|Have you ever gotten into legal trouble by exploring the dark places of the internet? Like, "sorry, officer, I was only surfing drug markets and child molester forums for my next journalism piece..." Do you worry about that? Do you have to take extra steps to protect yourself?||I'm very careful not to go anywhere that it is illegal to visit. You will hear loads of stories about how easy it is to "stumble upon" child porn, but the fact is that those sites usually have names like "Preteen cuties" so you know exactly what they are, and in order to access them you have to register. So you have to make a very deliberate choice to log into them. I have no interest whatsoever in viewing any child abuse material, so I don't go into those places. When I was researching The Darkest Web, I went to the discussion forums that didn't allow any images (though they did link to sites that did), and even there I turned off images.|
|As for the drugs, weapons etc, there is nothing illegal about surfing them and looking around.|
|I do get a bit nervous every time I visit the US, especially when I was invited to a "friendly" lunch with Homeland Security once (it was reasonably friendly as it turns out, it was also terrifying)|
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|Why did homeland security want to talk to you?||They said it was about the murder-for-hire stuff, but some of the questions leaned toward something else|
|Is there anything that really concerns you about the dark web? Some of the things already discussed are beyond barbaric and that is only the stuff that has been found out about and been picked up by the media and your fantastic work. Do you think the public should expect worse and more horrific revelations from the dark web or is it just "more of the same" for lack of a better term and do you think the authorities are getting better in shutting this inhumanity down and catching the people responsible?||I am definitely not against people taking back their online privacy and I actually think that buying drugs from the darknet markets is a safer and more sensible option than buying them from the dodgy dealer down the road. However the one thing that is really disturbing is that the dark web has provided a place for child predators to find each other and form communities where they support and egg each other on. Imagine a few years ago, someone who was into hurtcore could never tell anyone else and would be unlikely to ever come across another person with the same perversions. Now it is as simple as finding the relevant site on the dark web. When there are suddenly hundreds of people who all think and act in the same way, it normlalizes what they are doing.|
|One of the guys who got caught, Matthew Falder, was a sadist who used to crowdsource "ideas" for torturing the children and teens he was blackmailing into doing heinous things for him online. But apparently he was a "normal" intelligent popular guy|
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|But how does everyone participate in those illegal sites without getting caught? You said in other comments that you tried to stay away from underaged sites because they were illegal. Can't they be tracked down, even with tor and a vpn? The thing that I don't understand is that even on the dark web people say you should stay away from illegal sites, but how are pedos not getting caught?||they are getting caught, but the way they are getting caught is through painstaking detective work, looking for clues in photos, befriending them online and getting them to reveal things about themselves (what is known as social engineering). It takes a long time and many resources.|
|I say don't go there because (a) it is illegal and (b) you really shouldn't want to go there|
|Iirc you attended the trial of the person behind the horrific hurt core website that was exposed a few years back. I was wondering if there was anything in particular that happened during the trial that particularly shocked or horrified you that isn't really public knowledge or talked about? Reactions from the judge or perpetrator during the trial etc. As I remember it the guy was a fairly young loner who lived with his parents but would probably never have been expected to be behind the horrific vile things which he was found to be. Also, how did you get into investigative journalism/writing?||I wrote in one of the other replies above about the little mute girl that has stayed with me. Also, at the insistence of the prosecution, the judge had to watch "Daisy's Destruction" which was a video of torture of a toddler. He put it off for two days and when he came back he was white. He didn't have the sound on, which is considered the worst part, but he still looked shell-shocked. I don't envy him.|
|I'll cut'n'paste re your last question: I was in London, working for one of the most conservative law firms in the world when the Global Financial Crisis hit. I liked the job but it struck me when people were losing their livelihoods that I was working for the bad guys. I'd always wanted to be a writer so when I came back to Australia I quit law and enrolled in a writing course planning to be a novelist, but I discovered I was better at journalism. I first wrote for newspapers here about Silk Road and it grew from there|
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|Thanks for the reply.. that really must've been horrific for all involved from investigation to trial and for all of the victims (apart from the scum responsible of course). I guess it would be naive to assume that the end of this site did anything other than drive this depraved community even further underground. That is the part which is really scary to me but I suppose all we can do is have faith that the authorities are always close on the tail. Thank you for your work on reporting on this and raising this stuff more into the public consciousness and making people more aware of what kind of evil still lurks.||It was the most disturbing two days of my life, made all the worse because they read out hours of interactions from the site where the children still had not been identified or the predators caught.|
|Hurt2theCore was not the last site of its kind and there are still hurtcore sites to this day on the dark web. The one hopeful thing is that there are international task forces that seem to work together really well (unlike when it comes to drugs and every law enforcement agency wants to take the lead and they all withhold info from each other). There are a lot of resources allocated to identifying predators and their victims. Sometimes this has involved some very controversial tactics, such as taking over the sites and letting them run, so that they can use social engineering techniques to identify those who are using the sites and who are actually abusing children|
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|So daisy's destruction is real? Was it referred to by that name court? I always thought it was a myth||Yes, Daisy's Destruction is real, it was referred to by name in court and the judge had to watch the 12 minutes of it that were hosted on Hurt2theCore.|
|The "myth" part is that it shows a murder. The toddler, Daisy, lived, though she suffered such horrific injuries she will never be able to bear children. Hopefully she was young enough that she will grow up without the memory.|
|However, Scully did murder at least one child, whose body was found under the floorboards of his house. it is not known whether he filmed her murder as no video evidence of it has come to light.|
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|Thanks for answering. I actually watched a really good video on Hurt2theCore on youtube once, I think it was by a guy called Nexpo. It was really detailed and informative about the whole case - I forgot those details. Thanks again for replying, this AMA is really informative!||I think I recall that one, it was from a few years ago.|
|An excellent podcast that came out recently is "Hunting Warhead", highly recommend a listen. It is a tough listen, but exceptionally well-told and respectfully handled|
|How do you detach yourself from your work? I'm an investigator for a law firm and I've had a lot of difficult working on wrongful death cases recently. Also, how did you first end up getting published? Any tips for people interested in that field? Thanks!||I don't detach. When I was researching hurtcore, it was harrowing and affected me deeply. Writing that part of the book was a very slow process because I just couldn't be in that headspace for very long at a time. Once the book was written I didn't go back there.|
|I already had a reputation as a blogger and a freelance journalist when i pitched my book on Silk Road. I got an agent and it was auctioned off, with Pan MacMillan getting the rights. At the time, Silk Road was still going strong, and the book I wrote was about this new frontier of drug dealing that was changing the world. I was writing it "from the inside" as I had been an active part of the community for two years. However, right as I submitted the final manuscript to my publisher, Silk Road was busted and Ross Ulbricht arrested, so i had to quickly change the narrative to a "Rise and Fall" thing!|
|How many times have you approached law enforcement with information and how many times has the approach resulted in action? and... are there times where you know something nefarious is happening but history and the evidence at hand tells you it's not worth the effort?||There is no point in approaching law enforcement to say "I have come across this site". If I've found it, you can guarantee law enforcement has found it as well.|
