sufficiently evil" to individually black out an advertiser they secretly consider a threat, of it ever came to that.

This move is easily explained by the long term cost of being perceived as the place worth the shitty scam ads. The existential threat Facebook is trying to avert is people thinking "I would not have lost that money if I had not been on Facebook all the time, reading all those stories about bitcoin geniuses" one day. Everybody likes to blame the messenger.

I think it's more due to the fact that most ICOs are fraudulent.

IMO you're totally off. ICOs and the ad market are pretty tangential.

I'm more referring to Mark Zuckerberg's new year post about investing in decentatizlized tech and the power it provides. Will be interesting to see if FB will do an ICO themselves or at least built there own blockchain to address some of the data centralization concerns.

People are shilling ICOs like they're selling a discounted big mac. The SEC doesn't like it. Surely Facebook recognizes this and is protecting themselves.

Thank god, this has been SO annoying to see all the time. I mark them as spam/report them for being a scam.

When will they block all political ads?

"Because they are mostly scam ads", haven't seen many non scam ads or highly incorrect/false usage of material on facebook for years. This is more of a thing for them to properly fix. They might as well ban most ads I was seeing at least.

= Facebook cryptocurrency to be announced within a year?

up next: Facebook is starting it's own currency...

I for one say, hurrah.

Sounds like fb is planning to dive into the blockchain world.

Twitter, What about you?

People should look at FB for what it is. A big shopping mall where everyone goes to walk around and hang out. Don't like what goes on in FB. Stop using it.

What a weirdly tangential thing to point out given the content of the article. Is it possible to write a post on HN that isn't pointlessly critical of Facebook, or have we dropped the facade of "intelligent discussion" when it comes to things that the hivemind doesn't like?

> Is it possible to write a post on HN that isn't pointlessly critical of Facebook, or have we dropped the facade of "intelligent discussion" when it comes to things that the hivemind doesn't like?

I don't represent or consult any hivemind when I look at corporations, especially the winky-smiley "let's connect the world!" with jaded cynicism – but my conscience.

> Is it possible to write a post on HN that isn't pointlessly critical of Facebook

Mostly it is just impossible for there to be a story about FB on HN that doesn't have a bunch of people tripping over themselves to tell everyone they don't use FB.

> People should look at FB for what it is. A big shopping mall where everyone goes to walk around and hang out.

That rather sounds like Amazon's Whole Foods with its gazillion cameras. [1]

As for your other advice: that counts for any company, and why I boycotted Microsoft for a long, long time.

[1] https://dzone.com/articles/why-amazon-and-whole-foods-will-c...

This is good for Bitcoin because...

Realistically...because it will remain the biggest one to breach the general public consciousness and by getting rid of such ease of access to promoting scams and the like it will prevent (at least in the short term) the public perception of cryptocurrencies from being tainted by a sea of scams that are difficult for novices to navigate through.

Ironic that such an influence on the price of BTC can be so centralized, between this and news of tether. I'm sure FB announcing this alone could have sparked a similar or smaller crash.

This is weird to me. Does Facebook currently ban advertisements for commodities like gold? If no, then what's the difference between advertising for bitcoin and advertising for gold?

Both gold mining and coin mining are environmentally dirty industries, but at least gold can used for useful things like conductors, reflectors, and jewelry. The only thing you can fashion out of bitcoins is entropy.

> Does Facebook currently ban advertisements for commodities like gold?

I don't think the problem is Bitcoin per se as much as the rancid industry of scams and frauds pumping and dumping alt coins and ICOs.

just like they banned political ads in the past election...

Well one difference is that bitcoin has no intrinsic value, ie, it's online gambling in disguise. I believe that Facebook currently bans ads for online gambling.

Don't agree? Ask yourself, why don't you see ads for other commodities, like rice or iron? Because there's no money in that. So how come there's money in ads for bitcoin? Could it be because bitcoin is not actually a commodity?

Intrinsic value of bitcoin tokens is the ability to use them to append a hash value into immutable eternal excel spreadsheet with no censorship possible. You can use this to prove some data existed at some point in time (proof of existence) or that some data was published (proof of publication). With these primitives you can build some interesting digital infrastructure (ledgers, smart contract platforms, etc.). That is exact equivalent to industrial use of gold as gold's intrinsic value.

The key difference being that the intrinsic use of gold is proven by thousands of years of use and a current robust market in the $100 billion/year range [1], while the "intrinsic value" of Bitcoin has no historical track record and approximately $0 current demand.

