Journalist Ilya Klishin shares his opinion on why large media companies are actually banning cryptocurrency ads.
A few days ago Google's parent company Alphabet (FWB: ABEC) announced the decision to ban all cryptocurrency-related advertising from June. The reason behind this is pretty straightforward, at least as they put it: the company feels obliged to protect ordinary people from "new types of high-risk financial products."
Interestingly enough, the raison d'etre is an almost word-by-word paraphrase of the explanation proposed by Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) in late January, when the social media giant announced it will no longer allow advertising of what it called “financial products and services frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices," including binary options and ICOs. Facebook product management director Rob Leathern explained the decision in a blog post, claiming the company believes that ads should be first of all safe and therefore “misleading and deceptive ads have no place on Facebook.”
Basically, it’s the very same excuse that oppressive rulers and their whatchdogs have been using from time immemorial,curbing freedoms allegedly for people’s own good or safety.
If the year 2017 was the year of unexpected cryptocurrency boom, the year 2018 still seems to be a year of reaction. Governments and corporations are getting their act together, — and the act in question is control and enforcement measures.
Almost at the same time when Alphabet declared it has to regulate cryptocurrency-related content, Christine Lagarde, the managing director for the International Monetary Fund, suggested that governments could gain control over cryptocurrencies using the underlying technology itself.
"Regulatory and supervisory technology can help shut criminals out of the crypto world," she concluded in a recent blog post. And this opinion seems to be mainstream for all G20 governments ,i.e. the people controlling the largest economies of the world.
Here and there regulators make more and more bold moves to tighten control over cryptocurrency markets. The year began with rumors of People's Bank of China planning to ban mining—which many thought was true despite the fact the country accounts for up to 80% of all mining farms in the world.
In a short while, the U.S. imposed taxes and regulations on cryptocurrency trading, while France toughened controls on digital exchanges. And last but not least, Indian government established a commission which spent a year studying cryptocurrencies and came to the conclusion that they should be banned because it’s nearly impossible to track all transactions in a distributed network without a single regulating body for cryptocurrencies.
But governments and corporations are trying not only to keep the cryptocurrency wave at bay, but also to ride it for their own good. And while we may find the frantic effort of Venezuelan regime to save its neck by issuing the Petro token ridicule, Russia's plans for the so-called “Cryptoruble” seem to receive much more interest, not to mention rumors of a planned state-issued cryptocurrency in China.
Now let’s take into consideration the fact that large multinational corporations are less and less seen as affiliated with any particular countries, and the notion of them having the capacity to become independent actors on the world stage became pretty trivial over past few decades. No wonder large corporations, too, nurture the thought of a big nice slice of the pie.
Think of Kodak, having announced an ICO in January (later the company postponed the token sale to reach more potential investors), or of the long-rumored ICO of Telegram messenger. Or, if you prefer more dystopian scenarios, let me address you to an internal research by Google that has shown that even slightly biased rankings in search results can affect the outcome of elections in 40 percent of countries on the planet. It is unlikely that even the notorious "Russian hackers" can boast of such a scale.
So it's not without reason that some see global corporations as oppressive hierarchical structures, aimed at making profit by any means. Does anyone really expect Facebook to answer calls to abolish censorship? Or can you imagine its board voting to appoint a new CEO? No, the company's algorithms are proprietary, and Zuckerberg is immutable. As he decides, so it will be. This is not something from democracy era, but rather from Stalin's USSR.
Just two weeks before it became known that Facebook is going to ban all advertisement of the cryptocurrency and the ICO, Mark Zuckerberg said that he was fascinated by the idea of implementing blockchain in social media and would spend the year 2018 learning how it could help people.
Apparently, the ban on advertising ICO was his first idea, but most likely not the last. Rumor has it that Facebook plans to launch its own cryptocurrency. Moreover, there are similar rumors about Google. And yet again, it's not without reason, given the fact that for several years by now Alphabet has been pumping tons of cash in the British startup CurrencyCloud, which develops... you guessed it!... a peer-to-peer transaction platform based on blockchain.
OK, maybe the possible outcome is more or less clear in case of Google: someday the company will announce a new service named Google Money or something, allowing to transfer money seamlessly via Gmail. But it’s much more obscure with Facebook. What kind of currency the company could possibly benefit most of? Let’s skip obvious answers like sending money through Messenger and try to go deeper.
Imagine a cryptocurrency based on a Facebook reactions. What is Bitcoin (Bitcoin), at the end of the day? A mere string of letters and numbers, just an electronic signal in a beautiful package — just as a like. Suppose every time you get a like, you are awarded with a fraction of this currency, and you can reward others with it when appreciating their content. Liking instead of mining, how do you like that?
Depending on your views, it may sound like an utopia or an anti-utopia, but futurists a pretty much sure social scoring is our imminent future, and we already can see it affecting the economy. If you get a free coffee for checking in at a coffee house it means that it’s not actually free; the thing is, your check-in costs as much as a cup of coffee. In all social media likes, reposts and retweets are seen as having a market value and are sold for real, tangible dollars, rubles and euros. Want a 1000 likes for your video? No problem, just pay.
Yes, today it still remains somewhat a gray area, especially in politics and show business, and it just makes its first baby steps on consumer markets, but at the end everything is ready for the Like Economy. Facebook has more than a billion users around the world, tapping hundreds billions of likes daily. If Mark Zuckerberg, making great strides in studying blockchain, will come up with an idea to turn them into voluntary miners, something very interesting will begin.
The author's opinion may not coincide with the editorial position.