|The only time I've approached law enforcement was when I had information that they did not, which was when a friendly hacker provided me with a back door into the Besa Mafia murder-for-hire site. I got to see all the messages and orders etc. Of course LE knew about the site, but they did not have the details of the people who had hits taken out on them. We tried desperately to tell police in several countries that real people had paid real money to have other real people killed, but they just weren't interested. We sounded like crazy people talking about dark web hitmen, who were scams anyway and nobody was dead, so why should they be interested? They became much more engaged when one of the people WE HAD PREVIOUSLY TOLD THEM ABOUT later turned up dead|
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|By law enforcement, do you mean only local or else the big agencies? I feel like I wouldn't tell my local police department because they wouldn't really know what to do. It would have to the the bigger agencies.||FBI in US. NCA in UK. AFP in Australia. Nobody was very interested, although the FBI did visit at least one of the targets to let her know she was a target. She still wound up dead|
|What are some of the most prevalent uses of the dark web that AREN'T all shady and nefarious?||We might be getting into semantics here, but people use Tor, which is the most possible darknet that is used to access the dark web, just for private browsing and ensuring that commercial interests aren't following them everywhere to bombard them with ads for some thing they looked up.|
|Some of the news organizations have a dark web presence so that whistleblowers can upload information safely. Even the CIA has a site on the dark web so that people can anonymously tip off matters of national security.|
|Other than that, there are just forums, where you don't have to worry that every single stupid thing you post will be saved in posterity forever, to be trotted out years later when you run for congress or something|
|After everything you've seen, does anything surprise you anymore or are you just numb to it at this point? Do you think there should be more education/exposure about the dark web than there is now or would that just be counter-productive as people would just find another place to hide? I'm curious to hear any favourite stories about the Psychonauts.||I am not numb and I hope I never become numb. I really don't visit the horrible dark places very often, unless I'm researching something specific, and even then I don't look at pictures or videos. Most of the crime is pretty benign - I'm not fazed by people wanting a safer way to buy drugs.|
|I think there needs to be ongoing discussions about online activity and its misuse in general, but most crime still happens on the clearnet. The dark web is not nearly as large or prevalent as people fear.|
|For a long time, a dealer provided free LSD to anyone who wanted it for personal use (ie not sale) and to any organizations who were doing psychedelic therapy.|
|One psychonaut got busted and spent time in prison... only he still had bitcoin in a wallet and by the time he was released he was a millionaire. He would have just spent it on drugs otherwise :)|
|I know law enforcement has to delve into the predator side of the dark web. With what you've seen do you think it should be mandatory or an industry standard that law enforcement officials seek professional help? I couldn't imagine investigating that daily and not thinking less of humanity at some point.||I'm pretty sure they do. I worked for Legal Aid for a while, and i know there were pretty strict rules in place for the lawyers who had to defend child abusers.|
|When I was at the trial for Lux, owner of Hurt2theCore, I met a cop whose job it was to watch all the videos and befriend the predators in an attempt to get them to slip up and reveal something of themselves. She said she had a little filing cabinet in her brain where she put all that stuff, and that making an arrest made it all worthwhile. She had made several arrests personally. She was a sex offender's worst nightmare :)|
|What’s one of your personal favorite investigations and what made it unique for you?||By far the Besa Mafia murder-for-hire case. What made it unique was that, first, I was provided a back door into the Besa Mafia site by a friendly hacker, so i had information that nobody else had. But then I became "friends" for want of a better word with the owner of the site, Yura. Besa Mafia, of course, was not killing anyone, but Yura made a LOT of money scamming would-be murderers out of their money. We entered into a weird relationship over the years where i would report on his activities and he would try every trick under the sun to stop me from doing so, so that he could keep scamming people. He even offered me a job, helping him, because he had become so busy. He also provided me with names and details of people who had hits taken out on them so I could pass them on to law enforcement.|
|It all became horribly real when one of the people who had a hit put out of them wound up dead. It wasn't Yura of course, but the guy had paid him $13K before giving up on the site and doing it himself. The thing was WE HAD TOLD THE FBI about the hit and the $13K and they visited the victim, but then put it into the too-hard basket when she couldn't think who might have paid that much to kill her.|
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|Wow. That’s actually pretty cool. Reminds me of an old saying. “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”||It's a seriously bizarre relationship. When I was hired as a consultant by CBS for a 48 Hours expose on dark web hitmen, he actually agreed to meet me in London. But he thought that CBS was going to advertise his site as the real deal and he got excited and sent them details of two people who had hits put out on them. CBS sent them straight to the police and very shortly after two arrests were made and it was all over the news, where they called his site a scam. Yura got so pissed about it, he never turned up to our meeting. They had even hired an Academy Award-nominated master of disguise makeup artist to disguise him!|
|are "red rooms" actually a prevalent thing, or just a widespread misconception or rumor? I ask in part because it's very easy to see, for instance, Mexican cartels dismembering people alive, etc, just on the clearnet. Hell, a couple days ago I saw a video posted of a cartel member cutting out a dude's heart while the guy was alive, and he ATE it. He fucking ATE it. So it seems plausible...||The most popular myth of all is Red Rooms, where people – usually women – are tortured to death live on camera while those who have paid to watch type in torture commands in a chat box. Think the movie Hostel, with webcams. In this sense these have never been proven to exist. I get where you are coming from with the cartels, and the recent news item where they found those shipping containers set up with torture rooms freaked me out and made me wonder!|
|There is some truth to this rumour, but the execution is not like you see in the movies. Most notably, because it involves children, not adults abused on demand for paying pedophiles, but not to the point of death|
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|The news about those shipping containers really made me speculate, since for every one person who gets caught doing something evil, there must be at least several more people who are very honed in their 'profession' doing the same evil deeds and worse, yet who evade being captured for decades. Anyway, based on morbid things I've seen, karma comes around eventually...||I know, right? It really freaked me out, and then when I read that they already had intended victims for them but the police got to them first and put them in protected custody.. IMAGINE SEEING THOSE PICTURES AND KNOWING YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE IN THEM!! I would retire to a deserted island somewhere|
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|Your line of work could easily result in something like C-PTSD down the road a little ways. I have a morbid curiosity, and have seen worse than those shipping containers had to offer. I'm sure you have as well. So one more question from you, if you don't mind: what are some proactive approaches to mental health you take to safeguard your sanity?||A lot of wine. Cuddle my dog|
|Hi, there! This has been fascinating to read; thank you so much for sharing! I'm curious: why do you think so many people who don't want to engage with disgusting and illegal content like hurtcore find it so interesting to read about? Do you have any insight into your readership and the ethics associated with reading about these kind of topics?||I think morbid fascination with the dark is exceedingly common - just look at how many people can't get enough about serial killers! In some ways it is probably a self-defense mechanism - the vast majority of true-crime readers are women. People like to be armed with knowledge. We also like to be spooked and scared.|
|As for my books, I don't really go into much gory detail, but the horror still shines through|
|Out of all 9-5 jobs out there, why this? What’s your motive?||I got disenchanted by being a lawyer and I had wanted to be an author since childhood. The lawyering put me in a strong enough financial position that I could quit to do a uni course for a couple of years. My plan was to become a best-selling novelist, but my first chick-lit novel was nothing special. However, during the course, I found I did really well at journalism and was soon making a living as a freelance journo before I finished the course. My first major feature was on the Silk Road drugs market, which I had discovered thanks to a friend who was using it. Once I got in there I became fascinated by everything about it and started contacting the owner, users, vendors etc asking for stories (I was upfront about who I was). I began the first serious dark web blog - allthingsvice.com - and also became the go-to freelancer for Australian dark web stories. Then I pitched my first book and got a healthy advance for it.|
