👍 Gatekeepers

Crypto crash (lmao) | Details on the upcoming Digital Services Act | I hope El Salvador are okay

👍 Gatekeepers

Hello — this week has been rated by me as good! Finally 👍. There has been a huge crypto crash. I was almost tempted to rate this week as terrific for the first time ever but then I remembered that there are people out there other than the unapologetically rich who have lost their money this week.

  • The crypto community has managed to recreate the 2008 financial crash within their own little bubble — well done them!
  • I’m also going to chat about the upcoming Digital Services Act, because that’s actually important and based in the real world
  • Not funny: El Salvador use Bitcoin as legal tender — what’s going to happen to them?

😵 😬 🫠 ‘Cryptoassets’

Right so... around three months ago, the Super Bowl was completely over flowing with crypto ads. Now, we are in the hugest crypto crash ever, and I literally cannot stop smiling.

I’m not going to explain the ins and outs of what happened in the last few days. I suggest you read this for details. Basically, there is a ‘stablecoin’ called Terra ($UST) which is meant to be pegged to the dollar. That means that 1 Terra should always equal $1. Unfortunately all this so called ‘pegging’ (😏) hasn’t worked at all. At the time of writing (Thursday) 1 Terra is worth 5 cents. It’s basically like this Rick and Morty episode:

‘Our universal currency which is meant to be worth one of itself is now worth... none of itself’
‘Our universal currency which is meant to be worth one of itself is now worth... none of itself’

Shocking: The person who prints Terra for a living is now desperately asking the community not to lose hope. The collapse of Terra has also caused the downward spiral of other coins — almost as if it’s all built on a house of cards. Personally I like to live in a reality where houses are made of BRICK, a dollar is simply worth a DOLLAR, and it’s not built around a ‘community’, but rather you use it to BUY GOODS AND SERVICES. (Or even better: a reality where we don’t use money and we are just okay with that).

I’m struggling to understand why more people didn’t see this coming. Oh yes that’s right, they were all blinded by greed. Some were of course sold false hope, and a lot of the chat on Twitter is around how this crash has caused people to lose their life savings.

Correction: they lost their savings the moment they pumped it all into crypto. Crazes are followed by crashes. It’s as simple as that.

What we shouldn’t do is laugh to those who were lied to; the majority of people who buy into crypto are told it will make them rich, but really they exist solely to generate wealth for the few at the top. But now, even the few at the top are struggling — we should be laughing at them. Here are all the ways you can laugh at people online, in case you forgot:

This laugh chart was made by me. You’re welcome.
This laugh chart was made by me. You’re welcome.

But please, do not laugh at El Salvador

Unfortunately, the president of El Salvador is a willing pawn in the relentless crypto hype train. He loves crypto, and the crypto community love him — and he made Bitcoin legal tender just last year.

President Bukele bought $25m of Bitcoin at that time, and now it’s worth half that. Citizens of El Salvador have had no say or control over this huge decision. Some people don’t even have internet connections, let alone bank accounts, so I’m not sure what problem Bitcoin was really going to solve here. This is a country that was already deep in debt, and now it’s even deeper. So what’s Bukele gonna do about it?

😮 The Digital Services Act is getting finalised woahhhh let’s talk about it

The thing about the Digital Services Act is that my main reactions so far have been something like: ‘oh wow, great idea! For... ten years ago’. But, you know, if law-making didn’t move at an utterly glacial speed, I’d probably have nothing to write about in this newsletter.

What I will say is that during my tenure of obsessively reading about technology and how it’s being regulated, there is probably nothing quite as comprehensive as this piece of legislation right now. Well done, Europe. It’s times like this that I’m glad we in the UK decided to stay in the EU 😊.

👇 Okay enough BANTS. I’ll be focussing on these points today, which I yanked directly from this giant page:

  1. The whole ‘let’s be more transparent with algorithms’ thing
  2. The new granular controls they’re going to give users, including ‘making it as easy to opt out as it is to opt in’.
  3. They want to force big platforms to share data with researchers and law enforcement — if you are a seasoned Horrific/Terrific reader, you probably already know my opinion on this.

😶‍🌫️ On making recommendation algorithms more transparent: the act says that both legislators and end users should be provided with more insight into how these algorithms work so that they can know exactly how they’re being oppressed/misled/turned into a product. Of course, people like Internet Trump (Elon Musk) love this kind of thing. In fact, it feels like nearly everyone in all directions seem to think it’s a good idea to just show everyone how these algorithms work. Well it’s not. Reasons:

  • As I discussed in a previous episode of Horrific/Terrific, allowing individuals to scrutinise the inner-workings of a newsfeed algorithm has huge potential to make the internet even worse for everyone.
  • Think about it: if you knew exactly how a recommendation algorithm worked, and you were trying to get the word out about something that you think is important, would you not use that knowledge to your advantage? (i.e.: create heaps and heaps of spam).

🙅🏼 On making it easier to opt-out, and controls over targeted ads: Yes, yes fine... giving people the choice to receive ads which are not based on profiling is great. But here’s another idea: quit it with all the online ads in general. Haha I’m kidding —  that would be too hard not benefit capitalism. Anyway, these opt-out rules would only apply to ‘gatekeepers’, which is the term that they’ve coined for exceptionally large platforms such as Facebook. They say that users should be given the power to choose a recommendation algorithm that is not based on their behavioural profile — e.g. a feed that is organised chronologically instead. I’m now actually getting quite tired of saying this: giving users MORE controls isn’t always good, and neither are chronological feeds.

  • Chronological feeds simply reward volume (just post more to get your stuff seen)
  • As a user, I’m fed up of being told that I am ‘empowered’ just because I have an extra set of toggles and radio buttons to look at before I can get on with my day. Please do not patronise me by saying ‘opting out is as easy as opting in’; it most likely isn’t, and even if it was, I wouldn’t consider it empowering.

🕵️ On ‘data sharing with authorities and researchers’: On this page, if you skip down to ‘New obligations’ you’ll notice that this rule once again only applies to very large platforms — the gatekeepers. The obvious criticism here is that large platforms should not give law enforcement any kind of special access to the huge wells of data and insights that they’ve built up over the years, just because they ask for it. But also:

  • The language on why researchers should get access is pretty vague. They essentially say ‘so that they can scrutinise how it all works’. Okay, and then what? It’s quite clear that large platforms are working very much as intended — and the resulting consequences aren’t very good. It feels like too little too late to now be asking ‘oh okay but how did you achieve these results?’
  • Giving researchers access to the data that a company like Facebook holds sort of elevates them out of their pit of shame, and up to a kind of ‘special research database’ status. Rather, shouldn’t we be trying to stop any future entities from holding so much data and power in one place?

🤹🏻 Other stuff that’s worth mentioning:

Most of the rules don’t seem to apply to what they call ‘intermediary services’. This includes network infrastructure, e.g. internet service providers. ISPs literally control our access to the internet, our connection speeds, and even what we see (e.g. there will be unsophisticated parental controls that are buried deep in some settings somewhere).

I have a feeling that the focus isn’t so much on key infrastructure because this regulation seems to be mostly concerned with allowing smaller online platforms to start up, scale up, and then thrive. Which is fine, I guess, but if that’s the scope for this new legislation, it’s not surprising that it’s not particularly radical or interesting.

That will be all for this week — well done for making it to the bottom! Have a great weekend and remember: don’t even THINK about buying the dip.

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