The "Political Leviathans" of Web3
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Political DAOs Are Next
Over the weekend, a Twitter account called @whynotliamyt tweeted an outrageously bad series of tweets about using NFT trading to raise money to fly women to Canada to get abortions. I can’t tell exactly how seriously to take this because the account is now private and it lists its location as “China” and its bio reads, “7 Figure Coal Mining Business By Age 17, Deforestation Enthusiast, Ozone Layer Destroyer”. They do appear to actually own NFTs, though, based on their hexagonal profile picture. Whether it was bait or not, it’s still making the rounds as a screenshot. It’s also not that far off from what other parts of the Web3 world are tweeting about right now.
In May, a pro-choice DAO called ChoiceDAO launched what it describes as “a driven community to fight the obstruction of our liberty.” And it has some big names attached to it, including Reshma Saujani, the CEO of Girls Who Code. ChoiceDAO wants to raise $1 million and then break that up into $250,000 allocations that will be given to “to the most impactful organizations nationwide that support reproductive access” according to town hall voting organized on Discord.
And in a Twitter thread last week, @rafa0, a member of the team behind Mirror, a popular blockchain-enabled blogging platform, listed a bunch of things they believed were coming in the “next cycle,” and included something they called “DAOs 2.0 (political leviathans)”. This is classic Web3 talk — vague, yet hyperbolic, and sort of sounds like something someone would come up with if they had only read Wikipedia summaries of Neuromancer. In fact, further down the thread, @rafa0 cuts through their own hyped up trendcasting, writing, “political leviathans just means Web3 PACs etc.”
A Web3 PAC, or political action committee, is an objectively terrifying, and, yet, a totally logical next step for where this is all going. Unlike a coherent corporation or crowdfunding campaign, using a Web3 community to buy political influence feels like a much easier goal to achieve. And there’s evidence that this idea of a crypto-powered PAC isn’t just a lofty bit of daydreaming from Web3 evangelists, but that it’s already happening.
Bloomberg reports that the crypto industry as a whole donated almost $30 million to political causes across 2021 and the first quarter of 2022 — more than big pharma and big tech combined. Sam Bankman-Fried, the billionaire behind the crypto exchange FTX has donated almost $20 million to Democrats ahead of this year’s primaries. And a platform for political crowdfunding via crypto called Engage Raise is supposed to launch next month. Open Secrets is reporting there’s more crypto-sourced donation money on the horizon.
Which means it’s not so much a question of if, but when. And though Bankman-Fried is interested in boostering Democrats and ChoiceDAO has aligned itself with progressive activism, I assume, based on the behavior we’ve already seen from the world of NFT collectors and Ethereum devs, political DAOs will not be particularly progressive entities. Obligatory reminder: Alex Jones has a “Bitcoin fairy,” who has given him almost $10 million amid mounting legal costs. I mean, one of the most infamous DAOs, Crypto Land, a project aimed at funding a private island nation for cryptocurrency evangelists, imploded after users couldn’t agree on whether or not their libertarian island paradise should have age of consent laws… Which is pretty indicative of what DAOs have amounted to so far.
But I’ve still kept my eye on the DAO phenomenon since it first popped up on my radar last year. And I don’t think we’ve really scratched the surface of what a DAO can do. Imagine a fund or corporation that can be spun together in a matter of hours. Though, hilariously, so far, most DAO projects have fizzled, usually due to a lack of community moderation, which, as anyone who has ever spent any time online can tell you, is always the hardest part of, well, being online.
Instead of anything revolutionary, there are, instead, lots of little DAOs floating around the web right now that are basically just glorified crowdfunding projects with Discord servers. But the clown car nature of a lot of these projects is a really convenient mask to distract from the fact that they’re still throwing stuff at the wall, trying to figure out what they can actually accomplish. DAO PACs, if successful, could fundamentally rewrite our understanding of digital cultural influence. DAOs have the ability to return cultural power back to a select few. Only this time, they’ll be hiding out in some weird Discord or Telegram channel. So I guess it’s lucky for us that majority of these communities that pop up are still run by morons who are more interested in robbing each other blind than successfully accomplishing whatever their original goal was. But it’s probably time to start preparing for a future where one of these projects really works.