|I like working for myself, working from home and delving into things. Right now I have my dream job (though it wouldn't hurt to pay a bit more. I'm certainly not making anywhere near what I used to make lawyering, but I make enough to get by and I live pretty simply)|
|Did you ever do any writing on Brian Farrell and his role in Silk Road 2.0? I was Brian's cellmate for all of 2017 at Sheridan Federal Prison and heard all of his crazy stories. Was just curious as to the validity of them all.||DoctorClu! I did write briefly about him in Silk Road, but it wasn't all positive. I remember being frustrated by the shitshow that was Silk Road 2.0 in the beginning, right after SR1 shut and when DPR2 took off and Defcon got all dramatic. It settled down after a bit and lasted a year, when it was revealed THEY HAD A FUCKING UNDERCOVER HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICER ON STAFF THE WHOLE TIME. But yeah, anyhow, they are probably true. I'd love to hear them :)|
|Was there ever something on the dark web that made you surprised ( in a good way) and smile ?||So many things. Back in the day of the original Silk Road, I became obsessed with the forums, the people behind it, the intelligent discourse about the War on Drugs and philosophy. I found it amusing that drug dealers ran sales and giveaways. There were book clubs and movie clubs.|
|One of the most important people from that era was Dr Fernando Cauevilla, who became a member of Silk Road as "DoctorX". He was a real doctor who provided genuine, free, non-judgmental advice about drug use to the members of the site. It was quite an amazing time.|
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|Did Ulbricht get taken down the way we were told in the news? What happened to all the Bitcoins?||His arrest went down the way we were told in the news. How they located the server has never been disclosed (other than a fanciful explanation that NOBODY could believe). This explanation may be tested if Variety Jones runs a Fourth Amendment argument at his trial|
|The bitcoin in the wallet on Ross' computer was auctioned off by the Feds. He may have other bitcoin wallets stashed somewhere but nobody knows|
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|Book/movie clubs on the silk road?||Yeah, they would set reading and then everyone would come back and discuss the book, or they would have a time when everyone watched the same movie at the same time and chatted about it in real time|
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|Haha that's amazing! I don't suppose you remember any of the books in question?||They used to be a lot of philosophy books, especially on agorism. A Lodging of Wayfaring Men was one of the books. I remember V for Vendetta on a movie night|
|You don't seem to be pushing your most recent project and you're actually answering all the questions people ask, so I've got ask...are you some sort of government plant meant to destabilize reddit? This isn't how AMAs are supposed to work. You come in, you half ass a few questions, hawk whatever you're here to hawk, and then leave after 20 minutes. That's how it's done.||lol I'm a genuine redditor from way back, and I love talking about the stuff I do. I did find that after I answered a question in an AskReddit thread a while back that blew up, the sales followed. But that was organic and I don't think you can force it to happen - Reddit can spot that a mile awy|
|What are some of the best things about the dark web? And can anyone get on it? Things you can buy that you can’t buy normally online?||I really enjoy some of the forums, especially the psychonaut forums where people who like to trip on psychedelics get together and talk drugs and philosophy. There's a real "be kind to one another" vibe.|
|Getting on the dark web is easy, but not getting scammed when buying things takes a lot of homework. Yes, you can buy most things, but the most popular things are drugs and digital goods, i.e. things that depend on repeat custom and are easily transferable from seller to buyer|
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|[deleted]||You're doing the Good Work my man. I'd give you one of those awards if i knew how|
|What would you define the word "Safe" when it come to the internet (both www and dark web) world and are there any tips that I should follow to keep myself safe?||It really depends on what YOU mean by safe. Tor, which is the darknet that provides access to the dark web will keep you safe from prying eyes and surveillance.|
|If you mean keep your information safe, the old-fashioned advice is to never reuse your password and to enable 2-Factor authentication wherever you can. Your information is quite likely somewhere on the dark web thanks to high-profile hacks of major organizations, but provided you don't re-use usernames and passwords, you really don't have to worry too much about it.|
|If you mean keeping yourself and/or any kid safe from predators, the only thing is to ensure you are educated about the approaches and methods they use.|
|Has Covid affected the Dark Web in any real way? Also I just read through all of the post comments, what incredible story’s. I would totally buy a book about the Silk Road or Yaru!||re covid on the dark web, here's some notes I made for an interview I did recently:|
|* when Trump first hyped hydroxychloroquine as a potential miracle cure for COVID-19, drug dealers on the dark web seized on the claim.|
|* Listings quickly popped up on the most popular darknet markets|
|* A vendor on Whitehouse Market sells 100 Pills for $90, calling it a “Miracle Drug For Coronavirus” and suggesting buyers purchase in bulk to sell at a mark-up locally.|
|* Another makes the dubious claim “This drug will help people to beat Corona Virus” There are 11 listings on Empire Market currently, although more than half are from the one seller, who is a well-known and trusted vendor on the site.|
|* There were also people claiming to be selling infected blood or plasma of recovered COVID victims|
|* The infected blood stuff is just bullshit IMO Just because something is listed doesn’t mean it is genuinely for sale|
|* There's been some claims to be selling vaccines|
|* At the beginning there were also loads of listings for PPE|
|* some just used it as a marketing tactic - “fight off the virus with edible cannabis” or “relax with Xanax” and others as an excuse to raise their prices|
|* However, sales are low compared to sales of other drugs on the site, so it is difficult to say whether it’s something that will really catch on|
|* It didn’t take long for complaints to come in and market owners to clamp down on anything claiming to be a miracle cure or vaccine|
|* users were discouraging other users from profiting off the pandemic and requested markets provide health and safety information|
|* All the major markets forbid anything being sold as a cure for COVID. They flagged keywords and vendors would be told to take any listings down. They also put out PSAs telling people not to buy|
|* Monopoly: threatened to ban and.. “You are about to ingest drugs from a stranger on the internet - under no circumstances should you trust any vendor that is using COVID-19 as a marketing tool to peddle already questionable goods”|
|* It was a business decision. They don’t want anything that will attract attention or that might cause desperate people who wouldn’t normally use the DNMs to find their way there|
|* The idea behind DNMs generally is educated and responsible drug use. They really don’t want people dying - bad publicity and no repeat custom|
|* However the dark web is rife with scammers and people willing to prey on the desperate so there are still scams out there|
|* The only way I could ever see it becoming a thing is if there is a well-known potential cure/vaccine that is not being made widely available and could plausibly find its way onto the black market|
|Hi Eileen :) My question is about how you construct your Casefile episodes - I assume there is an extensive amount of outlining but do you write the final draft like a script specifically thinking about his voice? And about how long are they as far as - for example - does one hour equal 50-60 pages? Thank you.||I initially write them as if I'm writing an article or book, but then go back and edit them to be read out and yes, when I do that, I do have his voice in my head lol. One episode is usually around 12,000 words. It then goes to another editor who edits the episode to be even more "casefileaa' before it finally goes to Casey|
|Have you been exposed to things in your investigations that have made you second-guess what you do? If so, what has made you keep going back?||i've definitely had days where I question everything, but to be honest, I don't really hang around the horrible really dark places much. I did delve into the child predator forums when I was writing The Darkest Web, but I don't make it a habit to go there. The psychonauts are much more friendly|
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|To continue with that- have you clicked images, links that make you a suspect in certain scenarios?||Oh absolutely. Sometimes I go to a "Fresh Onion" site, which is a site that crawls all the .onion addresses (dark web URLs end in .onion rather than .com, org etc) and alerts you to any new ones. Sometimes they don't have any description, so you take a big risk clicking on any of those. The most dangerous button on the dark web is the "Random Onion" button, so I avoid that.|
|I'm pretty careful about what I click, but the moment something looks questionable I nope the fuck right out of there|