An important second difference is that creating a replacement for the intrinsic value of gold is somewhere between difficult and impossible, whereas it appears any hustler who can scrape together three programmers can launch a Bitcoin alternative. Even if Bitcoin's intrinsic value were real, approximately infinite supply means the effective intrinsic value would be approximately zero.

[1] https://www.gold.org/research/gold-demand-trends/gold-demand...

It seems unnecessarily reductive to claim that gold can have no valid alternatives, yet Bitcoin has no value because anyone can create an alternative.

I can start trying to use aluminum to hold value. It has intrinsic value through valid non-currency applications. Being able to do so in no way lessens the value of gold, and the ability to do the same thing with virtually any other material does not mean gold's effective intrinsic value is approximately zero.

It's the other factors you mentioned (robust market and long history of usage) that makes gold valuable relative to alternatives, and Bitcoin has factors that make it more valuable relative to other cryptocurrencies--including forks of Bitcoin. It's true that it is more likely Bitcoin is replaced by another crypto than gold replaced by another metal, but that's a far cry from Bitcoin's effective intrinsic value being approximately zero.

I didn't say "has no valid alternatives". I just said it's hard. Gold is a specific element with specific characteristics that make it uniquely valuable for jewelry, electronics, and other industrial uses.

Gold has been out of fashion for currencies for many decades, especially since Bretton Woods; despite that gold had continued to be valuable because it has practical use, which is what people generally mean by intrinsic value, and definitely what dr_win meant.

It's not impossible that tomorrow you will invent some aluminum alloy that is way better than gold for jewelry, although it's certainly unlikely. But it would be very easy for someone to start offering yet another pseudocurrency that allows for "interesting digital infrastructure", which is what dr_win claimed was Bitcoin's intrinsic value.

Gold's demand is large and stable and it's supply is constrained. Bitcoin's demand as digital infrastructure is both small and unproven, and the supply appears bounded only by the number of hucksters in the world and the bytes of storage that they hucksters can command. That means that for dr_win's theory of intrinsic value, Bitcoin's should tend toward zero.

$0 demand? Are you kidding? If there was no demand then Bitcoin's price would be $0. It's not zero therefore demand is also not zero. This is basic economics. Come on, man.

No intrinsic value? How about how it is truly stored energy? It has a lot in common with gold. Just because it's digital doesn't make it's worthless. Lots of very valuable things are entirely digital these days.

Read all the words, pal. We are not talking about "demand", we are talking about "intrinsic demand", by which we mean the non-currency need for the thing. The theory mr_win has about intrinsic value is not a bad one, but there is approximately $0 demand for the service he describes.

As an example, you can look at Bitcoin like digital Beanie Babies. The intrinsic value of a cute stuffed toy is, as any airport give shop can show you, a few bucks. The market price of Beanie Babies was for a time much higher due to limited issuance, energetic promotion, and a popular craze for them. The intrinsic demand did not change, so when the hype cycle ran out, price fell back toward intrinsic.

Bitcoin's intrinsic value is definitely not "stored energy", because you cannot get the energy back out. And it's not much like gold for reasons already described: gold has real, sustained intrinsic value. Bitcoin doesn't.

Your principle complaint seems to be a tautology: that a new technology has no track record before the date it was invented. People who routinely mock fanatical cryptocurrency proponents’ claims (e.g. “this is actually good news”) should look no further than this comment as an example of equally preposterous claims from cryptocurrency skeptics.

One, Bitcoin wasn't invented yesterday; it's 9 years old by this point. It definitely has a track record. Many technologies have demonstrated substantial use value by 9 years in.

Two, we're talking intrinsic value, which is a basically backward-looking concept.

Three, all I'm doing is pointing out the error in mr_win's claim that Bitcoin's intrinsic value is "exact equivalent to industrial use of gold as gold's intrinsic value", and is therefore presumably worth something.

So if you would like to grumble at somebody for suggesting that one should evaluate intrinsic value based on actual utility, please go bother him.

after all these hundreds of comments about bitcoin this is by far the best explanation why it is (asymptotically) worthless

Couple that with (asymptotically) infinite energy demand just to support the network...

At best those are potential intrinsic values for blockchains, not bitcoin.

I've started typing a long discussion along the same line and then decided it wasn't worth my time. Brevity is the soul of wit I guess.

How many blockchains have 19 trillion hashes per second being calculated to secure them?

I hear what you're saying, but am compelled to ask: what intrinsic value does gold have?