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Data Protection Following The Repeal Of Roe v. Wade
I wanted to highlight a few things off the back of last week’s horrifying repeal of abortion protection in the United States. There’s a lot of confusing and conflicting Twitter chatter about how data surveillance will factor in to prosecuting abortions going forward.
First, as NBC News reporter Kevin Collier pointed out, insecure period tracking apps are, obviously, an issue, but messaging data is probably a bigger priority right now.
“Think of the threat model. Data from a period-tracking app at best can show that a person likely became pregnant and then no longer was. But miscarriages aren't illegal. Prosecutors would want evidence that someone wanted to and did willingly terminate a pregnancy,” Collier tweeted. (Also, you should follow Collier in general, his feed is a great resource for cybersecurity and infosec news.)
If you are worried about period trackers, however, according to VICE, Stardust, the most-downloaded period tracker on the Apple App Store hands over user data without a warrant. Stardust’s big gimmick is that it combines astrology with a menstruation tracker, but, apparently, it does not encrypt or anonymize your data.
And, finally, related to all of this. Jared Holt, a resident fellow with The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab has a great piece picking apart the newest right-wing moral panic, dubbed “Jane’s Revenge,” which is claiming there is a pro-abortion night of rage coming. “Right-wing influencers, media, and politicians have exaggerated and generalized the risk that Jane’s Revenge threatens against its perceived opponents, choosing to paint with the same broad brush it used in its goal of discrediting racial justice demonstrations in the summer of 2020,” Holt wrote.
The Biggest Bitcoin Whale Is Even Bigger Now
Per The Daily Hodl, the world’s biggest Bitcoin whale currently owns $2.7 billion in Bitcoin. This whale is not an exchange, either. Hilariously, though, as a user remarked on r/CryptoCurrency, the whale is now “in so deep they can’t leave or they crash their own investment.”
You might be asking why Bitcoin whales of this size exist. There are probably lots of rich people or large institutions who are true believers in Bitcoin, but, according to what I learned at Bitcoin 2022 in Miami earlier this year, the real reason these Bitcoin hoarders are so ferocious about gobbling up Bitcoin during big dips like the one that’s happening right now is because they envision a future where they lend out fractions of Bitcoin (Satoshis, or Sats) and live off the interest, like feudal lords. It’s not uncommon for Bitcoin maximalists to salivate about “generational wealth” when talking about buying up huge amounts of the virtual currency.
A TikTok With Powerful Vine Energy
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Turn the sound on for this.
Q Is Back
Q, the pseudonymous ringleader of the QAnon conspiracy movement, is back posting on 8kun, which is what 8chan is called now. If you missed it, it’s pretty much accepted at this point that Q was Ron Watkins, Jim Watkins, and a South African tech journalist named Paul Furber and that Q stopped updating after the Watkins duo had a falling out.
8chan’s original founder and now staunch anti-QAnon activist Fredrick Brennan believes that the new round of posts coming from Q are likely from Ron. Which is important because Ron is currently running for a congressional seat in Arizona. He’s also not doing very well. So if all of a sudden Q starts asking its followers to support Ron’s congressional run, well, you know why.
This Tumblr Subtitles Douyin Videos
I genuinely think one of the biggest problems with the discussion of TikTok and its social and cultural impact in the US is how little we understand about what TikTok’s sister app, Douyin, is like in China. Part of the issue is that Douyin is hard to access in America (you’d need a VPN and the ability to read Mandarin). But, also, video content is just much more complicated to translate than, say, text or even image macros.
So I’m super excited to have found the Tumblr blog rongzhi. The blogger goes by Wawa and he’s based in the US, but he also creates these amazing subtitled Douyin edits. They’re a fantastic snapshot into an online ecosystem that Americans rarely get a glimpse of.
A Nice TikTok About Death Metal
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I’ll confess I find the whole genre of man-on-the-street TikTok content incredibly cringe, but I thought this one was really fun.
Some Stray Links
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