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|Have you ever felt that you may be a suspect whether it be ok a drug site, a pedo site, etc. Have you ever been contacted by someone regarding your surfing habits?||Well my actual surfing habits are protected by Tor, which means they are hidden from prying eyes, so no I haven't been contacted about them. I am very open on the dark web about who I am and what I'm doing there - I use the name OzFreelancer on all of the markets and forums. I don't go to the sites that host child abuse images - you can't un-see that shit and I don't need it in my head.|
|As noted in another reply, I was contacted by Homeland Security on one of my visits to the US and taken for a "friendly" lunch.|
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|Psychonauts are more friendly than most people. Something about regular mind altering experiences makes you want to be less of a cunt.||Yeah, I call The Majestic Garden a little corner of sunshine and rainbows on the dark web :)|
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|More about The Majestic Garden please? What is grown there?||It's a place where people talk about and source psychedelics - most notably LSD, the 2C family, DMT and MDMA. Talk about and sourcing harder drugs is forbidden. In fact the admins snuck in an autocorrect so that any time someone wrote the word "cocaine" it would post as "a raging hardon" :D|
|Do you fear that seeing all this stuff might turn you emotionally blunt? I'm not watching any of this stuff on purpose (even the clearnet stuff), because I fear that the more you see of it, the more normal it gets, and ultimately, the more it will fuck you up. To quote the movie 8mm... "If you dance with the devil, the devil don't change. The devil changes you."||No, I can't even watch "3 Guys 1 Hammer" in its entirety, let alone look at the really dark materials on the dark web. When I was researching The Darkest Web, going into the predator forums did the opposite of making me blunt. It was the shortest section of the book but took the longest to write because it was so emotionally draining|
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|I have to ask, what is "3 Guys 1 Hammer"?||It's a video of two teenagers murdering an innocent man with a hammer that went viral on the gore sites of the regular internet. It's truly horrible.|
|The teens killed over 20 people. I wrote about them in my book Psycho.com (excuse the plug)|
|I heard somewhere that you foster dogs. Is that something you do to counter all the terrible humans you encounter in your research - everyone knows how dogs are better than people. How many dogs have you fostered and which one was your favourite?||After my dog died I knew I didn't want to have another dog as I wanted to travel more. So I thought fostering dogs would be the answer as you give them love for a few weeks and then they go to their forever home. My first foster, Roy, was a big fat failure and now he lives here and sleeps in our bed and is the most spoiled dog alive|
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|Did you then just decide to quit travelling? I don't know anything about Roy, but I already think I love him.||Nah, he has family he can stay with when I go away, but any major travelling has been thwarted by COVID for now anyway. I'm in a hard lockdown city.|
|And I'm sure Roy would love you too, u/suckmyhugedong|
|Given how much you know about the dark web, what kind of crazy awful nightmares have you had? This could be a really good one. Thank you||Probably the worst thing was delving into the forums where child predators gathered. I never looked at any videos or photos, but just seeing their discussions sickened me. The one thing that keeps coming back to me came out of the sentencing hearing that I attended of Lux, owner of Hurt2theCore, considered the most heinous website in history. In court they read out a conversation between him and an abuser who made videos of torture of the mute disabled child in his care. They were joking "at least she won't be able to tell anyone" . the abuser wasn't caught, at least by that stage|
|As an indie author, how have you sourced freelancers? Did you seek out those that have specific expertise or did you work with editors from your time as a traditionally published author?||I learned to do everything myself before I started outsourcing.|
|I work with a professional editor who happens to be a friend of mine from back when we did a writing course together. I've been doing my own covers, but now that I have some royalties coming in, I've engaged a professional cover artist from Reedsy to develop a brand and more professional-looking covers for me. It is the hardest thing to find people you really want to work with and who are in budget.|
|I still haven't got the hang of email lists, newsletters or a website - they are all in a total mess at the moment and I'd love to find someone who can do them, but again it is that problem of finding the right person who is within budget|
|is it true that most of the internet is in the "dark web"? if so about how much percent is it?||By far the biggest myth is that it 10x larger than the Internet. I mean, this should be common sense anyway, but it gets propagated by tabloid media all the time. It stems a lot from people using the terms "deep web" and "dark web" interchangably when they are different things.|
|The statement that 90% (or thereabouts) of the internet is hidden is true, and it is called the deep web (not the dark web). The 90% that is hidden is all those pages you won’t get to using google or any other search engines. There’s nothing scary about that – in fact it works in your favour.|
|The easiest example is your bank. The bank’s major page is available to anyone who searches the web (part of the 10%, also known as the “clearweb”). But once you log in, all those pages you can access that contain your personal details? Not searchable on google. Each one of those pages is part of the 90% of the deep web. Business and government intranets also make up part of the deep web. Honestly, it’s nothing to worry about.|
|The dark web – the hidden services available through Tor and other anonymising programs – makes up a tiny fraction of the deep web. A really, really tiny fraction. It is infinitely smaller than the clearweb.|
|Do you think human trafficking happens on the dark web? Last year (I think) there was a really bizarre story here in the UK about a model who was supposedly kidnapped to order, drugged and transported overseas by a group called "Black Death". The official story is that BD doesn't exist, and the kidnapper was a fantasist. Is it likely that humans are bought and sold into slavery over the dark web?||There are no slick websites with auctions for slaves on the dark web, but I have no doubt that human traffickers use dark web encryption to communicate.|
|(here comes the second plug for the thread) - I wrote about the kidnap of Chloe Ayling and the Black Death Group in Murder on the Dark Web|
|What ever happened to the plural of mongoose storyline? it seems like after he was arrested in the united states, his case just fizzled away. did you ever find out any more information about yuri after he cancelled the interview with a news program? what happened with peter scully's case? i read that there was a fire where a lot of evidence against him was held and it all went up in smoke. are there any character and/or personality storylines that you feel haven't been told or are still a complete mystery? eg. tony76||1. He is still in the MCC in NY and awaiting trial. It has taken a long time because he had terrabytes of information to go through and things would have slowed down due to covid. I understand he is running the Fouth Amendment argument that Ulbricht probably should have run in the first place|
|2. I last heard from Yura just a few weeks ago. He is still scamming. There are some more programs in the works about him|
|3. Yes there was a very convenient fire, but he still got sentenced to life and i hope he rots in hell|
|4. I am madly curious to know what is happening with the extradition of James Ellingson, aka “MarijuanaIsMyMuse”, aka "redandwhite", MAYBE aka Tony76. I would LOVE to know that full story!|
|the below is a reply to the above|
|Wow, this shit is a blast from the past. I used to love following the darknetmarket drama. Did you write about PoM and tony76 in one of your books? Ever since reddit shut down /darknetmarket I've been out of the loop.||Yes, I wrote about them in The Darkest Web|
|I was in touch with PoM/Mongoose when he went on a posting rampage on MyPlanetGanja, then visited him in Bangkok prison several times. Wrote all about it :)|
|This may have been answered by a previous post pertaining to native language barriers to specific sites on the dark web, but in your investigations, did you come across content/pages/forums from warzones? Middle East, Burma, Afghanistan, etc? If yes, what was the most memorable bit?||There are loads of sites in foreign languages, but it is too difficult for me (a one-language numpty) to attempt to translate through AI, and it is not worth hiring a translator when they could just turn out to be Cat Facts|
Over the past decade, cryptocurrency has become a breaker of old approaches in monetary policy, finance, economics, and e-commerce. The speed at which the crypto industry is growing today is very impressive. The global cryptocurrency market volume is predicted to reach $1,758 million by 2027 with a compound annual growth rate of 11.2%.submitted by Stealthex_io to StealthEX [link] [comments]
More and more people are getting faced with the digital currency so the questions on the future of cryptocurrencies are becoming especially relevant today. So what is the future of cryptocurrency? In this article, we’ll try to figure this out.