I forget who said it, but I once heard something along the lines of, "if we get into a situation where the value of gold goes through the roof, it'll be because things have gotten really bad. And if they're that bad people are going to realize pretty quick that they don't want gold. They want water bottles and gasoline."

I don't get it. If people realize they don't want gold why would the price go up?

I think the implication is that the price will spike quickly, then collapse through the floor when people realise the true situation.

yeah sorry if that wasn't clear

Gold is shiny, stable (chemically and nuclearly), heavy (harder to fake by coating a facsimile), and rare. It's not "useful" per se (outside niche applications), but it definitely has a certain intrinsic suitability as currency.

Also, if all goes to shit, a bar of gold can still be used to club someone to death and take their supplies.

Compare with bitcoin, which has no physical form and is only usable in context of present economy of technological civilization.

There are a ton of industrial uses for gold:


Spacecraft shielding is my favorite

Gold is intrinsically scarce, but I understand where you're going. Perhaps FB has just seen that this category of advertisement is more likely to attract scammers?

Don't know, I don't buy gold either.

> why don't you see ads for other commodities, like rice or iron

No one buys rice or iron on Facebook, but Bitcoin is mainstream enough where the Facebook audience is a good target.

> Well one difference is that bitcoin has no intrinsic value, ie, it's online gambling in disguise

While there are cryptocurrencies that are pump and dump and scams, there are legit ones that are being used as actual currency in transactions for actual products all over the world. I can buy coffee with cryptocurrency, but I certainly won't be able to pay for it with gold. Calling bitcoin 'online gambling in disguise' is like calling the stock market and forex trading 'online gambling'.

The USD is no longer backed by gold and you could say it also has no intrinsic value.

It's backed by an army and a government, along with the trust of the entire world. These things ensure value a lot better than being back by gold does.

it will always have value as long as it in the only thing the IRS accepts for taxes due

It's the only thing the IRS accepts for taxes, it's the only thing that Saudi Arabia accepts for oil, etc. There's many good reasons for the dollar to have non-zero intrinsic value.

That's still not an intrinsic value: it's a consensus value.

Intrinsic value is the value it has even if it is not thought of as a currency or unit of trade.

> Intrinsic value is the value it has even if it is not thought of as a currency or unit of trade.

That's like, your definition dude.


> The intrinsic value is the actual value of a company or an asset based on an underlying perception of its true value including all aspects of the business, in terms of both tangible and intangible factors. This value may or may not be the same as the current market value.

I don't think I agree that this is what people mean when they say "bitcoin has no intrinsic value but gold does." I think that it is a laymen's statement and they are really referring to value or utility outside of being currency. They are not meaning to reference fundamental analysis in finance.

That's my point precisely. Maybe you should be telling that to the other guy :-P

And Bitcoin will always have value as long as people are willing and able to trade it. Your point, which is valid, is that the long-term future of the United States and the IRS as a wealthy nation is almost certainly more safe than the long-term future of Bitcoin, but there is no inherent difference between the two, merely a difference of scale.

Commodities actually is not exactly the safest area to invest in if you go to the wrong people. Gold coins for instance have their fair share of fraud-peddlers. (https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2016/gold-coin-i...)

My best guess is, based on their guidelines (https://www.facebook.com/policies/ads/), sure, Facebook would be okay with any gold advertisements from accredited commodities investment institutions.

On the other hand, advertisements from certain random shady gold coin dealers? Honestly, Facebook should be weary of advertisements in this space too, if they aren't already.

If there was a way for cryptocurrency to come from an "accredited institution" with "sufficient disclosure" of various metrics and safeguards typically used in retail investing, I would think Facebook would be okay with it. It's more that a lot of cryptocurrency (really unfortunately considering how fascinating the tech is) feels shady and/or scam like at the moment.

Facebook does ban cash for gold schemes. No one advertises selling gold regularly so it's not an issue.

The SEC isn't coming down hard on gold mines?

The problem aren't ads for Bitcoin, its ads for Shitcoin scams.

Then why not just ban Shitcoin scams?

Because Facebook (and most others) can't tell the difference between a legitcoin and a shitcoin. They already got in trouble for trying to separate "fake news" from real news, so why double down on the same problem?

Take Tezos for example. Greatest innovation in blockchain history or greatest scam in blockchain history? You could lose a lot of hair over that decision, or you could just kill 'em all and let Satoshi sort 'em out.

> Because Facebook (and most others) can't tell the difference between a legitcoin and a shitcoin

And they shouldn't have to. We tightly regulate securities-related promotional content because we learned, the hard way about a century ago, that left to itself securities markets breed scams like rabbits.

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