Politics and bitcoin have a lot in common: both face massive skepticism from the general public.
But one politician who hopes to land his name on the 2016 presidential ticket is hoping to sway voters and public opinion on digital currency the other way. He's been on his soapbox in the past week lauding the benefits of utilizing bitcoin and the technology it harnesses as an alternative way to send and receive money and buy/sell goods.
That politician is Rand Paul — the Republican presidential candidate and Kentucky senator with a libertarian flair — who recently gave a speech on bitcoin policy, technology and financial innovation. It was announced in our Bitcoin tracker earlier in the month that Paul was accepting contributions in bitcoins — but only in amounts up to $100.
While it's obvious Paul is trying to attract libertarian and tech-savvy voters who have taken a liking to bitcoin, critics of the move wonder if it's going to allow for illegal campaign contributions that can't be tracked. Despite those concerns, Paul is trying to convince the naysayers that bitcoin isn't the evil, illegal drug-laced digital currency that's it's been classified as by many.
While Paul admits he's no bitcoin tycoon, could his push to get bitcoin donations on the campaign trail help bring bitcoin into the mainstream for political donations? Or could it be a distraction in the very busy political season where voters are a bit distracted by focusing on issues about what form of currency they're donating in? Rand hopes for the first case.
"I'm not an expert on bitcoin, but I'm open to new technology," Paul said to a group at the Union League Club in New York earlier this week, according to American Banker. "To me it's intriguing to actually eliminate cost somehow in the transfer of money and buying things."
Paul spoke at an event hosted by the Bitcoin Center NYC and the startup Blockchain Technologies Corp., and he continued on his trail of being the first presidential candidate to accept bitcoin. This event, however, wasn't a public event as it was promoted via bitcoin communities and social media.
In the American Banker article, the report relayed that Paul shared his interest in bitcoin, particularly as it relates to the blockchain technology — the public ledger that records a bitcoin transaction over the exchange network. He said he learned about Marc Andreessen's (Netscape co-founder and Silicon Valley venture capitalist) support for the blockchain and digital currency. Andreessen, as well as other blockchain proponents, have spoken about using the blockchain as an alternative way for payments to be transferred.
"I'm open to innovation, I'm open to ideas, and I think if we had so many naysayers 25 years ago saying we should regulate the Internet or have the government regulate the Internet we'd have never gotten to where we are now," Paul said at the event, highlighting that he is against regulating bitcoin.
Paul, a staunch critic against the NSA and government intrusion in citizens' lives, also seized the opportunity at the event to speak about protecting civil liberties. This seems to align with his attempt to appeal to the bitcoin community — many of whom come with a libertarian background and believe in less government regulation.
Bitcoin Tracker | Week 70
First, bitcoin made some more headway on the campaign trail as Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul showed some more support for the digital currency and said he's in support of it — but not regulating it. And then in another odd bitcoin week, a robot got arrested for buying illegal goods online. But on the plus side, bitcoin is being used in South Africa to pay for utility bills.
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On the Plus Side …
Bitcoin is getting support on the social media side — at least in Latin America. It was announced this week that Taringa!, a Latin American social network with 75 million users, is going to pay its content-providing members in bitcoin. The social media sites uses a ranking system, similar to Google, to make the most popular content stream to the top. Now, with the help of Palo Alto, California-based bitcoin wallet, Xapo, the social media site will pay back those content providers using the digital currency.
- April 21, 2015: A P2P bitcoin brokerage was launched by Australia-based Digital World Ventures bitcoin exchange.
- April 22, 2015: A new bitcoin exchange has launched in Europe. The exchange, Coinmate.io, offers trading in bitcoin, USD, and allows users to withdraw in Euros, Czech Koruna, and the Polish Zloty.
- April 22, 2015: Robocoin, which has 20 bitcoin ATMs across the world, has found a way with its new product, Romit, as a way to sent money overseas via a Robocoin ATM.
- April 23, 2015: The MIT Digital Currency Initiative that recently opened has gained bitcoin developers Gavin Andresen, Cory Fields and Wladimir van der Laan under its staff. It appears MIT is going to be the U.S. hub for bitcoin.
- April 23, 2015: Bitcoin is getting more support in Europe. The European Securities and Market Authority is seeking advice on the blockchain and how it can be regulated to implement the blockchain into the mainstream finance market.
- April 23, 2015: Mobile money schemes are gaining popularity in Sub Saharan Africa, but new reports indicate that research is being done into bitcoin as a technology that could be an alternative to mobile money.
- April 23, 2015: OKCoin, China's largest bitcoin exchange, launched a new wallet that merges multiple currencies into one digital wallet.
- April 23, 2015: Bankymoon, the South African Bitcoin startup, said it has built the world's first smart metering system for power grids that relies on the blockchain and bitcoin for payments.
On the Dark Side …
Bitcoin has gone to the robots. An "automated online shopping bot," as it's been referenced, was caught spending $100 in bitcoin on things like Ecstasy, a passport and other illegal goods. The robot shopped online on Agora, an online marketplace on the Dark Web. The items were then delivered to a Swiss art group who is allegedly behind the plot.
The robot, who is being called the "Random Darknet Shopper" has bought everything from counterfeit goods to a hat with a hidden camera. On the plus side, the robot has been released from jail.
- April 21, 2015: Bitcoin got another run-in with the law. This time with a New Jersey police officer who was arrested for allegedly selling stolen bitcoin mining equipment.
- April 21, 2015: The bitcoin community is trying to get the bitcoin name disassociated with criminals, but that's hard to do when names like the "Bitcoin Baron" keep showing up in headlines. Now, the "Baron," formally known as Randall Charles Tucker, is getting interviewed by the press.
- April 22, 2015: A new report by WizSec, the Japanese group that's been investigating where Mt. Gox went wrong, says that the exchange leaked bitcoin long before the 2013 collapse of the company.
- April 22, 2015: Bitcoin tycoon Gavin Andresen, said that the "gray areas" of the "dark deals" were what helped bitcoin place its stake into the $3 billion market it has grown into. Without its role in sites like the Silk Road, he said it may have taken bitcoin longer to enter the mainstream market.
- April 23, 2015: The Mt. Gox bitcoin traders still don't have the the answers they'd like about what happened to those bitcoins, but now San Francisco-based Bitcoin exchange Kraken said it has agreed to help the Mt. Gox users by allowing them to trade bitcoin for free. Finally, those users can start filing for the bitcoins they lost.