Predicting the crypto world’s future is impossible without knowing the current situation on the cryptocurrencies market.
What trends can we observe today?• Nowadays the crypto market is in its formation stage. We can see an increase in the number of areas where blockchain technology is getting involved. The COVID19 and panic that it caused in the markets are also accelerating cryptocurrency adoption.
• Any cryptocurrencies rate is rigidly tied to the situation in the crypto market.
• Bitcoin and Ethereum are the biggest influencers in the cryptocurrency market.
• Investors are paying attention to the crypto projects that are aimed to create platforms for launching decentralized applications (dApps).
• Significant growth of decentralized finance (DeFi).
• Decentralized Internet (Web 3.0) is actively increasing and creating the basis for the Internet of Things development.
The growth of digital currencies around the world allows making some predictions about the future of crypto market. Let’s look ahead to the future and try to forecast the prospective trends in the crypto world development.
Bitcoin’s reign will not endThe first thing that worries many crypto holders is “What will happen to Bitcoin”?
The ups and downs of Bitcoin’s rate, rumors about the next hard fork, legalization in some countries, and prohibition in others — all these kinds of news makes people guess what will come up with the most popular coin. Experts have different opinions from a complete drop in price to the status of the only currency in the world.
Most experts are leaning towards that Bitcoin will maintain its current positions and even strengthen them. For example, John McAfee, businessman and computer programmer, says:
“You can’t stop things like Bitcoin. It’s like trying to stop gunpowder.”
He also made a bet that if Bitcoin will not cost $500,000 by the end of December 2020 he will eat his own…well, you know.
James Altucher, American hedge-fund manager, author, podcaster and entrepreneur, is not sure that BTC price will reach 1 000 000 USD:
“Will it be a million dollars in 2020? Maybe. Will it be 2021? 2022? Who knows.”
He also predicted that:
“At least one country’s currency is likely to fail soon — likely Argentina or Venezuela. This will lead to mass adoption of Bitcoin among that populace. That will in turn lead to Bitcoin rising by more than $50,000 when it happens.”
And just a few days after this forecast, the Venezuelan President announced that they are planning to release national crypto called El Petro. Right now a lot of countries like China, Tunisia, Senegal, Sweden, Singapore, Uruguay, Thailand, Turkey, and Iran are also working on the creation of national cryptocurrency.
So what will happen to Bitcoin? No one knows. The only thing in which many experts agree is that Bitcoin will stay as a “gold standard” in the crypto world for a long time.
Cryptocurrencies will be mainstream“Cryptocurrencies is a fashionable investment and a sign of belonging to the special community” — this idea is actively promoted by various sports organizations, popular performers, public figures that release their own altcoins.
According to CoinMarketCap, there are already more than six thousand cryptocurrencies, and their total capitalization is $353 billion. A couple of years ago, the digital currency was almost unknown to anyone except geek developers and crypto enthusiasts. However, things are changing: prospects for businesses, rising prices, and strong community support will step by step make cryptocurrencies mainstream around the world.
Market volatility will not disappearCryptocurrencies are unstable by their nature, and their volatility is one of the reasons why someone becomes a millionaire and the others lose fortunes.
The strong volatility of crypto is caused by the fact that they are still at an early stage of development. Cryptocurrencies have huge growth potential if they can enter the mass market.
But every news about cryptocurrencies either hints at the possibility of markets going down or rising up. The volatility in the cryptocurrency markets will continue to be felt as the news affects the market, and it is only at the stage of rapid development.
The future of trading — decentralized exchangesIn the near future, we will see a prime of decentralized exchanges. Many believe that DEXes is not yet ready for mass adoption. But there are factors for a favorable development of events.
First of all, centralized exchanges don’t fit the purpose of cryptocurrencies cause the key advantage of digital coins is decentralization. In decentralized exchanges, transactions can be made directly between users (peer-to-peer) without the need for a trusted intermediary, which means there are no transaction fees for users.
On top of this, decentralized exchanges are much more secure against hackers as there no single point of failure like in centralized exchanges. Everyone knows the cases with Mt.Gox, Bitfinex, Coincheck when people lost millions and millions. The need for more security will lead users to decentralized exchanges.
The rise of crypto loans“Cryptocurrency is convenient to take on credit” — not long ago this idea seemed like a wild ride since the digital currency has high volatility. But today the popularity of lending in digital currencies is increasing and here are the main reasons:
• Low-interest rates.
• Increase in the number of traders and investors for whom receiving funds immediately in cryptocurrencies is convenient.
• A simplified system of requirements for borrowers, those who hadn’t been approved for bank loans could easily receive digital money.
Nowadays, the entire crypto loaning industry is estimated at $4.7 billion and the number of crypto loan platforms will continue growing.
Regulators gonna regulateIn the early days of cryptocurrencies history, traditional financial institutions sharply criticized crypto enthusiasts. The crypto market, however, has proven that it is sturdy against these kinds of attacks. Nowadays traditional institutions’ opinion regarding cryptocurrency is changing. In the future, stakeholders can have an increase in the flow of funds from Wall Street to cryptocurrencies.
There is no doubt that this will require more transparency and regulation in the crypto market. Today government and regulatory agencies around the world, including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Department of Homeland Security, and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (and this is only within the US borders) are giving more and more attention to cryptocurrencies. The regulation of the crypto in different states is realizing in diverse ways: in some countries, it is legally recognized as a means of payment, in others its use is prohibited.
The G20 summit participants, following the discussions on cryptocurrencies, came to the conclusion that a complete prohibition of crypto will not solve anything as nowadays the digital currency plays a significant role in the economy. And if the digital currency cannot be prohibited, it must be regulated:
“Technological innovations can deliver significant benefits to the financial system and the broader economy. While crypto-assets do not pose a threat to global financial stability at this point, we are closely monitoring developments and remain vigilant to existing and emerging risks.”
As we can see the world is changing very quickly. The speed with which cryptocurrencies are integrating into the global financial system is a clear indicator that traditional financial institutions can no longer have a monopoly on the management of financial flows.
The year 2020 is the start of a new decade for the cryptocurrency industry. The next ten years will bring us key changes in traditional finance when blockchain and cryptocurrencies will become a daily thing in most countries of the world.
What are your thoughts on the future of cryptocurrencies? Tell us your ideas in the comments below.
And remember if you need to exchange your coins StealthEX is here for you. We provide a selection of more than 250 coins and constantly updating the list so that our customers will find a suitable option. Our service does not require registration and allows you to remain anonymous. Why don’t you check it out? Just go to StealthEX and follow these easy steps:
✔ Choose the pair and the amount for your exchange. For example BTC to ETH.
✔ Press the “Start exchange” button.
✔ Provide the recipient address to which the coins will be transferred.
✔ Move your cryptocurrency for the exchange.
✔ Receive your coins.
Follow us on Medium, Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit to get StealthEX.io updates and the latest news about the crypto world. For all requests message us via [email protected].
The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision.
Original article was posted on https://stealthex.io/blog/2020/09/15/is-cryptocurrency-really-the-future/
submitted by AzureADA to cardano [link] [comments]
We as AzureADA SPO watch all the videos by Charles Hoskinson. These videos are not only great news on Cardano development and ecosystem, but very often a source of inspiration. The video with the name “Rough Days” streamed live on September 4, 2020 is really a historical speech, that’s why we decided to transcribe for everyone who prefers to read rather than to watch and listen.
The video you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qM192wAV4LA
And here is the text version.
Charles Hoskinson here live from warm sunny Colorado. Always warm, always sunny, sometimes Colorado. And I got my Massey Ferguson hat on. Take that off, see my hair's all messed up. One of these days and we'll lose all that hair.
It’s a rough day today and that markets are terrible. down 20 percent for most people. And every now and then I talk about price, I rarely do, but in general, let's talk about the macro.
Crypto is a unique phenomenon, it's a unique thing and these are crazy times. I remember just a few months back when coronavirus first came out and we saw basically everything just bottom out, everybody went crazy they went to cash all asset classes just went to hell in a handbasket. And I did a video and I said: «Guys, our best days are ahead of us as an ecosystem and as an industry. And what happened? Everything got better over time. People started getting more optimistic. You know, the reality is that we are seeing an old industry die right now, the legacy financial system.
I just read Biden's tax plan. He wants to treat capital gains as ordinary income and put another 12,5% on top of that. And at the end of the day, all these new taxes amount to a trillion or so extra dollars, I think, per year in income. Takes six years from the make back what they printed out of thin air for coronavirus and are willing to print again. Which begs the question why do we even pay taxes anymore if we can just print money out of thin air. And we have a whole movement of people, the AOC crowd, wake up every day and they say: «Modern monetary theory: the actual supply doesn't matter. All that matters is how much can we print and get away with it."
This is where we're at as an economy right now. And globally speaking, a lot of other nations agree with this. So given that the whole world, the leadership of the world is talking about negative interest rates, they’re talking about predatory financial systems hyperinflation, just print money modern monetary theory, just print as much cash as you want. And we look to the cryptocurrency industry and, God, we got a lot of problems.
I think this collapse is probably because one of the most prominent exchanges in South Korea got hit. They got shut down by the South Korean government. They, at one time, were responsible for a big part of the kimchi premium. And you know what? Korean government might shut down a few more Korean exchanges. And usually the market base these things in. We got crazy yield farming weird stuff going on in the DeFi space. All these other local events and their blips, they don't really matter that much. Just like corona in the long term won’t matter too much. In terms of the markets what matters is the trend and where are we going.
I had a meeting with some people this morning and we talked about revolutionizing the healthcare industry and getting things better in terms of supply chains. I had another meeting with a soon-to-be former Wyoming state representative about how we're going to get governments to adopt blockchain technology. I talk every day to governors, heads of states congressmen, senators, mayors, some cities, sometimes very large cities with millions of people. They all say the same thing: «We need help, we need solutions, we’re damn tired of the way that the old system is running». And you know what? If we don't solve it - a lot of people are going to get hurt or continue to be hurt. The common theme that we all have is - no one's happy.
Look at the black lives matters protests. Taking their philosophy of the organization aside
the ranking file people are there not because they love marxism they're there because they're unhappy with the way society is. And why shouldn't they be?
When my grandfather got his first job on my mom's side out of the Korean war, he was a lineman. And he made enough money from that job to have seven kids and have his wife stay at home. No college degree fresh out of high school, fresh out of marine demolitions and alignment five boys and two girls. And he could take care of that family and save money every month, have a car and a house and that was his standard of living. How many people in the middle-class today in the United States or Europe for that matter have the ability on a single person’s salary to raise seven children and have the wife or the husband stay at home?
How many people? Not many. Why? Because our monetary system has failed us. The inflationary policy has created a situation where the Jeff Bezos can have 200 billion dollars and make windfall profits every year regardless of how bad the economy is and the everyday people they don't get a pay increase, so a lot of cases they don't get keep their job and their money deteriorates in value a lot more than three 3% per year.
Our industry has principles in that we worship the math and the protocols and the stable monetary policy, these types of things. And as corrupt as some of the exchanges can be and some of the bad actors are: all movements suffer from these warts. And they're finite and temporary. You run out of them at some point. Self-regulation kicks in or standards kick in and these bad actors flush out. And what's left behind is a crucible that contains the truth of the matter, which is: we're going to win as an industry.
There's just no doubt in my mind. You have bad days in the market, you have damn good days in the market. You get addicted to the good ones and you hate the bad ones but at the end of the day, it's only going in one direction which is: crypto is going to eat the world.
Every voting system, every property registration system, every monetary system the next 25 to 50 years is going to be running on the tech we build and others build. And running with the principles of power to the edges. This is the great challenge of our time: to do it in a way that it's fair, transparent, open, and doesn't allow a government to co-opt it. It's gonna be a lot of fights here the least of our concerns and matters are a red day. And every now and then I like making these videos to remind people why I’m here and why you should be here too. As toxic as the trolls could be and these other people can be - none of them really matter. Markets don’t really matter. What matters are the principles and the purpose behind what we do. And you have to ask yourself: - Are you happy with the way that society is? Are you happy with the money in your pocket? Are you happy with the political leadership representing your nations? Are you happy with your future and do you honestly believe if we keep doing the things that we did and continue to do that the future is going to be better? Or do you think it's going to be worse or stagnant?
I think too many people have woken up and they realize that if we continue doing the things that we do, the future is going to be a bad place. And they don't want that to happen. And so we're voting with our wallets, we’re voting with our feet and we as a collective industry are waking up and figuring out how to build something better. And there's some good days and bad days along the way. Today's a bad one, but there are going to be good days tomorrow. Just like I told you back when corona made everything go into free fall. And I told you before. And I warned you about with ICO mania. We're in a DeFi bubble right now. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. I saw it in 2017 with ICO mania, I see it here. And there's probably going to be worse days ahead in that respect. But the trend is always the same and never forget that. And never forget that real people are actually adopting these systems and using them. And every day we see more and more and every day that movement grows.
What's so humbling is that I know a lot of you are here with me. It used to be pretty lonely space to be in a few years back. You know, the conferences, they didn't have many people. My first bitcoin meetup group in 2011 in Colorado is at the gypsy house cafe, I think I was 13th in Pearl over Capitol hill in Denver. And I registered for the event, I showed up. Two people registered: myself and another
guy. And the other guy didn't show up so I had coffee with myself. Compare that with the Shelley summit that we had in July of 2020: 10 000 attendees. Ten thousands from all across the world. Compare that to where we are at today just nine years later. Pretty amazing if you think about how fast things have grown and how many fertile beautiful ideas exist in this industry and what this industry is doing for the world as a whole. And that is why we're going to win. Because at the end of the day who can argue against freedom? Who can argue against liberty? Who can argue against putting people in control? The only way you can is when you believe people are stupid, people are evil, people are incapable. And I suppose that's a philosophical difference between those who currently lead and the people who want to replace them.
The people in charge right now of the world, the big banks, the Fortune 500 companies, the media, Hollywood, these things - they're very cynical people who believe in the worst in us. They look at everyday people with sustain and disgust and say: «These people if left to their own devices will be chaos. These people if left to govern themselves will burn everything to the ground and destroy everything.». And every single time I have ever seen a bad event happen, what the news doesn’t show you and what those people don't talk about is how we come together and help each other out. Someone gets injured in the streets more often than not people show up and help them. People need a helping hand someone always shows up more often than not. And this is no different.
I don't believe the political process is effective anymore in any modern democracy. They've all been co-opted, perhaps they always were. But what I do believe is that we can come together and change things economically, which is what we're doing. And it's messy. Building our own money is messy, building our own industry is messy. We make a lot of mistakes along the way, we lose a lot along the way. We collect some scars too while we're at it. But progress every year keeps being made. The technology every year keeps getting better.
Today, right here, right now provably secure proof of stake protocols are in circulation. They were a fantasy five years ago, now they're a fact of life.
Today, right here, right now snarks have evolved by an order of magnitude in every category from validation time to efficiency to proof size. In all favorable ways which opens up all kinds of new applications and scalability and privacy.
Today, right here, right now layer 2 protocols are more advanced than they have ever been in our industry's history. giving us the ability to build payment systems that scale to billions of people.
Today, right here, right now we are seeing massive innovations in governance and a fertile environment for things like approval voting, threshold voting, preference voting, quadratic voting that will enable us to build all kinds of new treasuries and governance systems that eventually will scale to nation-states.
As the politicians of today argue whether the post office can properly count paper ballots that people mail, we are building voting systems with state-of-the-art cryptography living on phones where you can vote with just a tap of a button and enjoy more security than we have ever imagined before.
That is the future. This movement is enabling humanity. Money flowing at the speed of thought and the speed of thought making new money.
How can you compete with that? You can’t, unless you bring people down with cynicism and disdain. And ultimately what competing vision do they offer? That you all should be in chains.
That we should just be wage slaves. We should just accept that every year our money deteriorates in value. That we should just accept that the rich will get richer the poor get poorer. And every now and then they throw us table scraps. And when we get real angry - they usurp the movements and then install their own leadership to basically take those movements from us. As we've seen so many times before and we will see it again.
I'm sorry that's not a road I want to walk down. And I'm willing to ride rocky waters, crazy markets crazy people in unlimited flood and trolling. But I will never apologize for believing in the best in people. And I will never apologize for believing that if only we give everyone around us the tools to save themselves and society that they can do it. They don't need great leaders and charisma. No one needs someone to tell them what to do. We all know what to do. We all know how to make the world a better place. We just have to be trusted enough to do it ourselves.
You know what? For the first time ever we did with Bitcoin. And then we did it again with Ethereum. And now we're doing it again with Cardano. And we, as a movement, will continue to do it.
So I believe our best days are ahead of us and every day I wake up and there's more people marching with me in that respect. And one day it'll be millions. And one day it'll be billions. And one day all those cynics will be gone. Replaced with optimists who once again believe that tomorrow is going to be better than today. and that we're going to leave the world just a little bit better than the way we found it.
So every now and then on a tough day I like making a little message and letting you guys all know it's going to be better and you know what it will be. Just have to have faith that it will be. So hold the line, hold strong, and have faith in each other and go do something. Build something. Start something. Got a lot of podcasts on the way. A lot of things coming down the pipe for the DC fund. A lot of opportunities to actually innovate. Multi-assets are coming soon. Plutus is coming soon. Guys are going to be able to build a lot.
Start thinking today what's the business plan. What would you like to change? Small or large. You don't complain about voting - change voting! Your own organization. Maybe you belong to a club - do a blockchain-based voting system. Maybe you have some political influence. Have a primary democrat or republican or your local primary in your country for selecting candidates done with blockchain-based voting. Maybe you want to build a new financial product. Think about it! Figure it out! There's so much there! It’s all there! It's ready to go, it's for you to take and build and innovate with.
Every day I wake up I try to make the platforms better. I try to push the technology a little further along. I try to hire great people and bring them into our industry. Cardano brought the Haskell industry into the cryptocurrency space. Cardano brought a lot of academics, who had never thought about cryptocurrencies, into the cryptocurrency space and we made our problems their problems and as a consequence, they started solving them in ways we could have never done before.
But most importantly Cardano brought a lot of YOU into the cryptocurrency space and you never thought you'd have this level of control and freedom over the fabric of society in the direction of the human race. Don't let that slip through your fingers. Figure out what you want to do with that superpower. Might be small, might be big. I dreamed big. You can dream big too. Even if you want to just dream small: every person counts every action counts. Up to the hill. Y'all matter. To me and to each other and we're all in this together. Never forget that. So, hard day, rough day. Tomorrow will be a better one. The day after will even be better.
See you guys soon
These crypto lending & borrowing services found early traction. Are they capable of bundling more financial services and winning the broader consumer finance market?submitted by mickhagen to genesisblockhq [link] [comments]
This is the third part of Crypto Banking Wars — a new series that examines what crypto-native company is most likely to become the bank of the future. Who is best positioned to reach mainstream adoption in consumer finance?
While crypto allows the world to get rid of banks, a bank will still very much be necessary for this very powerful technology to reach the masses. As we laid out in our previous series, Crypto-Powered, we believe a crypto-native company will ultimately become the bank of the future. We’re confident Genesis Block will have a seat at that table, but we aren’t the only game in town.
In the first post of this series, we did an analysis of big crypto exchanges like Coinbase & Binance. In our second episode, we looked at the world of non-custodial wallets.
Today we’re analyzing crypto lending & borrowing services. The Earn and Borrow use-case covers a lot of what traditional banks deliver today. This category of companies is a threat worth analyzing. As we look at this market, we’ll mostly be focused on custodial, centralized products like BlockFi, Nexo, and Celsius.
Many of these companies found early traction among crypto users. Are they capable of bundling more financial services and winning the broader consumer finance market? Let’s find out.
Institutional BorrowersBecause speculation and trading remains one of the most popular use-cases of crypto, a new crypto sub-industry around credit has emerged. Much of the borrowing demand has been driven by institutional needs.
For example, a Bitcoin mining company might need to borrow fiat to pay for operational costs (salaries, electricity). Or a crypto company might need to borrow USD to pay for engineering salaries. Or a crypto hedge fund needs to borrow for leverage or to take a specific market position. While all of these companies have sufficient crypto to cover the costs, they might not want to sell it — either for tax or speculative reasons (they may believe these crypto assets will appreciate, as with most in the industry).
Instead of selling their crypto, these companies can use their crypto as collateral for loans. For example, they can provide $1.5M in Bitcoin as collateral, and borrow $1M. Given the collateralization happening, the underwriting process becomes straightforward. Companies all around the world can participate — language and cultural barriers are removed.
The leader (and one of our partners) in this space is Genesis Capital. While they are always the counterparty for both lenders and borrowers, they are effectively a broker. They are at the center of the institutional crypto lending & borrowing markets. Their total active loans as of March 2020 was $649M. That number shot up to $1.42B in active loans as of June 2020. The growth of this entire market segment is impressive and it’s what is driving this opportunity for consumers downstream.
Consumer ProductsWhile most of the borrowing demand comes from institutional players, there is a growing desire from consumers to participate on the lend/supply side of the market. Crypto consumers would love to be able to deposit their assets with a service and watch it grow. Why let crypto assets sit on an exchange or in cold storage when it can be earning interest?
A number of consumer-facing products have emerged in the last few years to make this happen. While they also allow users to borrow (always with collateral), most of the consumer attraction is around growing their crypto, even while they sleep. Earning interest. These products usually partner with institutional players like Genesis Capital to match the deposits with borrowing demand. And it’s exactly part of our strategy as well, beyond leveraging DeFi (decentralized finance protocols).
A few of the most popular consumer services in this category include BlockFi, Nexo, and Celsius.
BlockFiBlockFi (Crunchbase) is the leader in this category (at least in the West). They are well-capitalized. In August 2019, they raised $18.3M in their Series A. In Feb 2020, they raised $30M in their Series B. In that same time period, they went from $250M in assets under management to $650M. In a recent blog post, they announced that they saw a 100% revenue increase in Q2 and that they were on track to do $50M in revenue this year. Their growth is impressive.
BlockFi did not do an ICO, unlike Celsius, Nexo, Salt, and Cred. BlockFi has a lot of institutional backing so it is perceived as the most reputable in the space. BlockFi started with borrowing — allowing users to leverage their crypto as collateral and taking out a loan against it. They later got into Earning — allowing users to deposit assets and earn interest on it. They recently expanded their service to “exchange” functionality and say they are coming out with a credit card later this year.
It’s incredible that BlockFi has been able to see such strong growth despite their numerous product and security woes. A few months ago, their systems were compromised. A hacker was able to access confidential data, such as names, dates of birth, postal addresses, and activity histories. While no funds were lost, this was a massive embarrassment and caused reputational damage.
Unrelated to that massive security breach and earlier in the year, a user discovered a major bug that allowed him to send the same funds to himself over and over again, ultimately accumulating more than a million dollars in his BlockFi account. BlockFi fortunately caught him just before withdrawal.
Poor Product Execution
Beyond their poor security — which they are now trying to get serious about — their products are notoriously buggy and hard-to-use. I borrowed from them a year ago and used their interest account product until very recently. I have first-hand experience of how painful it is. But don’t take my word for it… here are just a few tweets from customers just recently.
For a while, their interest-earning product had a completely different authentication system than their loan product (users had two sets of usernames/passwords). Many people have had issues with withdrawals. The app is constantly logging people out, blank screens, ugly error messages. Emails with verification codes are sometimes delayed by hours (or days). I do wonder if their entire app has been outsourced. The sloppiness shines through.
Not only is their product buggy and UX confusing, but their branding & design is quite weak. To the left is a t-shirt they once sent me. It looks like they just found a bunch of quirky fonts, added their name, and slapped it on a t-shirt.
To the innocent bystander, many of these issues seem totally fixable. They could hire an amazing design agency to completely revamp their product or brand. They could hire a mercenary group of engineers to fix their bugs, etc. While it could stop the bleeding for a time, it may not solve the underlying issues. Years of sloppy product execution represents something much more destructive. It represents a top-down mentality that shipping anything other than excellence is okay: product experience doesn’t matter; design doesn’t matter; craftsmanship doesn’t matter; strong execution doesn’t matter; precision doesn’t matter. That’s very different from our culture at Genesis Block.
This cancerous mentality rarely stays contained within product & engineering — this leaks to all parts of the organization. No design agency or consulting firm will fix some of the pernicious values of a company’s soul. These are deeper issues that only leadership can course-correct.
If BlockFi’s sloppiness were due to constant experimentation, iteration, shipping, or some “move fast and break things” hacker culture… like Binance… I would probably cut them more slack. But there is zero evidence of that. “Move fast and break things” is always scary when dealing with financial products. But in BlockFi’s case, when it’s more like “move slow and break things,” they are really playing with fire. Next time a massive security breach occurs, like what happened earlier this year, they may not be so lucky.
Based on who is on their team, their poor product execution shouldn’t be a surprise. Their team comes mostly from Wall Street, not the blockchain community (where our roots are). Most of BlockFi’s blockchain/crypto integration is very superficial. They take crypto assets as deposits, but they aren’t leveraging any of the exciting, low-level DeFi protocols like we are.
While their Wall Street heritage isn’t doing them any favors on the product/tech side, it’s served them very well on winning institutional clients. This is perhaps their greatest strength. BlockFi has a strong institutional business. They recently brought on Three Arrows Capital as a strategic investor — a crypto hedge fund who does a lot of borrowing. In that announcement, BlockFi’s founder said that bringing them on “aligns well with our focus on international expansion of our institutional services offering.” They also recently brought someone on who will lead business development in Asia among institutional clients.
BlockFi Wrap Up
There are certainly BlockFi features that overlap with Genesis Block’s offering. It’s possible that they are angling to become the bank of the future. However, they simply have not proven they are capable of designing, building, and launching world-class consumer products. They’ve constantly had issues around security and poor product execution. Their company account and their founder’s account seem to only tweet about Bitcoin. I don’t think they understand, appreciate, or value the power of DeFi. It’s unlikely they’ll be leveraging it any time soon. All of these reasons are why I don’t see them as a serious threat to Genesis Block.
However, because of their strong institutional offering, I hope that Genesis Block will ultimately have a very collaborative and productive partnership with them. Assuming they figure out their security woes, we could park some of our funds with BlockFi (just as we will with Genesis Capital and others). I think what’s likely to happen is that we’ll corner the consumer market and we’ll work closely with BlockFi on the institutional side.
I’ve been hard on BlockFi because I care. I think they have a great opportunity at helping elevate the entire industry in a positive way. But they have a lot of issues they need to work through. I really don’t want to see users lose millions of dollars in a security breach. It could set back the entire industry. But if they do things well… a rising tide lifts all boats.
Honorable MentionsCelsius (ICO Drops) raised $50M in an ICO, and is led by serial entrepreneur Alex Mashinsky. I’ve met him, he’s a nice guy. Similar to Binance, their biggest Achilles heel could be their own token. There are also a lot of unanswered questions about where their deposits go. They don’t have a record of great transparency. They recently did a public crowdraise which is a little odd given their large ICO as well as their supposed $1B in deposits. Are they running out of money, as some suggest? Unclear. One of their biggest blindspots right now is that Mashinsky does not understand the power of DeFi. He is frequently openly criticizing it.
Nexo (ICO Drops) is another similar service. They are European-based, trying to launch their own card (though they’ve been saying this forever and they still haven’t shipped it), and have a history in the payments/fintech space. Because they haven’t penetrated the US — which is a much harder regulatory nut to crack — they are unlikely to be as competitive as BlockFi. There were also allegations that Nexo was spreading FUD about Chainlink while simultaneously partnering with them. Did Nexo take out a short position and start spreading rumors? Never a dull moment in crypto.
Other players in the lending & borrowing space include Unchained Capital, Cred (ICO Drops), and Salt (ICO Drops).
Wrap UpWhile many companies in this category seem to be slowly adding more financial services, I don’t believe any of them are focused on the broader consumer market like we are. To use services like BlockFi, Nexo, or Celsius, users need to be onboarded and educated on how crypto works. At Genesis Block, we don’t believe that’s the winning approach. We think blockchain complexity should be abstracted away from the end-user. We did an entire series about this, Spreading Crypto.
For many of these services, there is additional friction due to ICO tokens that are forcefully integrated into the product (see NEXO token or CEL Token). None of these services have true banking functionality or integration with traditional finance —for example, easy offramp or spending methods like debit cards. None of them are taking DeFi seriously — they are leveraging crypto for only the asset class, not the underlying technology around financial protocols.
So are these companies potential competitors to Genesis Block? For the crypto crowd, yes. For the mass market, no. None of these companies are capable of reaching the billions of people around the world that we hope to reach at Genesis Block.
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